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March 2016

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PRIMETIME 20 POST MARCH 2016 ased on the best-selling trilogy by novelist Lev Grossman, Syfy's new same-titled TV series, The Magicians, is centered around a group of students who are studying magic at the secret academy of Brakebills University in up- state New York. Each episode finds main character Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) and friends facing new and dangerous threats they never imagined could be real, all while experimenting and honing their newfound skills. With storylines that include magical spells, secret worlds, and encounters with creepy beings from beyond, you can bet that showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara rely on a good amount of visual effects to literally create TV magic. For that, the production team turned to FuseFX in Vancouver (where the series is shot) as its sole VFX vendor. Here, Jason Dowdeswell, head of production and VFX supervisor at FuseFX Vancouver, speaks with Post about the new series and some of its unique challenges. What types of VFX are you doing on the series? "The one thing with Magicians is that these episodes create a platform where we learn about these characters. We see each of them dabbling with their newfound skills as magicians. If you recall from the book, half of them are study- ing with Brakebills University and the other group are with the hedge witches or other newfound characters. But the biggest brief from Sera Gamble and John McNamara, the showrunners, was really about the fact that everything is rooted in real world. So, nothing is over the top, and it's really — when we do any of the shots — its describing the force or lack of force that any of these kids have, depending on how much school they've gotten with magic. So, in Episode 1, for instance, we meet the dean, and he has very polished skills. So the visuals attached to him are very clean, very elegant looking versus some of the kids when they're using a style of magic, such as the battle magic, it's loose and raw, not very clean, but it gets the job done. "So, the effects are everything from greenscreen to full CG. One of the episodes we actually introduce a whole black hole into a stadium. Quentin has been practicing making small black holes and in this case, he introduces a small black hole but quickly loses control so it floats into the rafters and starts wreak- ing havoc. There's a lot of stunt work as well. The magicians sort of throw magic around at each other. And we're doing some simple gags; at one point, the ma- gician kids are transforming into geese, and Quinten, the main character, falls off of a ledge, and as the camera tracks in to look down, suddenly we're introduc- ing a full CG goose that flies off into the distance." It doesn't take place in a specific time period, such as Agent Carter, Mad Men or Penny Dreadful, so I'm wondering if there's any scenery removal, things that just don't belong? "Well, with Brakbills, there are matters of the campus, where there are no cars. So, we had to do car removal. Including Porta-Potties that just shouldn't exist on campus but ended up in the shot. As episodes progressed, there are other worlds. There's a place called Nederlands, which is a world between worlds and we also created this world of Fillery, which is where these kids are all trying to get to, from the first book, which turns out to be real. So there's a lot of environments that we're doing the concept for and taking them to shot completion." What did the show's producers want for this show in terms of VFX? "Again, it goes to the rawness of the characters themselves — Quentin, Alice, Eliot, Penny and then The Beast. SYFY'S THE MAGICIANS BY LINDA ROMANELLO FUSEFX CRAFTS SOME MAGIC FOR THIS NOVEL- TURNED-TV SERIES B FuseFX's Jason Dowdeswell says Season 1 is all about defining the look of the visual effects.

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