by Jon Massey (Visual Effects Supervisor)
From a visual effects stand point, Faerie was one of the biggest sequences that we have done on the show. The concept of what it was and where it was went through many stages with Alan and the writers and producers. At every turn, new problems and solutions arose. This creative jigsaw puzzle finally became what you see on the screen now: a single beautiful ballroom in a strange land reminiscent of Maxfield Parrish, with a tree of fruit glowing in its branches, which then turns into a desert landscape, it’s true form, revealed by Sookie’s powers.
The Production Designer, the amazing Suzuki Ingerslev, built this single ballroom on a blue screen stage, so that we could add in the landscape behind them. The landscape was described as Parrish meets the Sierras, without the snow. Zoic Studios matte painter Jeremy Melton, who had studied Parrish’s work in college, created a fantastic landscape that we could use in a two hundred and eighty degree view. This was then composited in over a hundred and forty visual effect shots.
Once we entered into the desert landscape, which we called Goblinland, several other visual effect elements emerged. The energized fireballs the faeries toss down on each other are a real element of fire, composited into the live action shots. The actors had to visualize tossing these fireballs without any physical object to hold. Though sometimes in visual effects, we like to give the actors something tangible, i.e. a green screen ball, in this case tossing anything at each other would have been more problematic than nothing at all (not to mention also dangerous). When they land, we tied in energized tendrils into the intense explosions created by the special effects team, led by Michael Gaspar.
The last stop in this land called Faerie is the Chasm, the portal through which Sookie and her grandfather re-enter the world. This giant hole in the ground created additional difficulties for us, as it had to be created as a matte painting, composited into the live action footage and then animated as if it was closing up. How it closed was a dilemma, as visually, it needed to be tied into something that you could relate to in the real world. One of Zoic’s lead compositors, Tim Eilers, created a CG particle layer based on the visual reference of magma and lava, as if the earth was really pushing itself closed. Anna Paquin and Gary Cole merely had to jump off a small platform with a green screen below it, into pads, to simulate jumping into the chasm. But now I’m giving away too much, better to leave some things in the imagination...