LOS ANGELES — The international team at VFX Legion (www.vfxlegion.com) recently delivered two dozen key shots for the first episode of NBC’s new series, Quantum Leap. The show is creator Donald P. Bellisario’s revival of the '90s sci-fi cult classic and picks up 30 years after time-traveler Dr. Beckett (Scott Bakula) stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and disappeared as a new team restarts the project. The story follows lead physicist Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) on an unsanctioned leap through time and space to a succession of locations - navigating new challenges while trying to find his way back to the present.
VFX Legion was brought on board to create complex digital environments integrating 2D and 3D assets across several episodes. The ability to efficiently produce large volumes of high-quality digital assets that align seamlessly with the look and texture of practical footage was key to the production.
Co-founder/VFX supervisor James David Hattin and co-founder/VFX producer Nate Smalley led the effort, assembling a team drawn from Legion’s local and international collective of artists. Working as an integrated unit, Smalley and Hattin provided creative direction, guiding artists through each phase of the production process.
The initial CG work for the first episode, July 13th, 1985, called for sets built on a backlot at Universal Studios to be digitally extended, creating expansive cityscapes replicating bustling downtown Philadelphia of 1985. To achieve the final shots, large green screens, strategically positioned at the end of short stretches of fabricated streets, were replaced with renderings of historically-accurate buildings and signage. Animated pedestrians and vehicles move in sync with the pace of the city.
“The pilot was scheduled to premiere September 19th, giving us a three-week deadline – more than enough time for our team to deliver the scope and caliber of shots the show demanded,” explains Hattin. “However, that window was cut down to one week when a promo incorporating several of Legion’s visual effects was slated to air during the NFL pre-season games.
“Our team met the even more challenging accelerated deadline with ease, thanks to the flexibility and realtime connectivity of Legion’s cutting-edge remote pipeline - and the caliber and scale of our tightly-integrated collective of extraordinary senior talent.” adds Hattin.
“The advantage of realtime remote production remains essential to VFX Legion’s ability to provide films and episodic series with a resource that clients can rely on to meet their visual effect needs,” adds Smalley. “Leveraging exceptional talent, strategic workflow and tools that accelerate the production cycle enabled Legion to meet the show's tight deadline while leaving more time to focus on elevating shots beyond the client’s asks.”
Legion, with studios in Los Angeles and British Columbia, assembled a team of vetted international talent, including Eugen Olsen, an experienced lead compositor based in Johannesburg, South Africa, who worked with a small team under his banner, Alpha VFX. The artist used Unreal Engine as his primary tool. Integrated into Legion’s pipeline, Unreal enabled shots to be rendered in realtime, optimizing efficiency and making it easy to adjust workflow and enhance shots further down the pipeline.
Olsen has been a member of Legion’s core remote team for nearly five years. He has collaborated with Legion on visual effects for dozens of films and television episodic shows over the years, including Scandal, Ambulance, DMZ and The Black Phone.
“Eugen is a top-tier compositor committed to finding innovative solutions that maximize the potential of technology and elevate visual effects," says Hattin. “He embraced Unreal Engine early on, tapping the efficiency and power of the realtime 3D tool to accelerate the remote production of photoreal visual effects. Eugen's skill as an artist coupled with a forward-thinking approach to remote visual effects production makes him a great fit with Legion and our company’s ethos – as well as an invaluable to this project.”
VFX Legion is currently working on effects for upcoming episodes of Quantum Leap. The first season of the series is currently airing on NBC Television Network and available for viewing on the Peacock streaming platform.