Going Deeper into the Fringe-y Way
With J.J. Abrams' series, the method to the madness usually starts to emerge more clearly in the second season, which is certainly the case with Fringe, airing Thursdays on FOX at 9/8c. Olivia (Anna Torv) returns from the parallel universe, and must battle shapeshifters bent on destroying one universe. William Bell (Leonard Nimoy), the mysterious chairman of Massive Dynamic, returns as a key to understanding the meaning of the two universes.
"Obviously we had a few challenges with moving the production from New York to Vancouver, as well as a new writing staff, for the most part," offers Jay Worth, the overall visual effects supervisor. "Jeff Pinker stayed on as the show runner and J.J. and Bob [Orci] and Alex [Kurtzman] and [producer] Bryan Burke are the over arching figure heads. But we have a whole new slew of writers and a new production team in Vancouver. When you do that, you get some continuity. But, to be honest, it was all new people once again. So in some ways, it was starting over from that standpoint. However, because I was able to keep the continuity going with our vendors [including Zoic and Eden FX], I do think that that has helped the show not feel as a big of a bump from one season to the next, particularly with different crews and a different vibe a little bit.
"We've always strived to be Cronenberg-esque in our delivery of things and have these amazingly insane things going on but also have these simple things in terms of camera and environments and be naturalistic. And that's where the visual effects come to play. One of the privileges is that because we're so involved with the producers and the writing of everything that we get to infuse that temperament and creative through line. So we're all on the same page in terms of tone and story. Sometimes they even write treatments where they'll describe someone dying in 'The Fringy way,' and we all know what that means: 'How do you want to kill someone?' But because they come to us, we get to come up with ideas and creatures, even before a story point goes to the studio, which makes the creative process infinitely more fun and fulfilling."
Andrew Orloff, Zoic's visual effects supervisor, echoes that it has to look real -- like you really photographed it. "What it means is that we just don't have any shots that seemed staged for the camera or any hint of being a visual effect. One of the big effects, like the parasite that crawls out of the guy's mouth, are interacting with actor's performances and they're shot with a very loose camera style and we have to have the tentacles of this creature coming out of the guy's mouth and all the deformations that are in his stomach and in his throat and in his chest.
"And we had to create a proprietary workflow here of what we're calling performance transfer of tracking 2D points, and putting those 2D tracked points onto the formation of 3D inter-geometry. So we're transferring not just the camera motion but also the performance of the actors on set onto 3D pieces of geometry so we can deform them and warp them and have our effects interact with them because the mandate is all about making it look as natural as possible, so that means a lot of optical tricks and atmosphere put in as seamlessly as possible."