VFX Legion recently produced the effects for the vampire tale, Black as Night, a co-production of Amazon Studio and Blumhouse Productions. The movie premiered worldwide October 1st on Amazon Prime, kicking off the rollout of the final four films in the thematically related series, Welcome to Blumhouse. Legion, the effects vendor for the seven original films produced for the package, assembled a team from its LA and B.C. studio’s roster of diverse talent. Working as a collaborative unit the company created over 160 high-quality effects, exploring options that elevated the impact of the thriller, while meeting tight deadlines.
Black as Night director Marritte ‘Marty’ Lee Go’s feature film debut is the anthology’s most visual effects-intensive film to date. The production relied heavily on digital imagery to realize the potential of its story, masterfully penned by Sherman Payne (Legacies, Scream, Shameless).
The thriller is set in New Orleans where vampires prey on a vulnerable population displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The undead are waging war in a bid to take control of ‘The Big Easy,’ and ‘turning’ humans to increase their ranks. The story unfolds as its teenage protagonist Shawna and her friends execute a bold plan to destroy the vampire’s leader and turn his disciples back to human form.
Legion’s Co-Founder/CD James David Hattin provided the creative direction for the film’s digital effects. Based in Burbank, the visual effects industry veteran worked closely with the production company and the director to ensure that the final shots aligned with her vision.
Nate Smalley, the LA studio’s Head of Production, and Dylan Yastremski, Head of Production at Legion’s B.C. facility, maintained an overview of the job, assessing its needs, and managing the logistics of producing the large volume of shots. They assigned work and scheduled artists, strategically allocating resources to maximize efficiency and keep the job on budget, while delivering the highest-quality effects.
“Marty knew exactly what she wanted to accomplish with each visual effect and communicated with us through every stage of the production,” says Hattin. “The time dedicated to discussing shots, working out small details, exploring ways to cost-effectively elevate the payoff of each digital effect was well spent. The close collaboration enabled our team to deliver final shots that met – and often exceeded – her expectations.”
The range of effects created for Black as Night runs the gamut – from transitioning humans to vampires to designing the look and progression of their digital demise – and everything in between.
Legion transformed teeth into sharp fangs, replaced human eyes with the mesmerizing orbs of a vampire, and created smoke emanating from skin touched by silver. Artists engulfed people in CG flames, scorched flesh, animated bodies on fire as they fell from a window. digitally materialized clouds of garlic dust and billows of ash, along with creating a variety of other effects that the film required.
Lee Go was very keen on making the demise of the vampires a shocking affair, with the undead exploding as they meet their end. After multiple tests and exploring various options, Legion came up with an effect that digital detonated the blood-sucking creatures with a force that obliterates their human shells leaving a dense cloud of ash. The team fine-tuned the look, lighting, and texture, creating final shots with the impact the director was seeking.
VFX Legion has a long history of working with Blumhouse on features and televisions shows. In 2015 the end-to-end company was called on to create the CGI and computer graphics for the television series Eye Candy starring Victoria Justice. Since then, Legion has been brought on board to craft effects for a variety of Blumhouse films, such as Sinister 2, and Insidious: Chapter 3. Most recently, its team delivered the visual effects for The Black Phone starring Ethan Hawke, slated for release January 28, 2022, on Amazon Prime.
“In 2019 we started talking with Blumhouse about the original movies slated to be produced for Welcome to Blumhouse, and Legion was brought on board,” says Hattin. “Our ongoing relationship with the co-producers working on the films (Nocturne, Black Box, Evil Eye, Bingo Hell, The Manor, Madres, and Black as Night) allowed us to build on our experience. The insights it provided into their approach enabled our team to work more efficiently – and push the boundaries of digital effects a little more with each new film.”
The variety of tools used to create the effects for Black as Night include The Foundry’s Nuke for compositing, Autodesk’s Maya for animation, SideFX Houdini for ash, smoke, fire, garlic powder, as well as proprietary technology integrated into Legion’s pipeline.
Title – Black as Night
Type: Feature Film
Release Date: October 1st, 2021, Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime Video (2021/Worldwide)
Directed by – Marritte Lee Go
Written by – Sherman Payne
Jason Blum – executive producer
Jeremy Gold – executive producer
Marci Wiseman – executive producer
Lisa Bruce – executive producer
Guy Stodel – executive producer
Maggie Malina – executive producer
Chris Dickie – co-executive producer
John H. Brister – producer
Terra Abroms – co-producer
Adan Orozco – co-producer
Cybel Martin – Cinematographer
Tim Mirkovich – Film Editor
Visual Effects Company – VFX Legion LA/B.C.
James David Hattin – visual effects supervisor: VFX Legion
Nate Smalley – visual effects producer: VFX Legion
Dylan Yastremski – visual effects project manager: VFX Legion
Matthew T. Lynn – visual effects supervisor: VFX Legion
Reid Burns – visual effects executive producer: VFX Legion
Mace Al-Hendi – visual effects coordinator: VFX Legion
Joseph Soloway – visual effects coordinator: VFX Legion
Rommel S. Calderon – cg supervisor: VFX Legion
Eric Ebling – cg artist: VFX Legion
Ruy Delgado – tracking artist: VFX Legion
Patrick Conaty – digital compositor: VFX Legion
Nick Guth – digital compositor: VFX Legion
Michael Honrada – digital compositor: VFX Legion
Matthias Lowry – digital compositor: VFX Legion
Lauren Morimoto – digital compositor: VFX Legion
Brad Moylan – digital compositor: VFX Legion
Tyler Nathan – digital compositor: VFX Legion
Eugen Olsen – digital compositor: VFX Legion
Rafael Perez – digital compositor: VFX Legion
Chris Wood – digital compositor: VFX Legion
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