×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘The Flash’: VFX Supervisor Armen Kevorkian on Bringing Gorilla Grodd to Life

Translating some of DC Comics’ most iconic villains from the page to the screen is always daunting for the creative team behind “The Flash.” But none more so than Grodd, an 800-lb. gorilla with psychic abilities and genius intellect who goes toe-to-toe with the CW show’s super-powered hero just as believably as the series’ human antagonists.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” have raised expectations for viewers accustomed to seeing photo-real creatures on screen, and yet “Flash” visual effects supervisor Armen Kevorkian and his team at Encore Hollywood eschewed the motion-capture approach utilized by those blockbusters in favor of computer animation, earning an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Visual effects for the episode “Grodd Lives.”

“We start from scratch — that way we have total control,” Kevorkian says. “We have some really talented animators here and it was just a matter of me demonstrating what I thought the scene needed, what the shot needed, and going through different versions until we got to where we got to, even with the facial expressions.”

Although Kevorkian’s team consulted videos of real-life apes for inspiration, Grodd’s more human attributes altered their approach. “A lot of times, you realize that even if you reference a real gorilla, it doesn’t work for the character that you’re establishing here — you have to take creative license in his actions, his attitude,” Kevorkian notes.

The strategy paid off, with many viewers unaware that the character was entirely computer-generated. “We read some fan reaction and some people thought it was partially CG, partially makeup, maybe a guy in a suit for certain shots,” Kevorkian says.

Audiences were also fooled by the digital double used for Grant Gustin’s titular hero in a scene where Grodd lifts the Flash into the air like a toy. “It’s always challenging adding any kind of digital double to a shot. We’ve had Grant’s from the very beginning,” Kevorkian says, disclosing that Gustin was intricately scanned before the pilot, allowing the vfx team to perfect his double on a timetable similar to feature films. “I think we’ve fooled people a lot more times than they’ve noticed, but obviously there are certain scenes you know can’t be the real actor.”

With the demands of a broadcast television schedule always a challenge for effects-heavy series, Kevorkian is grateful that “Flash” exec producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns warned him that Grodd was part of their season one master plan soon after the pilot was shot.

“That allowed us to work on designing him based on how he’s been established in the comic books; (to) work with conceptual artists, design his new look. We started building him in 3D while we were delivering other episodes.”

Kevorkian’s team pulled off countless cinematic setpieces over the course of the first season, from crashing a train to simulating a tsunami to making fans believe a man can both fly and burst into flames, but it’s the little tricks that often escape detection that satisfy the vfx magician most.

“It’s the small things sometimes that make you smile, like (Flash) running up a building. Those things that work in a comic book that you’re always afraid might not translate well to moving picture, and finding a way bring the two together.”

Kevorkian notes that his team strives to bring artistry to the comic book spectacle.

“The equipment is great, the software is great, but it’s the guy who sits behind the box that makes the difference. In our industry, you have a lot of people who know how to use the software, (but) it doesn’t necessarily make them an artist. It’s truly the artists that we have that help me bring everything to life.”

More Artisans

  • Visual Effects Studio Digital Domain to

    Visual Effects Studio Digital Domain to Open New Location Studio in Montreal

    Visual effects studio Digital Domain has announced the addition of its ninth location with the opening of a new shop in Montreal. The unit joins the eight existing Digital Domain offices in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Taipei and Hyderabad. Digital Domain Montréal will open in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood on March [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    Morocco Lures Filmmakers With Geography, History and Incentives

    At the confluence of Berber, Arabian, and European cultural influences, the North African nation of Morocco boasts a long and sunny Atlantic coastline, the soaring and snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains, and legendary cities such as Fez and Marrakesh that offer urban landscapes suggestive of eras ranging from Biblical times to the modern age [...]

  • Dynasties BBC

    Bristol Is Home to Production Companies Known for Global Wildlife Projects

    Bristol, two hours west of London and known by toon enthusiasts as the home of Aardman Animations, also happens to be the world center of wildlife filmmaking and home to the top producers, directors and camera pros creating the influx of natural history shows that continue to grow ever more popular on TV screens around [...]

  • Queen of Scots Hair and Makeup

    'Mary Queen of Scots' Hair, Makeup Artist Gave Substance and Style to Battling Queens

    Jenny Shircore has done the makeup and hair of several queens over the years: Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (she won an Oscar for the former) and Emily Blunt in “The Young Victoria.”  In fact, she had to be convinced to do it again for Saoirse Ronan’s Queen Mary and Margot Robbie’s [...]

  • Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER..L to R:

    Ryan Coogler on How 'Black Panther' Broke Barriers Below-the-Line, Too

    With more than $1.3 billion at the global box office, “Black Panther” was one of the year’s biggest hits. Though some people expected just another superhero film, the project turned out to be much deeper and more complex than that. Many called it a social turning point because it was the first blockbuster with a [...]

  • Payroll Specialist Cast & Crew Sold

    Payroll Specialist Cast & Crew Sold to Investment Fund EQT VIII

    Payroll specialist Cast & Crew Entertainment Services has been sold by Silver Lake to the investment Fund EQT VIII for an undisclosed price. Cast & Crew, based in Burbank, Calif., and founded in 1976, touts itself as the premier provider of technology-enabled payroll and production-management services to the entertainment industry. Services include payroll processing, residuals [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content