The sixth and final season of the hit political drama, Madam Secretary started with a bang as Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord, played by the dynamic Téa Leoni won her run for the presidency. Three-years of VFX Legions contributions paid off through the variety of digital effects it provided for a hit show that has proven alongside many other contenders that television is the new cinema. The success of the final season, as well as the series finale of Madam Secretary, was accomplished through a challenging mix of large-scale CG sequences.
VFX Legion’s contributions To Madam Secretary
When delving deeper into VFX Legion’s contributions, the LA/B.C.-based studio was called on to create over 140 of the most complex visual effects for Madam Secretary’s final three seasons. The production of all three seasons consisted of computer-generated environments that transported the live-action to locations throughout the world along with digital elements and technically challenging effects that were specifically designed to elevate the visual impact of creator, writer, showrunner Barbara Hall’s revolutionarily progressive political drama.
It was around the fourth season of Madam Secretary that VFX Legion first came into the picture after TV show producer, Tony Palermo took a meeting with the VFX Supervisor, James David Hattin, and its Executive Producer, Reid Burns. As a result of this meeting, Burns said, “Tony was surprised to see such convincing shots of the White House and D.C. from the TV show, ‘Scandal’ on our reel of CG work.” “The high-quality digital environments, built by Legion from the ground up, were indistinguishable from practical footage – and got us in the door.”
In the limited flexibility that Madam Secretary had, most of its locations shots, which included the white house, as well as other locations, had been the result of stock footage. Shooting was unrealistic when it came to the high cost of taking the New York production to D.C., along with the added factors of tight deadlines and actors’ schedules. However, thanks to VFX Legion’s photo-real computer-generated environments that were custom-designed to seamlessly match the show’s live-action footage served as a viable and highly efficient alternative, which enabled for the digital recreation of inaccessible filming sites.
When elaborating on the convenience that VFX Legion provided, Burns stated that “The high-quality, complex visual effects we turned around quickly and on budget for that first episode led to the expansion of Legion’s role.” “We became the go-to VFX specialist for ‘Madam Secretary. The writer’s room started developing scripts with a wider range of scenarios that took advantage of our CG assets.”
Despite being set in Washington D.C., Madam Secretary was shot in New York. The show addressed issues requiring international diplomacy, which took storylines beyond US borders. Thanks to VFX Legion, digital replications of the White House were built as a crucial fixture in the show. The VFX team created CG environments that enabled scenarios to play out in political hotspots around the globe. This enabled taking the show digitally where it was unable to go on film.
Over the years of working on Madam Secretary, VFX Legion also created numerous virtual crowd sequences, which involved adding large numbers of individuals in motion. In the sixth seasons’ conclusion, compositors, animators, and CG artists used a motion capture sequence that digitally built huge crowds of people gathered in D.C. to support the president, and this effort took digital crowd simulation to the next level.
When it came to the fifth season, VFX Legion simulated a crowd of hundreds of people who augmented original footage of displaced Syrians. In realizing that the number of people didn’t reflect the massive scale of the Syrians making the trek to the Turkish border, the producer had the visual effects company step in to create a digital sequence that substantially increased the number of refugees in the sequence.
The company completed large-scale visual effects sequences for the series finale, which closed with an elaborate wedding scene in the Rose Garden that took full advantage of VFX Legion’s White House assets. With Hattin helming the effort, the team used SpeedTree software to generate virtual trees, which they would then animate to match the wind on the day the sequence was shot. The implementation of bluescreens added computer-generated sections of the White House’s facade visible in the background.
Regarding the incredible efforts of the VFX team, Hatten complimented their efforts by saying that “Producer Tony Palermo, and Associate Producer Drew Ysais, worked with us as a team, communicating with Legion through every phase of the VFX process.” “Their collaborative approach maximized the efficiency of our pipeline, enabling us to meet tight deadlines with ease – and gave up more time to focus on getting the most production value out of every shot.”
Hatten’s praise didn’t end there as he went on to say that “The prestigious roster of television shows created by Barbara Hall sets the bar high.” “We’re thrilled that our work met her high standards and grateful to have had the opportunity to create challenging visual effects that elevated the visual impact of this hit series.”
VFX Legion Origins
VFX Legion first launched back in 2013. Founder, CD, Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, James David Hattin, the studio’s veteran management team, support staff, work as an efficient single unit with its collective of 80+ skilled VFX artists in meeting the challenge of high shot counts and tight deadlines for multiple projects, which focus in providing episodic television shows and feature films with high-quality visual effects that utilize the full extent of their budgets.
Some of VFX Legion’s TV And Film credits include productions such as:
- How to Get Away with Murder
- Madam Secretary
- El Chapo
- Eye Candy
- Hardcore Henry
- Sinister 2
- The Purge: Election Year
- The Purge: Anarchy
VFX Legion’s headquarters are based in Burbank, and British Columbia and for more information about the company and its innovative services, then check out www.vfxlegion.com [email protected] or call 818.736.5855.