At Paramount + The stall, based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel of the same name, a plague-ridden post-apocalyptic world finds itself embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil. The fate of humanity rests on the frail shoulders of Mother Abagail, 108, and a handful of survivors. Their worst nightmares are embodied by a man with a deadly smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the black man.
Produced by CBS Television Studios, the 9-part series is produced by Benjamin Cavell, Taylor Elmore, Will Weiske, Jimmy Miller, Roy Lee and Richard P. Rubinstein. Josh Boone is the director and executive producer for the first and last episode of the series. Other directors include Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy, Chris Fisher, Vincenzo Natali and Tucker Gates. Jake Braver, Jill Killington, Owen King, Knate Lee and Stephen Welke are the producers.
Braver (Hostiles, John wick, Bird man) was also the 2 of the productionsd Unit Director and Global VFX Supervisor, involved at every stage, from pre-production to final delivery. He worked in close collaboration with ILM VFX supervisor Laurent Hugueniot; In total, Braver was responsible for finalizing 3,000 VFX plans, of which 2,800 were delivered.
Take a look at this detailed VFX Vent Coil from ArtofVFX showing some of the great work being done under Braver’s watch:
When the show’s producers asked Braver to direct the 2sd On filming, he had been the show’s general visual effects supervisor for the first six months of preparation. “Naturally, a lot of the things captured by the 2nd Unit are heavy on visual effects – so to me it sort of falls under that quote from the Dalai Lama: ‘Know the rules well so you can break them effectively,’ he said. “My relationship with the different directors was pretty deep, because we understood how closely visual effects and Unit 2 can be linked. As I was already working closely with showrunner Ben Cavell, this created a very collaborative and streamlined process.
The visual effects on the series were vast, ranging from small to large. “Creating a believable, empty world required a lot of painting things like cars, airplanes and the like, so it’s the ‘simple’ thing,” says Braver. “Then you have the real form of Flagg, which was entirely in CG; large environments like the ravine, the missile silo and New Vegas; very intense simulation work in the explosion of Mother Abigail’s house; and Flagg’s powers, which weren’t so simple.
“ILM took care of all the hits, the animals, the creatures, all of New Vegas and their associated footage, like our hero’s walk in Vegas, Nadine’s fall, the hand of God and the nuclear explosion,” continued -he. “They did a great job in tandem with Phosphene on Flagg’s powers and Mother Abigail’s look.”
Describing ILM’s wide range of work on the show, Hugueniot says, “It covered virtually every discipline in visual effects, from FX simulations to creature animation, environments, crowds and digi. -doubles in full screen. We also performed a variety of CG assisted kills, CG flies, digi-double kills, bullet shots, full CG military setup… to name a few.
“Our work also included the continued development of ILM’s bespoke nib system,” he adds. “ILM’s art department / concept team helped Jake and Vincenzo design the true form of Randal Flagg; the same can be said of the creation of the Inferno casino in New Vegas, designing the exterior and interior, collaborating with Jake and Aaron from the early days, and refining the design until we see it. in camera.
The production involved two concept artists working in the art department, plus a team under the supervision of Jason Horley at ILM. “The Third Floor and Proof both contributed beforehand,” notes Braver. “The third floor has it all in New Vegas – Nadine’s fall and the hand of God. The evidence predicted the Hoover Dam and well footage, as well as some things that didn’t end up in the show.
He also shares: “We were lucky to have Laurent with us while the art department was working, so he had the benefit of hearing all those early conversations. Same goes with previs, I was constantly showing the latest iterations to ILM and discussing methodologies with him.
For Braver, the biggest challenge on the show was keeping an honest and consistent tone for the visuals. “The series starts out very small in Maine with Harold and Frannie, progressing into this massive epic clash between Flagg and larger forces,” he says. “We started planning the final sequence of Hand of God even before the show was fully lit. In fact, I think it was one of the first art concepts that ILM’s art department started working on. This sequence was so well prepared and director Vincenzo Natali was such a good partner to work with that it went really well.
He was particularly impressed with ILM’s work on New Vegas, saying, “It’s amazing. We see Vegas quite late in the show and it was such a joy to work with them to figure out how to most effectively establish the world.
“The sequence of the Hand of God was also complex,” he continues. “Right from the start of preparation, we always knew there would be a streak that would mirror the end of the book, with forces intervening with Flagg’s plan to take down Boulder. So when production designer Aaron Haye and I were talking about this set, we always thought about the end of the game – its destruction. “
Designing it “upside down” meant planning the whole sequence. “Besides the set extensions, there was also the cloud and lightning, which we spent a lot of time developing,” says Braver. “It very quickly became clear during preparation that all the destruction, blood, debris and burns were going to be CG.”
“I agree,” adds Hugueniot. “The Hand of God sequence is our most complex work. It took careful planning to create what appears to be complete chaos. For example, it was clear that the lighting on the lightning set to be created was a crucial element, and Jake made sure the footage was shot with that lighting in camera. It was then up to us to add lightning bolts, hitting characters, and damaging the scenery, as well as dust, smoke, flames, to generally amplify the chaos. As we created half of the extras digitally, it was only natural that we killed a few to improve the sequence. We also created the death of a few hero characters, full frame, which involved very detailed digital versions, including internal organs and bones, which we “exploded” with dynamic simulation. ”
A virtual camera was used for the forecast by The Third Floor; for some shoots on set inside Inferno, production used a real-time iPad setup from ILM to visualize 2/3 of the interior set that was CG. “To provide a bit of context, we often do virtual work as part of the filmmaking process to help with the design of the shots, the placement of the camera and the visualization of digital assets,” says Hugueniot. “The experience and the design process are greatly improved by the fact that everything is in real time. “
Luckily for Braver, the main unit’s photography ended in Vancouver three days before everything closed due to the pandemic. “I was actually in Las Vegas preparing to run our second Las Vegas unit – the first was in December 2019,” he reveals. “We closed this unit without shooting and went straight to an entirely remote post. We would eventually capture the remaining photographs of Las Vegas in August 2020, under very strict security measures. I was told that we were actually the first scripted project to shoot again at Viacom. During this time, all of our suppliers were traveling remotely at the same time as us. At first we really didn’t know what to expect, and I don’t think the sellers knew either. But no one missed a beat. I remember a particular call with Stefan Drury at ILM on a Friday where he said it was their last day at the office, and that he had to hang up to distribute keyboards to the artists; and on Monday, we were doing an exam with everyone at home.
The almost eerie irony of stepping into the unprecedented COVID-19 lockdown to work on a series about a plague-ravaged post-apocalyptic world has not escaped Hugueniot. “I will never forget that by the time we went into lockdown, no one knew how the COVID-19 pandemic would play out, and we were spending our days processing footage depicting an extremely virulent pandemic,” he says. “Yet we have all managed to recreate a version of working at home. We were one of the lucky salons where the majority of her photographs were completed, while many were postponed. In fact, due to the pandemic, we were considering more work from CG, like Plan B, in case the remaining filming couldn’t happen. “
Dan Sarto is publisher and editor-in-chief of Animation World Network.