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VFX Artists for ‘The Strain,’ ‘American Horror Story’ Aim for Cinematic Looks

Creative Arts Emmys American Horror Story
Courtesy of FX

There was a time when TV visual effects fought a hard battle against budgets, turnaround and processing power, but many of today’s shows have found a way to create a cinematic look while managing those pressures. These days, many are given more room — and sometimes a mandate — to stretch toward a filmic look. Luckily, vfx artists can tap ever-increasing advances in computer processing power.

“What we do really wouldn’t be possible without that speed because it gives us time to do a peer review of our work,” says Dennis Berardi, vfx supervisor for FX’s “The Strain.” “When you take the time to do that, you can eliminate things that look silly or wrong.”

Jason Piccioni, vfx supervisor for FX’s “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (pictured above), also notes the effects team on a TV show comes in much earlier in the process because of tight deadlines and to give team members the time they need.

They’re also working on a team whose members know each other well. “Many of us come from ‘Glee’ to this show and so we have a shorthand that makes a big difference,” says Piccioni. “So, when I’ve got to create Twisty the Clown and he’s missing the lower half of his face, I know how makeup is going to approach it and we can really help each other.”

HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which has 1,500 vfx shots this season, strives to do as much in-camera as possible to keep its dragons grounded in reality.

“When you actually light a stunt person on fire, you only have to fake the source of the fire,” says Joe Bauer, “Game of Thrones” vfx supervisor. “That’s much easier.”