HOLLYWOOD — CBS VFX (www.cbs-vfx.com) has been contributing visual effects to the CBS hit drama Fire Country, which recently returned from its winter break to continue its first season. The CBS Studios production centers around Bode Donavan (Max Thieriot), a participant in a prison-release program that will reduce his sentence in exchange for helping firefighters battle Northern California wildfires. CBS VFX is responsible for the show’s spectacular firestorms.
The CBS VFX team is led by visual effects supervisor Colin Strause, whose career includes work on the big-screen blockbusters Rampage, San Andreas and The Avengers. Strause and CBS VFX bring together a team of more than 100 artists to deliver as many as 135 effects shots for each episode of the series.
While the show is set in Northern California, it is in fact shot in British Columbia, where extremely dry conditions prevent the large-scale use of practical fire. To make the element into a palpable antagonist in the series, and to showcase the different forms it can take, CBS VFX incorporates multiple elements in creating the fire effects. This can include actual pyrotechnics, shot on-set in highly-controlled circumstances, which are then combined with an enormous library of flames the studio has amassed and catalogued.
"Each kind of fire, whether it's a little brush fire or a huge forest fire, has its own library of footage," Strause explains. Elements from those shots are extracted and combined with CG fire created using SideFX Houdini software. "Only a few years ago, what we're doing would have taken days or even weeks, but now we're able to do massive shots in a couple of hours – sometimes even overnight,” notes Strause.
Located on the Paramount lot in Hollywood, CBS VFX is a unit of Viacom/CBS, and provides visual effects services for both the network and outside clients. Its CBS work includes Hawaii Five-O and The Offer for Paramount+, while its outside clients include the HBO Max/Array series One Perfect Shot, The Roar for Apple TV+, and ABC's Modern Family.