Smallville Takes Final Flight
Last week, Smallville began its 10th and final season (Fridays, 8/7 on The CW) with "Lazarus." Clark Kent is saved from his near-death experience with blue Kryptonite and learns more about his destiny, including the re-emergence of Lex Luthor and a warning that "evil is coming."
In fact, in terms of sheer numbers, Entity FX, which came on board in season two, has completed 4,382 vfx shots for the series as of the Season 10 premiere, and will reach a milestone when the series' 200th episode, "Homecoming," airs Oct. 15.
Meanwhile, the bar has been raised for the familiar signature effects this season, including super-speed; "Clark Time" where he moves while the world stands still; heat vision; X-ray vision; synthetic environments (Metropolis, LuthorCorp., Daily Planet, Watchtower, North Pole, outer space); energy effects; digital stunts; flying and jumping; and natural phenomena (water, floods, snow).
And the impact of Entity FX work throughout the series has consisted of vfx that are tightly tied to the actors' performances (emotional impact as well as a wow factor); that help advance the story and sometimes allow scenes to be recut or repurposed to better advantage; and that have influenced vfx in other projects with some of the signature moments.
Some of the new challenges in the premiere episode include CG fire and integrating it with Clark Time. "We have a scene where Clark has to rescue Lois in a cornfield that has been set on fire by Lex Luthor, and, simultaneously, Lex has set up a bomb to tumble onto the morning rush-hour traffic in Metropolis," Smith explains. "Who does Clark save? In classic Superman style, he's able to do both at the same time using his super-speed."
The fire solution involved Maya Fluids as Clark whips around and the wake of his speed and the air distinguish the fire. "The final effect is a complete CG scene done in Maya and composited in After Effects, with a cyber scan of Clark where we see the globe atop the Daily Planet topple over and Clark catches it in a super jump mid-fall and brings it back to its place on the building," Smith adds.
Of course, there will be more extreme peril this final season as Clark completes his origin story to become Superman, which means upgrading some of the signature effects, expanding the synthetic environments and creating more creatures.