What's Streaming: YouTube Premium's <I>Impulse</I>
Issue: June 1, 2018

What's Streaming: YouTube Premium's Impulse

TORONTO — The YouTube Premium original series Impulse centers around a 16-year old young woman, who discovers she can teleport. Despite its supernatural premise, the series, a spinoff of director Doug Liman’s 2008 thriller Jumper, is grounded in reality. In helping production hone the look of the series’ teleportation effect, Deluxe Toronto’s visual effects team dove deep into scientific research, looking at wormholes and the physics of light distortion. 

Deluxe Toronto VFX supervisor Matt Hansen and VFX producer JP Giamos worked closely with production VFX supervisor Wojciech Zielinski to develop and fine-tune the look. Together, they delivered more than 350 VFX shots overall for the series.

“We used the basic principles of wormholes as a guide in creating the teleportation effect, with the idea that characters can bend from one point in space to another,” notes Hansen. “Our biggest challenge was figuring out how to convey that concept in a way that was plausible and not magical.” 

For greater authenticity, Deluxe Toronto compiled a bible outlining the faux science behind light behavior and its impact on image displacement. Establishing these baseline principles with Zielinski also helped ensure consistency of the teleportation effect across different environments and with different actors. 

“A majority of the first season on any show is spent establishing the right look and tone, which requires a lot of back and forth,” Zielinski explains. “The teleportation effect underwent countless iterations and was a bit of a moving target, but the Deluxe Toronto team was quick to find solutions. I was really impressed by their approach, enthusiasm and eagerness to experiment. Big kudos to the team for nailing the look, and in a compressed timeframe.” 

“Deluxe Toronto was a great partner on this project,” adds Impulse producer Kim Todd. “They achieved the creative we wanted within our budget and deadline, taking the time to try out different approaches to perfect the look of the show, which is much appreciated.” 
In addition to the teleportation effect itself, Deluxe Toronto artists also digitally extended its impact to the show’s environment and set pieces. This required the creation of digital assets for elements that weren’t physically feasible or practical to shoot. By reverse engineering shots, artists were able to more closely maintain continuity. 

For example, in a washroom sequence where the main character’s power causes significant destruction, artists used distressed set pieces as a starting point and worked backwards to determine how the doors would bend and mirrors would break during the action. Artists also helped transform a local intersection into a busy Japanese one, burn down houses, and crush a wheelchair.

In addition, Deluxe Toronto provided color for Impulse, with senior colorist Joanne Rourke handling the grade. Prior the series’ shoot, Rourke met with DP David Greene to discuss the look, and together they conducted day and night lighting tests at a local trailer park.

“The general feel of Impulse is very cool, not overly saturated, often riding the edge of darkness,” says Rourke. “Anything David shoots is hauntingly beautiful. His use of low key lighting helped convey the eerie mystery of the story, and I loved the stark exterior winter scenes and low-key office interiors.”

To maintain the moody look of Impulse, Rourke shaped the picture by keying down the walls and ceilings where necessary. This occurred mostly in the farmhouse and precinct. She also executed significant sky darkening and heavy vignettes on outside exteriors. For the assault scene, which is revisited several times throughout the series, a slight bleach bypass look was applied to differentiate the moments from the main body of the show, but avoid hitting the audience over the head with anything too extreme. Also, deviating from the show’s primary aesthetic, the main character’s dream sequences stand out with glow in the highlights and a small amount of grain.

The genre-bending action-thriller is from Universal Cable Productions (UCP). Hypnotic’s Doug Liman directed and executive produced the pilot, and executive produces the series. Hypnotic’s David Bartis and Gene Klein serve as executive producers. Lauren LeFranc is executive producer and the series showrunner.