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Visual Effects Shop Ignites Big Bangs for the Small Screen

When the writers of the new Netflix series “Luke Cage” included a scene in which the bad guys try to kill the hero by blowing up a building he’s in, they couldn’t have foreseen that it would take a VFX team a total of 130 worker days to make those quick keystrokes come to life.

That 15- to 20-member team — led by FuseFX New York’s production head and senior visual effects supervisor, Greg Anderson — had to construct a CG building and integrate it with a real New York City block, matching multiple camera angles and light sources. They also created a complex array of fireballs and falling debris.

While the building demolition was exceptionally complex, it fit squarely into FuseFX’s mandate to create 4K movie-quality effects for TV series. Clients include NBC’s “The Blacklist,” Netflix’s “The Get Down,” USA Network’s “Mr. Robot,” and Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete.”

FuseFX, which also has offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver, has crafted many complicated effects over the years, but its work on “Luke Cage” stands out as exceptionally challenging, both in terms of scale — a total 867 visual-effects shots over 13 episodes — and storytelling.

“How do you create drama and tension with a character who is super strong and who can’t be hurt?” posits Anderson. “There were several moments big and small to really show his power.” He references a scene in which a thug’s fist collapses in a bloody compound fracture after punching Luke in the face.

Anderson says the key to the company’s ability to create elaborate effects on tight TV timelines and budgets is its suite of custom production management software tools and the massive library of objects (from animals to airplanes) and elements (smoke, fire, rain) it has compiled over 10 years of work.

The shop also has a large collection of photographic plates, shot around the globe, that it has put to good use on shows such as the New York City-shot “The Blacklist,” which often calls on FuseFX to virtually place its characters in foreign locales.

“Whenever we create an asset as part of our database, we catalog it and categorize it,” Anderson says. “So if we need to blow up a car, odds are we’ve got 20 different CG cars that will probably be close to what they’re looking for in terms of make and model. With that, we’re 50% of the way there.”

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