Josephine Noh has been working in visual effects for about sixteen years. She has worked at many studios before joining FuseFX in 2015. She has worked on shows such as Mildred Pierce, Mr. Holmes, I Know This Much Is True and Respect.
What is your background?
I originally intended to get into Japanese anime but I switched gears and focused on CG at the School of Visual Arts. I got some internships after graduating and then freelanced for nine years allaround shops in NY. I became a staff comper at FuseFX NY in 2015 and climbed through the ranks and now I’m a Digital Effects (DFX) Supervisor.
How did you and FuseFX get involved on this series?
The show’s VFX supervisor Jon Massey was formerly from FuseFX LA. We had worked together on 911 Season Four and when I heard he was on the show, I volunteered to lead it on the FuseFX end.
How was the collaboration with the showrunner and the directors?
We didn’t work directly with the directors but we worked with the showrunner David DiGilio on the 106 landslide sequence. He was happy with the end product so that was a great feeling.
What were their expectations and approach about the visual effects?
The expectations were to create high-end, realistic VFX that didn’t take away from the story, only enhanced it. That is what we always do, always provide the best to our clients.
How did you organize the work with your VFX Producer?
Clark Harding was our VFX producer and the main things we discussed were how to split the work with our LA office and how many resources we needed. Since Clark was producing for both offices, it made communications easier and we were able to get quicker turnarounds.
How was the work split between the FuseFX offices?
NY took on most of the work and it was supervised by me. A selection of complex CG scenes were worked on in LA supervised by Evan Underwood.
What are the sequences made by FuseFX?
There was quite a range and we touched every episode so I’ll just mention the major highlights. We worked on the big beach battle sequence in 101, the night beach in 102, the CG starlings in 103, the Grand Tetons in 104, the battle sequence in 105, and the huge landslide in 106.
Can you elaborate about the creation of the environment in the intense first episode?
The first episode has a big beach battle that is the catalyst for the main character James Reece’s revenge journey. The practical beach set looked too calm and pleasant so we were tasked with making it feel more chaotic. Our NY team added layers of 3D and 2D rotor wash elements to help with the illusion that the helicopters were landing on the beach and the CG artists created the truck fires with tall, complex smoke plumes which really enhanced the scene. For the background environment, we put together a cliff range and integrated that on top of the lower practical cliffs. We also placed in a CG compound as the enemy base with multiple elements including a dirt road matte painting.
Which location was the most complicated to enhance?
The mountains for the landslide in 106 were definitely the most complicated. We created matte paintings to expand the mountain range, comped in CG trees and shrubs, enhanced practical explosions that trigger the landslide with more debris and smoke, and matte paintings for the surrounding environments before and after the landslide.
How did you create the various vehicles and especially the helicopters?
For the helicopters, we stitched another helicopter that was shot as an element plate and we comped it in the 101 beach battle scene. We added vehicles for 105’s opening shot. It was an overhead drone shot and both sides of the plate were replaced with stock footage and edited with matte paintings to expand the town area. The stock footage didn’t have any vehicles so 2D vehicles were comped in to feel more populated.
The series is full of muzzle flashes and explosions. How did you create them?
We gathered a huge library of muzzle flash stock elements and we used them throughout the season. For 105’s battle, we used Sapphire’s Muzzle Flash plugin to match the practical flashes. It worked out great using its 3D controls to line up with all the different angles of the firearms and we added more texture to the flashes for extra detail.
What was helpful to us when approaching muzzle flashes was the advice from the military consultants and prop master on which muzzle flashes to use for the battle scenes because there were different firearms used for each battle.
All the explosion shots we worked on were practical. Our contribution was enhancing them with a mix of CG and 2D elements. For example, the 101 crypt explosions were practical and our FX artist used a scan of the crypt to sim dust coming out of the bricks, he also created debris falling down in the foreground. The comper integrated the FX work and added 2D falling dust elements to layer the look further.
Which fight was the most complicated to enhance?
The 101 beach battle was the most complicated because of the many layers involved to create the drama and chaos. Along with all the environmental changes I mentioned above, we had to map out all the bullet hits, tracer rounds, and muzzle flashes for all the semi and automatic weapons which took quite a bit of juggling. The military consultants and the prop master provided us with the types of weapons we should match our elements to: AK-47s for the enemies, suppressed AR-15s for Reece’s team, and miniguns on the helicopters. We did custom FX bullet hits for each shot and we used 2D ground hits to help fill in the gaps.
The other layer was the rotor wash. The practical helicopters did not actually land on the beach when shooting. The NY FX team simmed rotor wash and they had to split the volume in half in order to fill up the open, outdoor space. Our compers used a procedural method to add more rotor wash in the foreground for depth.
How did you enhance the gore aspect during the fights?
We integrated a combination of stock elements to add more blood and wounds to things like 101’s decapitated head in the tunnel and the knife fight that happens later in the episode.
Outside of the fights, we created matte paintings of blood and tracked them onto the shirt of Marcus Boykin in 104 after his car flipped over.
Did you want to reveal to us any other invisible effects?
In 103, there’s a scene in which Reece interrogates a character named Saul Agnon. Reece is seen wearing black gloves but during filming, those gloves were taken off for some shots so we did rotomation of Chris Pratt’s hands and comped in CG gloves to maintain the continuity. We also kept the fireplace in mind when lighting the gloves to have the flickering light applied onto the gloves. It was subtle work but it paid off and we were happy with the results.
Which shot or sequence was the most challenging?
The 106 landslide sequence was by far the most challenging. It was so massive that some shots were completely replaced with CG and matte paintings. The dirt couldn’t look too dry or too muddy so the LA FX team did many rounds of testing to get the look and feel of the landslide right. Layers of rocks were also placed in to help make the dirt not look too sandy. Sim times were extensive and when they were ready, the LA compers were so great and responsive in taking those shots to the final looks. For the landslide settling at the end, matte painters created big dirt piles and we projected them onto the sims to help with the continuity of the aftermath.
What is your favorite shot or sequence?
My favorite is the 101 beach battle scene. It took a lot of coordinating but regardless, it was enjoyable to work on and to watch. Always feels good to be a part of the VFX that contributes to the story in a big way.
What is your best memory on this show?
The daily check-ins with my team always perked up my day. During the project, we renewed our love for Subway sandwiches together and we still check in on each other.
How long have you worked on this show?
It was an 8-month project for me.
What’s the VFX shots count?
297 VFX shots total for both FuseFX.
What was the size of your team?
We had around 30 people on the NY team and 40 people on the LA team.
What is your next project?
I can’t share the name of the project at this time but it is an upcoming feature and I’m very excited to be working on it.
What are the four movies that gave you the passion for cinema?
My father studied film in Italy during the ‘70s but he stopped pursuing it as a career when he moved to America. It didn’t stop him from sharing his love of cinema with my sister and I. He collected several bookcases worth of movies on VHS tapes and I would go through them while I was growing up. So I like to think that my father gave me the passion for cinema and movies like The Godfather, Some Like It Hot, West Side Story and so many others confirmed that passion. What gave me the passion for VFX was anime. If I had to pick four animes that influenced me the most while pursuing my career, it would be Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Rurouni Kenshin, and Naruto.
A big thanks for your time.
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© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2022