Character effects company MASTERSFX has been signed to continue developing and creating its mix of practical/digital FX for season four of the DreamWorks/TNT television series Falling Skies, which will premiere next Summer. MASTERSFX has regularly worked on the series since its 2011 launch. The company also designs and produces a diverse number of makeup and special creature effects for a variety of other TV shows and feature films.
For Falling Skies, a Steven Spielberg/DreamWorks Television produced series airing on TNT, MASTERSFX creates and produces armies of practical alien characters. Having arranged a practical/digital FX mix, MASTERSFX creates all of the aliens which physically appear on-set, as well as other special makeup effects and mechanical monsters. For the recently concluded season three, MASTERSFX upped the ante, adding its digital process into the mix. Working with the digital effects team at Zoic Studios, MASTERSFX provided several practical/digital creatures and enhanced live-action environments depicted in season three.
For decades, MASTERSFX has worked to develop the practical and digital effects mix in working with live, on-set actors. “We have been strong and vocal proponents for realism in mixing practical and digital FX to depict unique and organic feeling characters,” said Todd Masters, founder of MASTERSFX. “Falling Skies is the perfect example by which to illustrate how we can evolve character FX technology. If these techniques don’t grow, traditional CG will become fossilized, just like other technologies that have come before. We need to continue to innovate and strive for better-looking results.”
The most popular new character added to Falling Skies during season three was Cochise, a warrior of the Volm alien race portrayed by actor Doug Jones. MASTERSFX adds performance-driven enhancements to the Volm characters via the company’s in-house digital tools. By analyzing the actor’s original performance – tracking his precise movements and then modifying them with proprietary software – the artists at MASTERSFX are able to create a hybrid performance of both practical and digital FX, one not possible with traditional systems.
“As artists, working in both make-up and visual effects, we prefer to embrace any tool or technique appropriate to helping our clients tell compelling stories,” Andre Bustanoby, visual effects supervisor at MASTERSFX. “In Falling Skies for example, the character of Cochise is a unique amalgam of techniques, built in tandem with a brilliant live-action performance.”
MASTERSFX helps bring Jones’ on-set practical prosthetics to life organically, so that other actors can better respond to his characterizations. His alien portrayal can physically be part of the scene, can be directed, and can interact with performers and props. He appears as a member of the show, rather than as digitally fabricated character rendered in post.
“What we wanted to create was an extension of Doug’s live, on-set performance, not something that would be replaced later in post,” Masters said. “This provides the additional benefit of something actually being on-set. Our finished product looks real – because it is real. With our process, we can put a full character on-set, in real-time, which allows the other actors and director to see the being and collaborate with it directly. There are no tennis balls to act to or direct; we deliver Cochise in full character prosthetics.”