08 Mars 2019

While American Gods Battle It Out, Technicolor VFX and Color Teams Blend Easily

Technicolor’s MR. X takes lead on VFX for Season 2 of American Gods, working closely with Technicolor Toronto brought on board for color finishing.

  • Technicolor Toronto Senior Colorist Mark Kueper graded the new season, working closely with the director/EP and three cinematographers.
  • VFX Supervisor Chris MacLean and the team at MR. X delivered 626 shots – and almost every type of visual effect imaginable.

 

Artfully unhinged as the first, the second season of the Starz fantasy series American Gods has arrived. Season 2 picks up where the show left off, as Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) finally realizes that the strange people he’s been encountering are ancient gods – preparing for an epic clash against a host of new deities who’ve arisen alongside modern culture.

Technicolor Toronto Senior Colorist Mark Kueper was brought on board to grade season two, working closely with director and executive producer Chris Byrne, as well as the three cinematographers – Tico Poulakakis, CSC; David Greene, ASC, CSC; and Marc Laliberté, CSC – who gorgeously shot the show to push the boundaries of what we currently see on TV today.

“Mark was integrated from the very beginning of season 2,” said Laliberté. “Whenever we had a new challenge, we would reach out to him and he would help us find the best way to achieve the look we wanted. And when it comes to the final grading, Mark really pushed the footage in the color suite, getting some amazing images out of our footage.”

Toronto’s post team created a robust 4K workflow for season two, which allowed for quicker reaction time between post and lead VFX vendor, Technicolor’s MR. X.

“It’s been a great collaboration with Chris Byrne and the cinematographers,” said Kueper. “The story lets you go into totally unchartered territory and we used every tool we had to get the final look.”

While the first season of American Gods divided its VFX work amongst 40 or so different vendors, 90% of the VFX work for Season 2 was handled by Technicolor’s MR. X. The team worked on just about every type of visual effect imaginable, including full CG environments, set extensions, and character integration – all under the shorter 8-10 week schedule of an episodic production.

“Though television production moves faster than feature film, you always want to deliver the same level of quality,” says Chris MacLean, VFX Supervisor at MR. X. “I run every shot through the same gauntlet, whether for film or television. But with a show like American Gods, you’ve also got to be extra nimble; the episodes are released on a schedule and not all at once, so the filming and story are always in flux. Teamwork is more important than ever, and surrounding yourself with people you know you can trust – who will understand the vision and how to deliver on it, even as things are constantly changing.”

MacLean cites one example in particular that propelled the team to push the creative limits: the “crazy and psychedelic” carousel sequence in episode one, which was filmed at The House on the Rock outside Madison, WI.

“I spent three days and nights in the carousel room of the house, blocking and 3D scanning what is the largest carousel in the world,” explained MacLean. “This was in preparation for the wild visual effects work we were going to do, for this really big shot, where we go backstage for the first time and meet the gods. We stopped every frame to make sure it looked like a painting, and the resulting shot looks like it could have taken six months – not the eight weeks we had to do it.”

The team also created a 3D environment of the outside of the house, so that it would appear more pristine than it does IRL – in direct contrast to the otherworldly vibe you find as you go deeper and deeper inside. The process was facilitated by a scanner built by MacLean. Portable so that it can be brought on set, the scanner was first used on Crimson Peak by director Guillermo del Toro, a frequent MR. X collaborator.

Watch the official trailer as the epic war of the gods continues on American Gods, based on the international best seller by Neil Gaiman.

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