Emmy Creative Arts: ‘Cosmos,’ ‘Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’ VFX Must Fill Big Shoes

New series arrive with a pedigree and a legacy to live up to

The Emmy visual effects race heats up in 2014 with two new entries from the broadcast networks, both arriving with a strong pedigree.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” (Fox) is a reinvention of Carl Sagan’s legendary “Cosmos,” with Ann Druyan returning from the original to handle writing duties but Neil deGrasse Tyson stepping in for Sagan — and with the visual dazzle of the digital vfx era. Meanwhile “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.” (ABC) is set in the same cinematic universe as Marvel’s spectacularly popular feature films and has to live up to their standards.

“Cosmos” vfx supervisor Rainer Gombos found himself facing not only creative approvals, but approvals from the science and research staff.

Gombos says from when he joined the show, in May 2013, he understood “this was really very much about showing spectacle and making science interesting.” So vfx shots were designed for impact as well as accuracy. “You’d look at space and you want people to get emotional about this. So we have a lot of shots of space where it’s like you’re looking through a dirty lens, or you might say, through watery eyes.”

“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” vfx supervisor Mark Kolpack had 1,953 vfx shots over the season and only 12 days of post per episode. So he starts working on shots before post. “If I have a digital double for an actor, the moment that person is cast, we scan them and get going on that.”

Some of his proudest moments, he says, are moments where the audience can’t tell there were any vfx at all.

“I’m not doing the same effect week in and week out. I don’t have any canned effects,” says Kolpack. “I get to really play in almost every different discipline that encompasses visual effects, and I’ve created a lot of different looks. In that respect, it’s a dream job.”

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