Delivering Superheroic VFX Images
How the VFX supervisor of Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow delivers weekly otherworldly shots for The CW. By Ramin Zahed.
as the show is introducing many new characters, including Arrow’s Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Dr. Nate Heywood (Nick Zano) looking for the heroes scattered in time.
As a true comic-book fan, Kevorkian says he often goes straight to the comic-book source material for the popular series to get a good feel for what each episode demands. “If we are going to feature a character that is well known in the comic universe, that’s the first place I go,” he says. “We want to find out what has been established before as well in the live-action version of that character. Then, we work with concept artists to come up with a version that fits in better with the real world.
“Sometimes we have to abandon the comics, but just keep some aspect of it as a nod to what’s been established. I remember when I did the pilot for The Flash, my biggest fear was that the fans wouldn’t be happy. … But they have been so kind and the response to the shows have been mostly positive. This is very gratifying, especially when sometimes the fans hate movies with $250 million budgets.”
When asked about his favorite VFX moments, Kevorkian says he loves the CG sequences they get to create with Flash. “You read a few lines about Flash chasing Zoom, and we have to come up with all the visual details. It’s all CG, so we get to create that in previz and show that to the exec producers. The same situation with Supergirl. … I loved what we were able to do on the pilot, where she uses her powers for the first time and saves the plane that goes through the bridge. For Legends of Tomorrow, we have a lot of fun with The Atom. We have these episodes where he shrinks and gets inside the mainframe of a computer or goes inside a boy and swims in the blood stream … or he grows and becomes 500 feet tall and fights a giant robot — our TV-budgeted version of Pacific Rim. All of these shows give us many opportunities to use our imagination.”
As fun as the fantastic CG elements of each plotline may be, Kevorkian says some of the more challenging aspects of the job are creat- ing effects that are not necessarily part of the superhero world. “You have to ground it in reality as much as you can so that viewers won’t even know that it’s CGI,” he explains. “A lot of the shots of Flash we see running in a city are not real. It’s about having viewers not realize that the city the superheroes are flying in is all CG! Also, you have to remember that sometimes a scene looks great even if doesn’t make sense scientifically. You would die if you did a lot of the things that the Flash does, but if it looks great, you’re going to believe it.”
When it comes to offering advice to those who want to pursue a career in the highly competitive VFX field, Kevorkian has a few important tips. “When I was out of film school and looking for a job, I got my internship by cold calling every studio in town,” he says. “That’s how I got my job working on Star Trek for Paramount. You have to be patient, be a sponge and absorb everything you can from those around you. You can never have a sense of entitlement. And remember that there is no one path. Don’t be afraid to create your own path.” Now that’s what you can call priceless advice from a man who oversees over 6,500 superheroic shots per season! [ The new season of The Flash premieres Oct. 4 on The CW, while Arrow hits Oct. 5, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow arrives Oct. 13, and the new season of Supergirl kicks off Oct. 20.
around it, bringing it back into ReMake for a print check, printing the components of the gun, and then reassembling and painting the real prop. It’s, frankly, inspirational.
The user experience design is similar to ReCap in that the interface is boiled down to just the essentials and the workflow feels natural.
Since I’m much more likely to have access to a DSLR than a Faro LIDAR Scanner, I think that I would lean toward ReMake as a more likely tool of choice. is quite fast — multi-threaded on both CPU and GPU, which means the more robust your graphics card, the faster it’s going to run. And the acceleration is in Cuda, so NVidia is going to be a good way to go. The software has a draft mode to speed up processing further, and is designed to be used out in the field and on-set, where things are moving fast and furious and you need to verify that the data you’ve acquired is going to meet the needs of the project.
There are plenty of tools for refining and aligning the scans, which include DSM and geo referencing for those really big areas. And, like ReCap 360, there are filters for getting rid of moving people.
One of the alignment features I’m particularly fond of is how ReMake manually selects features in the photos that are seen from multiple angles, which in turn refines the positions of the cameras, which then recalculates to make the mesh more refined. Its a lot like camera tracking in a way — well, not in a way ... in fact, it’s exactly camera tracking. But instead of a camera path, you are helping it triangulate the surface of the object in the photos.
The subscription cost may be a bit hefty for many outside of a studio, but CapturingReality does offer a three-month subscription package for 99 euros with the limitations being 2,500 photos per project and no tech support. But at that price smaller companies and freelancers can certainly benefit. [ Todd Sheridan Perry is a visual-effects supervisor and digital artist who has worked on features including The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Speed Racer, 2012, Final Destination 5 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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