Marvel's 'Daredevil'

makes Shade see TV differently

Images courtesy of Shade VFX

Shade VFX hadn’t set its sights on TVuntil a hard-hitting Daredevil made them see sense. Coupling realism with "more blood than a body can produce," their work has made Marvel's first subscription-based vigilante a Netflix star while making them Emmy nominees. Now, as Season 2 drops and binge-watchers everywhere clear their calendars, Shade’s Bryan Godwin (VFX Director/Owner), Karl Coyner (Digital FX Supe) and Stephen Mann (CG Supe) recall how the dark superhero series encouraged their move to TV by casting new, subversive light on episodic storytelling.


Why was 'Daredevil' the project that made you decide to take on TV?
Bryan:
We’re picky about our projects. They need to have the right schedule, budget and quality and Daredevil was a perfect fit. Also the storyline, the visuals and the acting were so on par to a film that there was no reason not to do it.

Karl, describe the work you handled as Digital Effects Supervisor.
I did all the on-set supervision for both seasons: production meetings, assessing where visual effects could help, smoothing out problems, and when possible, meeting with the team in the office to finish up shots. The mandate with Daredevil is realism and grit, so we try to take care of as much practically and as in-camera as possible. As is the case with all projects though, things go wrong and last-minute stuff comes up. Some of it was small and some of it was big and fun, like explosions, fire, and characters jumping off buildings (laughs).

And Stephen, how did you fit into all this?
As CG Supervisor, I oversaw the teams of their really excellent artists. I made sure things went smoothly and provided input on matching what we were looking for with what we were passing off to our compositing team. It was a Maya pipeline that we used, so I helped to build a few tools, too.

"It was a classic case of where they said, ‘Holy s---t, this is way too dangerous, can you help us out?’ In the end, they made the fight look awesome and we made it look real."

What work in Daredevil’s first season are you especially proud of?
Bryan: There’s a brutal, knock-down ninja fight involving a chain with a knife on it. Even a stunt person can’t swing around a weapon like that safely so we used Maya and its dynamics system to develop a very, very physics-based rig that was incredibly easy to art direct. It behaved like an ordinary practical prop would. We were nominated for an Emmy for that sequence and I think it’s because it really showed the strength of artists and tools coming together.
Karl: We also had a really strong partnership with the production team. The stunt guys choreographed the whole thing using a map of Daredevil’s body that showed where he gets sliced. When it came time to shoot, even using the chain with a rubber piece at the end to be replaced later was too dangerous because everyone was so close. It was a classic case of them saying, ‘Holy s--t, this is way too dangerous, can you help us out?’ In the end, they made the fight look awesome and we made it look real.

Good relationships are critical to good VFX work then.
Bryan: Without a doubt. The best thing for us is the collaboration. That we get to see the scripts before they go out, that Karl is in the production meetings to offer a better way when it comes to saving money, or time, or headaches means everything. It sounds counterintuitive but it makes good business sense for us to advise against using VFX in every shot. Fewer VFX means a more realistic-looking result and a happier client. We’ve done our job when the end result looks amazing.

"We use our tools to keep things looking extremely realistic, even when the director is asking for more blood than a body can produce."

What about your work might come as a surprise?
Bryan:
Probably the quantity of the work we do. People are shocked to hear that we delivered over 1000 shots in season one. We keep things looking extremely realistic, even when the director is asking for more blood than a body can produce (laughs). Natural, believable effects help support this story. We shouldn’t make people say, ‘Wow, what neat visual effects!’ Instead, they should say, ‘Wait – what visual effects?’
Karl: Something that came as a surprise to us happened when Daredevil gets his signature suit. The lenses over his eyes provided no visibility for Charlie [Cox] or the stunt guys at all. We ended up putting CG lenses into approximately 80 shots in that final episode, and we continued to do so throughout a huge portion of season two, too.
Bryan: It actually went beyond just the lenses. There were times where we fully had to replace, change or augment the helmet just to make the scene work.

"…season two went bigger, badder and bloodier, with more fighting, more explosions, more ninjas, more awesomeness. Just…more."

How big was your team on season one versus season two?
Bryan: We were 15-20 and that grew to around 30 for season two. This show started as a gamble but became a huge runaway hit. At that time, it was the most-watched Netflix series to date. It moved their stock it became so popular. As a result, season two went bigger, badder and bloodier, with more fighting, more explosions, more ninjas, more awesomeness. Just...more (laughs).
Karl: And more nights spent on cold rooftops.
Bryan: Poor Karl has spent the better part of his nights over the last two years standing on rooftops in New York (laughs).

How did your contribution evolve for this new season?
Bryan: New characters like The Punisher and Elektra bring new weapons challenges. Our contribution was still to take care of the things that were too dangerous to do practically – but there were more expressions of that danger with unique considerations for each character. The total shot count went way up.

"All this over-the-top content and the ability to stream has brought about a new, golden age of storytelling. Different types of stories are now being told because there’s such a broader medium there to tell them on."

How do you think high-end TV and subscription platforms impact the future of the VFX industry?
Bryan: It’s going to mean great things because it’s more great content. People never used to look at television with such admiration and recruiting top-tier talent for TV was a challenge even a decade ago. I can list at least a dozen great TV series that I've watched recently but not as many movies. All this over-the-top content and the ability to stream has brought about a new, golden age of storytelling. Different types of stories are now being told because there’s such a broader medium there to tell them on. That’s good for everybody.

"Quite honestly, I think Daredevil paved the way for the huge success of Deadpool. I don’t think it could’ve happened otherwise."

And what's your opinion of subscription platforms serving as testing grounds?
Bryan:
There's a lot less risk and less budget spent, too. Jessica Jones, which we also work on, is not as violent but the psychological distress and themes of PTSD and abuse have never been talked about in a serial drama, definitely not in the depth that they went to. For them to take that risk with a female lead character opened up the door for more realistically-portrayed female superhero projects coming to the big screen now, too.

With two seasons under your belt and an Emmy nomination for your efforts, you must feel pretty happy with your decision to start doing TV work.
Bryan:
Oh yeah, we definitely do! Marvel’s mature approach is just really cool. They’ve achieved what others tried to do before but didn’t. Quite honestly, I think Daredevil paved the way for the huge success of Deadpool. I don’t think it could’ve happened otherwise. We’re grateful to be on a show like this. It makes all the long hours worthwhile and it feels great to see our work in stories like these.


Under cover of darkness, Shade VFX use marvelous Maya to make Marvel’s Daredevil both bloody and binge-worthy. Daredevil's sophomore season premieres today (March 18) on Netflix.

Tags
  • Maya
0 Comments
To post a comment please login or register