VFX: Amazon's <I>The Tick</I>
Issue: December 1, 2017

VFX: Amazon's The Tick

NEW YORK CITY — FuseFX is collaborating with Amazon Video to provide VFX for The Tick. The studio is the sole visual effects provider on the series, handling anywhere up to 160 shots per episode. Work is spread out between FuseFX’s three offices and includes going on-set for green-screen shoots.

“It's very collaborative,” says show creator/EP Ben Edlund. “We feel like we're making a movie, the work is so cinematic.”

“We have even developed new processes as a result of this show in order to be even faster and to provide even more advanced realism,” adds VFX supervisor Chad Wanstreet, “all while pushing creativity as far as we can.”

The show is set in a world where superheroes and villains are real. Arthur, an accountant with no superpowers, becomes embroiled in a battle between good and evil. He realizes that the city is owned by a super villain, who is long thought to be dead. While most people think he's crazy, one person believes him: The Tick, a blue superhero who might be a figment of Arthur's imagination.

The Tick from FuseFX on Vimeo.

FuseFX handles 100 percent of the show’s VFX needs, including a talking dog, rocket powers, jumping, flying and digital doubles.

“We said to ourselves, ‘Let's make something amazing,’” says Edlund. “We have very difficult VFX sequences, which are more challenging than anything we've ever been involved in. However, we don't back down. In fact, we dare each other to go further.”

“This is my third time as a FuseFX client,” says executive producer Barry Josephson, who also worked with the studio on Bones and Turn. “We always get inspired input from them. We have a highly collaborative storyboarding process. Plus, many great ideas often come up in post. FuseFX moves with the production sequences and helps us grow the story.”

“The last couple of episodes have relied heavily on digi-doubles for actors because we can't do some shots practically,” adds EP David Fury. “We're dealing with elaborate visions from the comic book world including a giant...naked man. We couldn't have done this five years ago. We thought flying would be the hardest thing, but we're dealing a lot with body-scale issues. FuseFX has saved our asses more than once. We need an accumulation of effects...layers upon layers. We're doing what we set out to achieve. “

According to Wanstreet, the VFX are all completed using The Foundry’s Nuke 10 and 3ds Max 2017 with V-Ray 3.6, as well as Houdini 15.5 on the 3D side.  All digital doubles were first scanned on-location in New York with TNG Visual Effects, then sculpted inside of ZBrush, textured in Mari, and shaded with V-Ray using the new integration of the ALSurface shader.  

“We took great care to leave no detail untouched, which involved creating extensive facial rigs for our heroes with both joint-based and blend-shape controls, as well as head, body, and facial grooms for all characters using Ornatrix for 3ds Max,” says Wanstreet. “All character animation for the episodes is hand keyed, so reference footage of all of the actors performing was used to try and capture their unique characteristics. Additionally, all of the characters were setup for hair and cloth simming with underlying deformer and driver meshes to capture wrinkles on suits and wind in hair.  Simulations for effects were largely done using Houdini and, whenever possible, transferred as VDB files from Houdini to 3ds Max for lighting in V-Ray.”

The Tick is shot using a Red Dragon at 8K and edited in an Avid. FuseFX uses Assimilate’s Scratch for editing, which is integrated into the company’s publishing system and broader studio pipeline. For rendering they use the Amazon Cloud and the new tools set in place by the latest Thinkbox and Amazon developments.