Showtime’s Yellowjackets is equal parts survival epic, psychological horror story and coming-of-age drama. The series follows a talented girls high school soccer team that is involved in a plane crash in the remote northern wilderness. The players descend into savage clans to survive, and the show looks at their lives and struggles 25 years later.
The one-hour drama series stars Melanie Lynskey, Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci and Tawny Cypress.
FuseFX’s (https://fusefx.com) Marshall Krasser served as VFX supervisor the second season of the Showtime series and shared insight into the studio’s visual effects work, which included environment and weather augmentation and extensions; charred bodies and wound enhancements; cold breath elements; augmentation of a burning cabin; and forest extensions, among other effects.
Marshall, what tools are the team using for VFX on the show?
“On the 2D side, Nuke is still the powerhouse compositing application, providing artists with unlimited flexibility and control. 3D-wise, most of the FX fire and snow were created and rendered out of Houdini, with additional lighting passes created in Maya. Nuke’s particle generator was used for some snow as well.”
Can you go into detail about the research process for the moose tracks and adding breaths to the characters while talking?
“For the moose tracks that we needed to add, we first looked at online references, but ultimately ended up using actual moose print photography that I was able to source. That is one advantage of living in Canada — there are moose. One snowy weekend — I already had plans to travel to a remote, off-grid location in the interior mountains of British Columbia, where I had previously seen moose. While there, I took some time to venture out and track down a set of moose prints.
“These were used as base images and modified by our digital matte painting artists to integrate into the plates provided by the show. To add the breath, the studio side VFX editorial department, led by Lynn Whitlock, did the first pass on breath timing. We discussed one way to approach this: If you hold your hand over your mouth as you say the lines, you can feel the breath's force and angle be exhaled. So for the final tuning and 2D breath element selections, we use the hand-over-mouth approach.”
The show revolves around cannibalism. How did you and the team augment the deceased character's cooked body?
“We had a long discussion with the showrunners and worked closely with Kent O’Connor, who was the studio-side overall VFX supervisor, to find the needed look. We started out thinking about what makes your mouth water, so we first looked at golden oven-roasted turkeys — but the scale was not quite right for a human body. The next suggestion was a whole spit-roasted pig. Interestingly enough, the skin of pigs is composed of epidermis and dermis, that has characteristics much like human skin.
“The practical special effects and the make-up team had treated a body that was shot on the day. Unfortunately, the succulence the showrunners were looking for was not able to be captured in the plate photography. So, we were asked to augment their work to give it that extra kiss of irresistible flavor.”
Is there a sequence that you are fond of?
“Hard to say — they all had their cool moments. But the cabin fire at the end was extremely well executed and involved a lot of hidden work. Richard Greenwood was brought in to VFX supervise that particular sequence while I continued to focus on other aspects of the show. Richard and the team were able to seamlessly hook up the studio pullback with the drone footage that Kent had shot on-location in BC. Of course, the cooked body augmentation was a tasty little sequence to sink our teeth into.”
Can you explain your workflow?
“We would have to show VFX turnovers with the client side team that consisted of Kent O’Connor, Lynn Whitlock, Tayah Geist and Neil O’Doherty – and occasionally the showrunners. We would discuss the scope of the work and what was needed, and bounce ideas off them and the FuseFX team.
“We would then discuss internally, with our production team, led by our VFX producer Tyler Kehl, and our creative team from all of the artistic departments.”
Did you have to put anything special in place for this show?
“No special set-up was needed — pretty much your standard VFX workflow. Plates ingested by our editorial department, version zeros ran, and any 3D camera tracked were flagged and started. Then we ran the shots through the needed VFX departments and did not stop until we heard the word ‘final.’
What were some of the challenges you faced?
“We did have some challenges with the broken ear replacement shots — tracking was very tricky, and we ended up taking a lot of frame-by-frame adjustments to get the final locking of the 3D broken ear we added back over the area we had painted out the original ‘whole’ ear.”