We had our visual effect spotting today for This Mortal Coil. “What, pray tell, is a visual effects spotting?”you may ask. Well, after the director and producer edits (in which the visual effects already proposed, planned, discussed, and set up have been clearly identified within the body of the episode) proceeding the shooting of the episode (in which the visual effects already proposed, planned and discussed are set up) following the visual effects meeting (in which an episode’s visual effects are planned and discussed) subsequent to the concept meeting (in which an episode’s visual effects are proposed), the producer, editor, and VFX supervisors gather in a tiny, darkened editing suite to debate the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.
The editor will take us through each visual effects as it appears in the episode, from cinchy staff blasts to complex space battles. “The first shot is at 7:13,”the editor may say and bring up the shot onscreen. It’s a puddle pass-thru. Easy enough. “21:12 – McKay turns into a werewolf.” Ah, something a little meatier. Onscreen, the human McKay is standing there for some three seconds – then we cut to another three seconds of Werewolf McKay before cutting over to Teyla’s horrified reaction. We discuss the visual effect that is going to bridge the two McKay looks. Perhaps we’d like to go with a weird alien fluctuation, a morph that causes McKay’s features to melt like wax and reform. Or maybe it’s more of a transformative progression: whiskers sprouting, ears growing, fangs forming. Once we’re all on the same page, we decide on the very important length of the effect. Is six seconds long enough? Does the transformation need to be longer? Do we want to “add head” to the shot of a pre-werewolf McKay (when one “adds head”, one adds time to the beginning of the shot)? Or should we “add tail” to the shot of the full werewolf McKay (when one “adds tail”, one is adding time to the end of a shot)? Once we are all in agreement, we move on.
And so it goes, in that cramped little room, as we thrash out the finer details. Is the ship traveling from left to right or vice versa? Should we add an errant wraith blast to the shot of Ronon returning fire? Do we want to do a bit of a camera move on the matte shot (usually an establishing shot, like that of a distant wraith lab, in which a unique element – like said wraith lab – is superimposed on another image – like a surrounding forest for instance) to make it less static?
Depending on how many visual effects we’ve budgeted, the process can take anywhere from ten minutes to the better part of the day. On this day, we were only in there for an hour. Between now and the finished shot, the gang at VFX will drop by to show us the various stages of the shots in question, from wire-frame temps to flawless silver ships making the jump to hyperspace.
Boy. Can’t wait to see how werewolf McKay turns out. I’ll let you know.
Ghirlandiao writes: “Is the second half episode that features an SG-1 character still being produced?”
Answer: That‘s still the plan.
Anonymous #1 writes: “But the pugs – OMG, they are the cutest things ever. How can you not take them home????”
Answer: They’re actually too young to take home and will only be ready to leave their mom at nine weeks (early August).
Anonymous #2 writes: “When do you expect to hear from Scifi about a season five?”
Answer: Anytime between the Monday after the First Strike airs to mid-October.
Camy writes: “Regarding SGA, how were the ratings for Submersion?”
Answer: There was an uptick for Submersion. Hopefully, it’s a trend that will continue over the final two episodes.
Anonymous #3 writes: “Even you admitted yourself the Shep/Weir was more popular than Shep/Teyla…”
Answer: I did? Was it at the same time I admitted to the Kennedy assassination?
Salty writes: “Can you just sit back and enjoy a show for pure entertainment rather than analyzing production stuff?”
Answer: I can honestly say that being both a writer and a producer has effectively negated almost any enjoyment I derive from watching film and television.
Alipeeps writes: “Can you tell us what episode is up next in the production order?”
Answer: Miller’s Crossing.
Sazzat writes: “1) We heard that Connor Trinneer has been signed up for a couple of episodes in the back half of season 4…Any truth in that? 2) If it is true then how about the mysterious ‘Rise of the Googlions’ being a Michael story? It just sounds very bug like.
3) And just wondered, we know 3 of the episodes that we’ll be seeing Elizabeth. Can you tell us what the 4th unknown one is? 4) Could Carson’s return be something to do with his ATA gene?
Answers: 1) It certainly sounds like something we might do. 2) Hey, that’s not a bad idea! What’s a Googlion again? 3) No can do. 4) It’s possible.
Anonymous #4 writes: “You seem not to answer too many qeustions about character of Rodney McKay. So here is mine. Can we expect some “dark turn” at his character, too?”
Answer: We will definitely be seeing a more emotional side to Rodney this season. And, while his character will not be taking a dark turn, there will be dark moments ahead for McKay.
Anonymous #5 writes: “Regarding the new spin-off currently named Stargate Universe, Are you planning on writing or producing for said show or will you stick to only working on Atlantis?”
Answer: At present, it’s way too early to speculate on what will be in production next year and what role I’ll be playing if any.
Anonymous #5 writes: “Any interesting rumours going around the studio lot yet?”
Answer: I hear Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz are an item again.