In the recently premiered 10-episode Season 2 of the hit Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, the dysfunctional, estranged superhero family returned to Dallas, Texas in the early 1960s to once again save the world when they themselves caused its destruction. The science fiction action series is based on Eisner award winning comics and graphic novels of the same name created and written by Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance), illustrated by Gabriel Bá, and published by Dark Horse Comics.
As season two events unfold and prevent the apocalypse that wipes out the entire planet, the seven Hargreeves children accidentally cause World War III. To avert another end of the world, Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) goes back in time to prevent the Soviets from launching a nuclear strike on America. To make matters worse, during his time jump towards the end of season one, to save his siblings, he accidentally scattered them around another time in Dallas between 1960 and 1963. As the season progresses, they begin to realize that saving the world and their families and safely returning to the present timeline revolves around President Kennedy's fateful visit to Dallas.
To produce nearly 2,000 recordings with visual effects, VFX supervisor Everett Burrell turned to Folks VFX, a high-end visual effects studio that works with a full spectrum of VFX services for movies, TV series, commercials and virtual productions . Folks has been a member of the FuseFX brand family since 2020.
Under the guidance of VFX supervisor Laurent Spillemaecker, the Folks Montreal team made around 400 recordings for the second season. Not only did Spillemaecker's crew create time portal effects that could be seen throughout the season, especially Five's special abilities, but they also recreated events surrounding JFK's fateful visit to Dallas, including the interactions of the Umbrella Academy superpowers. Part of the challenge was transforming Ontario, Canada into 1960s Dallas with digital matte paintings and CG environments. “At least a third of those shots were from the Dealey Plaza JFK event, where almost every building had to be recreated or digitally enhanced, and every shot included CGI trees, crowds and vehicles,” the VFX supervisor notes.
"People had some really nice things and key moments for this second season after our very successful contribution to season one," he continues. “I dealt with the entire VFX supervisor Everett Burrell. Everett's vision is incredibly clear and straightforward, he knows exactly where to go and carries the special tone of the show. From CG environments and characters to magical superpowers, the scope of our work was very broad. "
People worked on lots of time portal effects that put all of the main characters into the 60s separately from our current time. "Every single time portal was rendered with particle simulations based on what we saw in season 1," says Spillemaecker. "Five 'character also very often uses his own teleportation power, which we internally call" Blink & # 39; designate, that's all done in a flash. "
While most of the story takes place in Dallas in the 1960s, it was actually filmed in Canada. Many footage had to be CG enhanced or backgrounds created from scratch to see the actual location of President Kennedy's assassination in 1963. Under Burrell's precise guidance, Spillemaecker examined all available public archives and films relating to the location and events relating to the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy and identified ways to incorporate actual historical records into the storytelling of the Main characters try to disrupt the course of the story. "The actual city in Dallas had to be digitally remodeled to look like Dallas in 1963 using CG cars and CG people, and of course the presidential motorcade had to be completely digitally recreated for that matter," he explains. “Some elements were shot in a short space of time in Dallas, while many were shot and put together in Toronto, Canada. Our environmental team matched a variety of lidar scans of the area and recreated several buildings to give southern Texas a '60s look. "
Spillemaecker: “Working on the JFK sequence was an amazing experience. The historical context is unique and the event is such an important point in US history. Most of our mandate was to accurately recreate the landscape, surroundings and crowd with great attention to detail while adding that flavorful ingredient to maintain the Umbrella Academy atmosphere. Our artistic contribution was very much appreciated and Everett always gave our team a lot of creative freedom. It was a very collaborative process. "
One of Folks' biggest challenges was determining where and how much CGI to use to create the required environments. "There is always a challenge in finding the right balance between how much we use CGI in environments," says Spillemaecker. "Do we change every single shot to fit the 1960s Dallas perfectly, which is obviously not realistic in terms of budget, or do we find a smart compromise with the location, the set dressing and the CGI to make the story to tell while the VFX budget remains reasonable? We have always had an open dialogue with Mr. Burrell about the scope of our work and what is important in storytelling. Then everything about the JFK assassination was very delicate: it's such an iconic event in US history that we had to get it right while keeping the scope of work reasonable again. "
The number of people to be digitally included in the crowd and their distribution were based on the available stock footage of the real event. Cars, buildings, signage, flags and a host of environmental elements had to be carefully replaced to match the actual event. "Not only did we have to recreate a full set of CG, we had to recreate the presidential motorcade and the people in those cars," notes Spillemaecker. “We've made digital versions of JFK, Jackie Kennedy, Mrs. and Mr. Connally, the drivers, intelligence and security agents, all of whom are responding to the new events our heroes are causing this season. We approached this sequence with a lot of respect and attention to detail. "
“The Umbrella Academy offers such a wide range of VFX recordings, from invisible environments to science fiction superpowers to time-traveling scenes,” Spillemaecker concludes. “From an artist's point of view, it's an amazing project to work on. I had a great creative team on the show and this enabled us to deliver this second season so smoothly. This is really the kind of project that I personally enjoy being part of. "
Dan Sarto is the Editor and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.