FuseFX Burbank CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.
American Horror Story is a major hit for FX. The most recent season of the anthology series, Freak Show, became the most-watched show in the network’s history. The show has won the loyalty of fans and kudos from critics for its smart, imaginative storytelling and superb performances from its stellar ensemble cast.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY trailer for Season 5
The show also features some of the best visual effects on television. Ranging from photo-real set extensions to CG characters to all manner of blood and gore, they are the work of Burbank-based FuseFX, whose team is currently nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role. Earlier this year, FuseFX won the VES Award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Photoreal/Live Action Broadcast Program.
FuseFX has overseen visual effects for American Horror Story since its premier in 2011 and its role has grown with each season. “(Series creator) Ryan Murphy wants us to outdo ourselves every year,” says FuseFX VFX Supervisor Jason Piccioni. “In our first meeting for this season, he said the scope of the work would be something never before seen in a television series and he was right.”
The average 1-hour episode from the Freak Show anthology included more than 100 visual effects shots many of which were complicated character effects. There was Edward Mordrake, a 19th century English noble, who sports a second face on the back of his head, and Twisty, a macabre clown who lost his lower jaw to a shotgun blast. Most ambitious are Bette and Dot Tattler, conjoined twins, identical in every respect except for their divergent personalities. (Both characters are played by actress Sarah Paulson.)
FuseFX works closely with the production’s special effects and make-up departments in designing and executing those sorts of character effects. “We go over the script together and work out a plan to divide and conquer,” Piccioni explains. “The creative direction comes from Ryan Murphy. He is very clear on what he wants.” Piccioni notes that many of the members of the team worked together on a previous Ryan Murphy series, Nip/Tuck, and have developed a mutual “shorthand” that allows them to quickly assign tasks and set protocols.
Depending on the workload, FuseFX might assign 25 artists or more to an episode. Along with Piccioni, creative members of the team include Dave Altenau, Justin Ball, Jason Spratt, Tim Jacobsen, Tommy Tran, Mike Kirylo and Matt Lefferts.
For this past season, effects production was typically limited to a week per episode. FuseFX would receive production media on a Friday night and have it ingested into its pipeline by Saturday morning. Artists would tackle scenes involving the conjoined twins first and deliver rough versions to the show’s editors by Sunday afternoon. On Wednesday, they would begin delivering shots for review to the producers. By Thursday, the work would be done.
“It’s a fast process,” Piccioni says. “To do the type of work that we’re doing for a feature, where you might have eight months, is one thing, but to do it on a television schedule is very challenging.
The nature of the effects in Freak Show required that FuseFX work in close collaboration with the show’s editors. “We were creating character elements that involved dialogue and expression and so were very closely entwined with the editorial,” Piccioni explains. “There was a lot of back and forth with the editors, much more than in years past.”
The conjoined twins required particular finesse. Artists needed to marry separate elements of the characters’ heads and do so in a way that made them appear to be part of a single body whose skin and muscles functioned realistically. Piccioni notes that the twins shots would have been easier if camera movement was limited, but they resisted that option. “We didn’t want to compromise what was special about the show,” he says. “Instead of restricting how things were shot, we adapted our technique to the show’s aesthetic.”
The mandate to continually raise the bar creates certain pressures for the FuseFX team. “Some of the things we did this year were incredibly difficult to pull off,” Piccioni notes. “They were really great episodes and they challenged us to reach deep into our bag of tricks.”
FuseFX is a full-service visual effects studio serving the television, feature film and advertising industries from facilities in Burbank, New York and Vancouver. Founded in 2006 by David Altenau, the company encompasses a staff of more than 100 highly talented and experienced artists, producers and support personnel. Using its refined, custom database and pipeline, the company can accommodate numerous, high shot-count productions while delivering high-quality, on-time results.
Todd McCarthy, veteran film critic and historian, in his review of director Jon Favreau's new, stunning adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book declared, "...the visual effects team led by Robert Legato and (MPC's) Adam Valdez has both created sumptuous settings that look as lifelike as any CGI ever presented in a studio feature and integrated both humans and animal characters in them in seamless ways."
Remote post-production and visual effects studio VFX Legion has released its breakdown reel for the incendiary Hardcore Henry.
The reel reveals the work that went into the first-person perspective action film, from augmenting violence to stitching shots together into one continuous sequence.
VFX legend Steve Wright helped Italy's Sky 3D tackle an epic project, as Italian all-3D television station set out to present the city of Florence and the masterpieces of Renaissance art housed in the Uffizi Gallery in a spectacular stereoscopic 3D movie shown in 60 countries around the world. While the majority of the film was shot stereoscopically, Steve's challenge was to use Nuke to present some of the world's most precious artworks fully dimensionalized. Here's how he pulled it off.
As the first show to create a rabid, real-time internet fandom, devotion to "The X-Files" has been growing in intensity with each year since the original series finale, with a fanbase that is clever, thoughtful, and largely female. Not that there's any shortage of male X-Philes, but there's a generation of women who was inspired to technical careers by the Gillian Anderson's Dana Scully. Kylee Peña is among them, and additionally very specifically inspired by the production values of "The X-Files" to build a career in the technology of TV storytelling in particular. Here's Kylee's look at what it has meant to be a female fan of the art, technology, and empowerment of "The X-Files" in the 21st century.
Peter Doyle, Supervising Visual Colourist at Technicolor, shares details of his upward spiraling career. His deep technical knowledge allows for a perfect blend of creativity and productivity in equal measure. Here he talks about his career, his aspirations, and his involvement in productions right from the outset.
At the heart of Marvel's biggest Avengers movie yet lies their greatest threat yet: Ultron, a self-constructing robot intelligence bent on destroying all of humanity. Munich's boutique-scale Trixter Film was given the critical task of introducing this epic-scale character, which they undertook from concept art through design, mocap, animation, compositing, and output.
Award-winning VFX Company Joins UPP and Rodeo FX to Recapture the Legendary Walk Between the World Trade Center Towers. Lead VFX vendor Atomic Fiction needed a more efficient way to do the compute-intensive, and traditionally very expensive, processes of rendering. The company used their cloud-based software Conductor, which allows artists to offload the processing from their own computers and send it to the cloud. By the end of the project, Atomic Fiction had completed 9.1 million hours of processing in the cloud, which equates to over a millennium of processing time!
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, the acclaimed bestselling epic novel of magical realism set 200 years ago, was adapted by the BBC to a 7-episode miniseries that was itself quite epic, with over 1000 effects shots handled by London's Milk VFX. Creative COW's Tim Wilson spoke with Milk CEO Will Cohen about his team's work on the series, starting with his own enthusiasm as a fan of the novel. To use that word once more, it's an epic conversation about adapting novels, carefully managing budgeted creativity, and collaboration. Books, televised cinematic storytelling, VFX, good conversation, and magic: if any of those is your cup of tea, you won't want to miss this.
Classic video game characters like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong sent by aliens to destroy Earth? No worries! Digital Domain and Sony Pictures Imageworks are on the case. It turns out that integrating 8-bit characters into a world recognizable as our own is a lot harder than it looks. It was also a lot of fun for everyone involved, and hearing about it from the two VFX supervisors will be a lot of fun for you too.
In today’s landscape, post-production companies are no longer restricted by geography. Husband and wife VFX team Lindsay and Jamie Hallett have based their business in Maui, while working on some of filmdom's biggest franchises and features: Avengers, Iron Man, X-Men, Ant-Man, American Sniper, and the latest installment of the Divergent seris, Insurgent. Here are some of their insights on remote collaboration. VERY remote.