Y The Last Man

Muse VFX Uses Fusion Studio for Visual Effects on Y: The Last Man Series

Blackmagic Design today announced that Los Angeles based visual effects (VFX) house Muse VFX used its Fusion Studio VFX and motion graphics software for the new television series “Y: The Last Man.” Whether it was for photoreal explosions, CG vehicles/objects, matte paintings or CG set extensions, Fusion Studio helped Muse VFX bring the show’s postapocalyptic world to life.

Based on the hit comic book series, “Y: The Last Man” follows the aftermath of a cataclysmic event that kills every mammal with a Y chromosome, except for one cisgender man and his pet monkey. Survivors in the postapocalyptic world struggle to restore what was lost and look to rebuild something better. Starring Diane Lane, Ashley Romans, Ben Schnetzer, Amber Tamblyn and more, the series is now available on FX on Hulu.

“Since ‘Y: The Last Man’ takes place following a catastrophic event, every shot needs to depict that we are now living in a world that has suffered a great loss and become destitute. VFX took on quite a large role in the creation of this postapocalyptic world,” explained Muse VFX Cofounder and VFX Supervisor John Gross. “We used Fusion Studio for some pretty big VFX in the show, such as explosions, helicopter crashes and set extensions, as well as some more invisible VFX, such as split screens and blue screen composites.”

For example, Fusion Studio was instrumental in helping the Muse VFX team bring more realism to scenes that take place in the Pentagon. Muse VFX Cofounder and VFX Supervisor Fred Pienkos explained, “Production dressed a section of the Pentagon hallways during filming, and then we used Fusion Studio to extend the halls, track camera moves, key and rotoscope blue screens, and add lit and rendered CG hallway extensions.”

For other scenes, Muse VFX’s work was more explosive, such as creating a bomb detonating in a house. No practical effects were shot on the day, so the team used LIDAR scans that were captured on location, along with photo references, to create the VFX sequence. It required significant layering to integrate the explosion of the house with the environment, which had multiple layers of trees and bushes, some of which had to be replaced with CG plants.

“Camera tracking, rotoscoping, digital pyro, digital debris and digital foliage were all composited together using Fusion Studio, including a simulation blowing out a nearby car’s windows as a result of the detonation,” said Pienkos. “Our goal throughout the show was to make the explosions and effects as realistic as possible. Similarly, we created a crash sequence that began with a helicopter precariously hanging off the side of a building, and then breaking loose and falling to the ground. Fusion Studio did a fabulous job of integrating CG into live action and making the VFX look photoreal.”

Muse VFX also used Fusion Studio to animate rats, mice and deer throughout the series. “In the show, not only are male humans are affected, but we also see the ripple effect across different animals. In one scene, rats swarm and run down city streets. This mischief, which was created 100 percent in CG in Fusion Studio, foreshadowed a warning of what was to come,” Pienkos explained. “In order to help sell the horrific realities of the show’s premise, we used CG and compositing to help both people and animals look pretty gruesome. No animals were harmed in making this show, but you wouldn’t know it.”

According to Muse VFX, “Y: The Last Man” had more of a traditional film pipeline than a television pipeline. “We’ve found that the quality gap between television, streaming and film work has all but closed. Television now requires the level of detail and craftsmanship that has been traditionally reserved for film,” Pienkos noted. “Shot with anamorphic lenses at 5K, the show’s stylized look and high resolution give it more of a film look and feel.

“Fusion Studio being resolution independent was crucial, as we were mixing resolutions as well as aspect ratios. There were also drone shots, crash cams and other elements that were all different resolutions and color spaces. Fusion Studio integrated these production realities together very well.”

“The best part of working on ‘Y: The Last Man’ was the huge range of work that went into it. We were not ‘just’ creating CG animals, digital pyro explosions, set extensions, gore, burning buildings, CG crowd systems, digital violence or blue screens; we were doing all of those,” added Gross. “It wasn’t necessarily easy, but our team rose to the occasion, and with the help of tools like Fusion Studio, we had a lot of fun doing it.”

“Fusion Studio is the backbone of our compositing pipeline, and we used it exclusively for all our work on ‘Y: The Last Man.’ Fusion Studio enables artists to be creative and flexible in how they approach a shot, sequence or solution. From prep, degraining, rotoscoping, keying, tracking and particle fx to final composite, Fusion Studio ticks all the boxes. Its quality, speed and efficiency made it a great tool for this show,” concluded Pienkos.

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