VES Awards: TV Boasts Dazzling Digital Effects

Game of Thrones Emmy Nominations HBO
Courtesy of HBO

In this golden age of television, visual-effects artists are often asked for “feature-quality” effects, but with a fraction of the budget and time feature film vfx artists enjoy.

Dragons, alien invasions, daring dogfights: All can be found in the Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode category at the VES Awards. And this year vfx artists from Ukraine joined the group of nominees recognized by the VES, making the awards’ television effects race a uniquely global competition.

For the episode “Sea Dogfight” from “Nezlamna,” visual-effects producer Igor Klimovsky and his team in Kiev worked on harrowing dogfights that took place over the sea. The show is a Russian-Ukrainian World War II drama about Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a famous femme Ukrainian Soviet sniper.

“We wanted the effects to look like they were from that time period, so we did research, so much research, this was very important,” Klimovsky says. “Our director wanted it to look real, like we’re seeing everything that’s happening there.”

Syfy’s “Childhood’s End” had a similar goal in mind. The show was nommed for its “Night Three” episode, which chronicles what looks like a peaceful alien invasion. Kevin Blank, visual-effects supervisor, carefully helped create vfx that made it look like the children of Earth had amazing powers.

“Our director wanted it to look real, like we’re seeing everything.”
Igor klimovsky

“It’s easy for this stuff to look bad if you’re not careful when you’re under a time crunch,” Blank says. “We were trying to make believable, real-looking science fiction.”

Vfx supervisor Jean-Claude Deguara had two sets of challenges — he had to create effects that were both magical and consistent with 19th-century English landscapes for the episode “Arabella” on the BBC’s “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.”

Deguara and his team worked on re-creating key moments in the Battle of Waterloo while manifesting the unusual powers of the main characters.

“We used things like documents from the time period to get the battle movements of the soldiers right, but in the end we had to cheat it a bit to pull it all together,” Deguara says. “And then after we’ve been so realistic, you add the magic, which is interesting.”

FX’s “The Strain” was nominated for the episode “Identity,” in which a vampire apocalypse continues on its steady march. Vfx supervisor Dennis Berardi tried to remain true to the show’s origins.

“Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse had definite ideas about the look and feel of these vampires, so that’s our guide,” Berardi says. “It’s always good to have a sense of where you’re going, and they do.”

As vfx supervisor for “Game of Thrones,” Joe Bauer gets to work with dragons all the time, but on the nommed episode “Dance of Dragons” he went very low tech. “Sometimes less vfx, more actual flames is the way to go to make the vfx look better. Luckily the other departments will let me set things on fire.”

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