Phosphene completes VFX for Cinemax's 'The Knick'
September 23, 2014

Phosphene completes VFX for Cinemax's 'The Knick'

NEW YORK – Phosphene ( served as the lead VFX house on the Cinemax seriesThe Knick, providing effects that range from complex character augmentation to detailed period set extensions, medical enhancements and period anachronisms. The 10-episode period drama takes place in 1900 New York and centers around a hospital where surgeons, nurses and staff push the boundaries of medicine. The series, which stars Clive Owne and is directed by Steven Soderbergh, premiered in August and is being renewed for a second season.  

Creative director John Bair and VFX executive producer Vivian Connolly lead the Phosphene team, which handled CG face replacement for Abigail, a central character played by Jennifer Ferrin. The effect substitutes her nose with a CG version to simulate a face disfigured caused by Syphilis.
The show’s VFX supervisor Lesley Robson-Foster says, ”We solved a tricky series of shots together using a combination of CGI, special effects prosthetic elements and compositing. Phosphene has a very talented group of artists and Abigail's nose was a real challenge. I was very pleased with the result, as was Steven Soderbergh.” 

“First, we used PhotoScan to convert photos of the cast to a detailed 3D model,” explains Phosphene’s lead digital artist Aaron Raff. Lead CG artist Vance Miller then proceeded to light and render a physically-accurate version of Abigail's nose-less face in V-Ray. CG artist Kim Lee animated all of the slight twitches and stretches of the nose cavity viewers see as Abigail moves her face and speaks to Dr. Thackery. 

“Using Nuke X, I integrated these renders of Abigail's nose cavity onto the footage of the actress, maintaining photoreal lighting across shots that had Abigail moving her head from side to side and passing through light and shadow,” adds Raff. “The effect had to be seamless since Abigail's altered face stayed at the center of the frame for an extended dialogue scene.” 

In addition, the creative needs of the show sometimes called for interaction of the surgical instruments within the nose cavity.  In those instances, Phosphene created CG extensions for the practical surgical instruments. Phosphene then animated the side flaps of the nose to match the interaction of the CG instrument tips. 
Phosphene Visual Effects Producer/Compositing Supervisor Rebecca Dunn states, ”The sequence in which Thackery inspects Abigail’s wounded nose was one of the earliest we worked on and was the most demanding visual effects sequence completed for Season 1. Phosphene’s VFX team met early with Lesley Robson-Foster and Parker Chehak to determine the best way to approach this effect which had to appear highly realistic, always maintaining a fine balance between showing Abigail’s disfigurement whilst letting the natural beauty of her character shine through.”
In addition to Bair, Connolly, Dunn, Raff, Miller and Lee, the Phosphene creative team also included digital artists Luciano DiGeronimo, Kevin Jones, Christian Lowe, Thomas Panayiotou, Eddie Porter, Greg Radcliff, Tonya Smay, Tommy Smith, Jason Tsang, Tim Van Horn and Scott Winston.
Phosphene used 3DS Max for modeling and animation, V-Ray for rendering and Nuke X for compositing. Deluxe’s Martin Zeichner served as colorist and Sam Uber served as conform editor.