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August 2014

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Page 13 of 51 12 POST AUGUST 2014 VISUAL EFFECTS long with the season four debut earlier this summer of Amblin Television/TNT's hit sci-fi series Falling Skies came the debut of some ground- breaking VFX work from character effects company MastersFX. The studio, with locations in both Los Angeles and Vancouver, has been producing the show's practical creature FX since the series launched in 2011, and has continu- ously evolved its skill set to where it can now officially unveil its "dMFX" (Digital MakeUp) technology. For Falling Skies, a post-apocalyp- tic dramatic series about alien invasion on Earth (created by Robert Rodat and executive produced by Steven Spieldberg), MastersFX has implemented its new digital enhancement dMFX process, which mixes on-set special FX creature work with the company's proprietary digital tools, ulti- mately creating unique alien beings promi- nently featured throughout the season. As the team perfected its practical crea- ture FX work over the first three seasons, MastersFX was already developing tech- niques to better integrate its work along with modern digital visual effects. During Season 3 of Falling Skies, MastersFX began adding its proprietary digital process with the creation of a new alien race. By Season 4, Masters FX expanded the use of the process to include other alien characters. "Even the most unruly critters were somehow engineered to believably arrive on-set; the 12-foot tall alien 'Overlord' characters were created at actual-size and lensed in-situ, in motion, as portrayed by real actors on leg-extensions," explains Todd Masters, founder/CEO/chief monster maker, MastersFX. "Later, to depict the creature's demeanor, we integrated expres- sive alien eyes and emotive facial features by using our dMFX process in post." By incorporating the company's dMFX process, MastersFX is able to mix its own on-set experience with the flexibility and control of several digital techniques. "We like to think of ourselves as representing the next era of monster-making," Masters states. "Our dMFX process allows us to integrate more traditional creature and character FX techniques with high-end tracking, photo-processing and perfor- mance transfer, to solve monster problems for our clients, in a highly-efficient way. Achieving great characters for commercials or producing interesting new creatures for film and television is no longer just for big-budgeted projects." According to Masters, along with the studio's proprietary software, the team also relies on Adobe Creative Cloud, Maya, Nuke, and SynthEyes as its tracking engine." Falling Skies' most popular new alien character, "Cochise" (actor Doug Jones) was introduced in Season 3. By integrating the company's dMFX process, Masters- FX prides itself on helping to embellish Jones' performance — actually allowing him to drive the digital enhancements of his characters. The dMFX system analyzes the actor's original performance — tracking the precise on-set movements of Jones — and then adds proprietary methods. The MastersFX team then blends together the on-set prosthetics, Jones' performance, and the digital enhancements in post. "What came out of the dMFX pipeline is something new, and Cochise was a prime opportunity to create a fully-hybrid charac- ter that was a fusion of actor, makeup, and digital artistry," Masters adds. "Sounds ex- pensive, but it allows for more work in a TV series like Falling Skies to exist at a reason- able price point. Without it, legions of fans would have less of an emotional connection to these amazing characters." TNT'S FALLING SKIES A The MastersFX's dMFX team of VFX supervisor, Andre Bustanoby (standing, left); senior VFX supervisor, Johnathan Banta (left, seated); Cochise (center, actor Doug Jones); owner, Todd Masters (right, standing); and VFX producer, Christopher Brown. BY LINDA ROMANELLO MASTERSFX APPLIES 'DIGITAL MAKEUP'

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