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December 2014

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Page 16 of 51 15 POST DECEMBER 2014 a specific formula, so we tend to deliver our shots right up to the mix." Is someone on-set in New Orleans for the shoot of American Horror Story? "For Season 4, we have a guy in New Orleans who is on-set every day. He and Sarah are quite close. He runs her through everything they are going to do with a lot of the cameras, because we have to double up on every set up so she can do both sides. That's all very carefully choreographed, and he sits with the director and DP and walks Sar- ah through it all. It's a well-oiled machine by now." How are you creating the two-heads? "Most of the time, both of her sides are shot on greenscreen. If she's in bed lying down, it's a little bit different. Gener- ally, if she's on stage, both sides are shot greenscreen and then we shoot a background plate and she gets seamed together and composited in. We've got a couple of rigs of prosthesis that she can wear for doing a wide shot with a prosthetic head, or where we are in an 'over' and we want to see the two heads. She does wear a prosthetic to get that second head going where we are not seeing her face." What format are they shooting the VFX on? "It's all shot on film. Glee just moved over. For Season 5 they went to an Alexa. There are like two shows still shooting on film. American Horror Story has always shot film." One might think a digital format would speed things up? Does a film shoot create any sort of delay? "It can. We haven't hit that too much. We've made an effort to seam into their normal dailies process. They bring it down to DNx 175x now and we've been doing a lot of QC'ing between that for- mat and RAW DPX scans, and it's pretty close. We've been having a lot of luck with that. Occasionally we will rescan in the DPX format if we feel there is some compression there." DNx is typically an editing format, no? "It's mostly for editors, but we have been using it for the show. Occasionally we'll get shots where the compression is an issue, but with the new 175x, it's a really good format. The film frame is 2048x1556 and we are at 1920, so the resolution is almost identical. As long as you're not David Fincher [laughs]." Ultimately, what is the delivery format? "We are getting a lot of 4K requests. Everything out of Sony — they want to master in 4K. We do a bunch of Amazon pilots and they want to master in 4K. Now that question comes up more than it doesn't in television." In American Horror Story, there are several reoccurring effects. Jessica Lange's character is an amputee? "We did the same gag on Chloë Sevi- gny in Asylum, when she gets her legs chopped off below the knee, so it's the same kind of idea as the 'Lieutenant Dan' technique. Make-up effects makes it enough so her knee sticks out slightly and she basically wears green leggings underneath it. Do you have to use VFX to create the circus set? "That's all a build and it's all (production designer) Mark Worthington and the art department. We did that a little bit in Season 2, but they built that whole thing. Occasionally we get into deep background removal or houses, and lights and cars if we see them. But that whole carnival is a contained unit." Twisty, the clown, has an interesting but kind of gross effect going on? "We start to get into his back story a bit, so when his mask comes off, there's some work done that you see in Episode 2, and more in the coming episodes of what happened to him. That's a big effect for us. It is an entire replacement of the lower half of his face underneath his nose. It's a full CG head." What tools does the studio rely on? "We are primarily a Nuke/Max house. All the deliveries are run through Scratch, so Scratch is linked in to our review and delivery process. But shot work is primarily done in Nuke and (3DS) Max. We do have a few Maya seats and a few Houdini seats." Do those tools translate across other shows, too? "Yes, primarily. Occasionally we've have some specialty that we'll punch out to another package for, but our whole pipeline is built around those tools." How big of a team do you have? "For Horror Story, we probably have 15 to 20 people per episode. I think we've got 60 people in the building right now. We are at 80 to 85 across the three buildings." Is everything Windows-based? "Everything is on PC now, running Win- dows. I am on a Mac personally, but I don't do shot work." How many shows are you involved in as a VFX supervisor? "I do eight shows, but a couple of mine are on hiatus. In addition to Horror Sto- ry, I do Glee, which isn't a whole lot of visual effects. I just finished Manhattan for WGN… I do Salem, also for WGN. I do a little bit of work interfacing with The Blacklist. American Horror Story picks up the most time, for sure." It looks like there will be a Season 5? "It's official, it was picked up. It's a good show — 13 episodes is a good run for us. We shoot from July to December. Usually, we finish before Christmas." PRIMETIME Sarah Paulson's Dot and Bette characters come together in VFX.

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