Inside <I>Resident Alien</I>'s remote workflow
January 18, 2024

Inside Resident Alien's remote workflow

The team behind the Syfy series Resident Alien recently gathered to discuss their remote work on the show’s third season. Post production producer Todd Leykamp, and his post team of associate producer Linda Janota, post supervisor Eric Durham and post coordinator Brittany Thompson were joined by finishing editor Ian Lamb, final colorist Scott Gregory and project manager Jill Mittan of NBCUniversal StudioPost to discuss the show and its workflow.

Here, members of the team share insight.

Can you start by briefly summarizing the story of Resident Alien?

Todd Leykamp: “An alien crash lands on Earth and must pass himself off as small-town human doctor Harry Vanderspeigle. Arriving with a secret mission to kill all humans, Harry starts off living a simple life…but things get a bit rocky when he’s roped into solving a local murder and realizes he needs to assimilate into his new world.”

The show is shot in Canada. What factors led to the decision to make Ladysmith double as Patience, Colorado?

Todd Leykamp: “This decision was made during the pilot, but from a post standpoint, having the production value that Vancouver brings is a massive plus for the series. Locations like Minaty Bay for Harry’s Cabin, Ladysmith, and an actual glacier to film at are a perfect setting and save on having to VFX these locations.”

What parts of the production and post process are based in Canada?  

Todd Leykamp: “Our primary VFX studios and our dailies teams are all located in Vancouver. Otherwise, everything else is handled in Los Angeles. None of us are strangers to remote work in 2023, and working in Vancouver does keep us in the same time zone, which is a big plus for scheduling. That said, it would obviously be beneficial for post and production to be in the same town or lot if possible. Having post on hand for insert shoots or tricky VFX shots can be much clearer than attempting to work via still images and Zoom calls.   

“All of that is why healthy communication is such a necessary part of the finishing process. We have trust that everyone is working toward the same goal. We’re lucky that all our partners, from production department heads all the way through finishing, continue to bring such a high level of excellence and professionalism to the show every day.

What is a typical remote day in post like? 

Todd Leykamp: “Our schedule runs the same as if we were shooting locally. Due to improved internet speeds over the past few years, we can have dailies waiting for us every morning from the previous shoot day. Using Signiant Media Shuttle or IBM Aspera can also serve as a great way to send the OCN or original camera files quickly as well. VFX pulls can vary from facility to facility, but most everything is sent via the internet without delays.”

Has being a Canadian production affected workflows in post? 

Todd Leykamp: “Being specifically Canadian has not, but continuing to work via remote absolutely has. One of the largest hurdles has been ensuring that each DP is accurately and confidently able to apply their unique style to their episodes. As artists, they need to know that we’re going to take care of them as they review files and dailies. Whether that means exporting and sending DP review files, getting them a calibrated monitor, or reserving a color bay somewhere for them, we do what it takes to make sure that the workflow never becomes a hurdle to the creativity of the show.

“An instrumental part of this has been consistency among our producers, executive producers and many of our department heads. While our DPs have all been singularly fantastic, surrounding them with people who know the show implicitly ensures a consistent feel to our episodes.”
There have been six DPs in the three seasons of Resident Alien. Describe the impact multiple DPs have on the color, and the overall look and feel of the series?

Todd Leykamp: “In order to keep the process from getting lost in the weeds, we control the notes pipeline. Once the DP has given their notes to the colorist, post goes in and applies them. I will sit with the colorist and go through each note, and verify that it is applied in a manner that is both in keeping with our show and allows the DP’s perspective to shine through. Only after that session is completed will the file be shown to our EPs for their final notes. This allows the EPs to focus on story and less on minute technical fixes.”

Chris Sheridan, Alan Tudyk, Meredith Garretson, Corey Reynolds, Alice Wetterlund and Levi Fiehler

Scott Gregory: “Schedules have not allowed for much ‘in-person’ time with the DPs anytime in the two completed seasons. Files are shared, and e-mail and calls are exchanged. Balancing the individual DPs color styles was simplified because Todd and his team make sure that we have information from the DP and from set at the start of color, and through the color process.”
What are the challenges of working on a show that has a lot of visual effects? Specifically, how did you manage schedule and logistics and budget constraints?

Todd Leykamp: “Resident Alien is a very ambitious show for the budget it is given. Time is also always an issue. Ideally, we would have eight weeks for VFX work, but due to scheduling and air dates, we often make it work with less. It’s not unusual to be working on final drop-ins right up to delivery to give our VFX studios enough time to deliver the quality that we expect. We’ve been doing this for three seasons now, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what sequences are going to take more effort, and plan our schedules to protect our vendors and ourselves accordingly. Understanding where we can be flexible and maintaining an open dialogue with all of our partners is key to keeping the wheels on the bus. 

“We have always worked with a user-side online portal to pull masters from, for VFX and marketing during the dailies and editorial process. These systems have helped us see massive efficiencies gained. With the length of time dedicated to VFX work, there’s often a large window between when our assistant editors have wrapped and marketing requests start piling in. Being able to push some of that burden directly onto the requestor speeds up them receiving the material, as well as not requiring a finishing editor to chase through a VFX or marketing spreadsheet for their shots.”

Jill Mittan: “StudioPost has also provide automated processing of final approved VFX from the multiple vendors. VFX vendors upload the high-res finals any time and the material is pushed automatically to StudioPost for the editorial team to use. AEs know what is delivering and provide updated drop-in bins. Ian (Lamb) can quickly organize the shots, check them for problems, drop them into the show and be ready for editorial or color sessions.”

Ian Lamb: “As we’re in different stages of post on multiple episodes at a time, organization is the key to success in finishing also. A color-coded system of locators allows me to jump into an episode and quickly see a bird’s eye view of what has been completed and what is needed going forward. Organization within the project and each episode was mirrored by Todd’s team in post being on top of their show at every step along the way. 
From perfectly organized turnovers to wrangling multiple VFX vendor deliveries and deadlines, great communication meant I always knew what the priorities for the day should be or when elements would be arriving.  

“Having multiple episodes open at a time also has its benefits. During client supervised color sessions for Resident, I was normally scheduled to work on other episodes - either in title or conform. I could quickly pop between episodes in the background and address any notes/quick fixes that might come up in color. Quickly handling conform or VFX notes while Todd is in session provides for faster implementation and approval.”

Scott Gregory: “Ian provides VFX EDLs, which I import as markers. When Todd and I review color, we also check VFX versioning, omits or missing VFX, and we double check red dots as we go through the show. This puts extra eyes on all shots and serves as VFX reviews, which helps to avoid VFX log jams right before delivery dates.”

Todd Leykamp: “Our partnership at NBCUniversal StudioPost has been amazing since day 1. We’ve walked away from a lot of companies that got too big and lost the service and personalization that comes with a boutique company. Despite being part of a much larger corporation, StudioPost has kept us happy, seen and prospering. When an obstacle does arise, everyone at StudioPost works together with us to solve it and keep us working. They approach the show with the same love and dedication that we do. Our partnership has become so robust that we’ve been able to create a sort of shorthand for everything, from scheduling to billing. Being able to rely on our teammates during all stages of the finishing process is a constant weight off our shoulders.” 

The third season of Resident Alien will premiere on February 14th on the SYFY Channel. Learn more about 
NBCUniversal StudioPost by visiting them online (