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Television Academy Celebrates Special Visual Effects Nominees


Actress Anna Wilding putting her green screen skills to use at SVX Emmy Celebration.
Actress Anna Wilding putting her green screen skills to use at SVX Emmy Celebration.

On Monday, members of the Television Academy Special Visual Effects Peer Group gathered at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre to honor their Emmy nominated members for outstanding special visual effects and special visual effects in a supporting role.

Governor Kevin Pike, who got his break into the industry on Jaws in 1974, hosted the evening’s festivities that included the opportunity for guests to be photographed in front of a greenscreen and composited into their favorite show. The presentation included videos of before-and-after shots that exemplified how far the art and craft have come since computer generation of visual effects revolutionized the industry. Pike believes that these technological advancements have helped the resurgence of television as a storytelling medium. “So much more is going on than you can imagine,” Pike said. “That gives the writer the opportunity and freedom to write whatever they can imagine. All of it is attainable and doable.”

VFX supervisor Jay Worth, nominated with his team for NBC’s post-apocalypic series Revolution, explained that the supporting category his work falls into includes “effects that are invisible.” These effects support the story in a subtle way. His favorite shot, one of Wrigley Field overgrown with vines, has become one of the signature shots of the show. Worth does not work for a particular effects company, but rather hires artists and independent companies around the country, such as lead matte painter Eric Chauvin in Washington State, to complete different aspects of the work.

Crazy Horse Effects (CHE) in Venice is responsible for creating the world for HBO’s iconic series, Boardwalk Empire. Company VFX supervisor Paul Graff said its specialty is to recreate historic environments. CHE designed the original boardwalk set extensions. “It’s history. I love to put you back into places you can’t otherwise be in,” Graff said. “One of the oldest wishes of mankind is to travel back in time.”

To recreate the past, the team uses a mix of research and historic photos to get to the essence of how things were so that they can tell the story within the frame. “It is a game between research, accuracy and poetry,” Graff shared.

Berlin-based Karakter Design Studio was nominated for HBO’s Game of Thrones. For visual effects concept designer Tobias Mannewitz, the biggest challenge he faced was the creation of the city of Astapor. Usually the production tries to shoot in actual locations. For Astapor, “We did not have anything real,” Mannewitz said. “I had to create so much from scratch that I would get lost in the possibilities.”

Special visual effects have allowed the audience to get lost in otherwise unattainable worlds, with help from the artists who, as Pike claims, create big effects for the small screen.

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