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  • Press Release

    VFX Legion Wraps VFX for ‘MA,’ A Horror Film

    June 21, 2019, 10:59 am
    Blumhouse Productions Calls of the LA/B.C.-Based VFX Company To
    Heighten the Thrills of Another Dark Genre Movie

    VFX Legion recently wrapped work on ‘MA,’ Blumhouse Productions’ new psychological horror film, which opened in theaters on May 31st. The award-winning studio tapped its the company’s experience digitally mutilating and eviscerating characters and augmenting practical footage to craft a range of photorealist visual effects that heightened the visceral impact of some of the movie’s most gruesome and suspenseful scenes.

    VFX Breakdown Reel/'MA' (Warning: Contains Spoilers!)

    Horror films are Legion’s wheelhouse. The LA/ B.C.-based company has created visual effects for a long roster of movies in this genre, including several Blumhouse films, such as ‘Sinister 2,’ ‘Insidious: Chapter 3,’ ‘Ouija,’ ‘Amityville:The Awakening' and two films from the ‘Purge’ franchise. 

    The production company’s most recent film, ‘MA, ’ follows the story of Sue Ann (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer,) a middle-aged woman living a solitary life. Abused, mocked, and shunned in high school, these past traumas fuel her obsession with ‘fitting in.’  When a group of under-age teens asks her to buy them some liquor, Sue Ann sees an opportunity to finally make some friends.

    Taking on a maternal persona, she gains the teenagers’ trust, extending the hospitality of her home as a safe haven for their drinking parties. 
    Ma soon begins to insert herself into their lives, and the partying and fun turn into a ghoulish nightmare as she takes revenge for the suffering that she endured decades earlier.

    (WARNING: The following contains plot spoilers!) 

    As the plot unfolds, the evil protagonist goes from friend to captor, keeping the teens captive in her basement as she calmly goes about torturing them.  During one nightmarish scene, Ma sews a girl’s lips together.  A prosthetic applied to her face enabled practical footage to capture the stitchery, with Legion’s visual effects adding chilling realism to the piercing of her flesh. The branding of a boy's chest with a red-hot iron called for artists to create computer-generated steam and smoke that emanates from his skin as the iron makes contact, as well as the charred raw flesh and fresh scar it left behind.  Legion digitally cleaned up the scene and delivered a sequence of shots that seamlessly melds the synthetic imagery with the texture and feel of the live-action footage.

    Visual effects were relied on throughout the entire final scene of the movie, which shows the house catching fire and the blaze growing, ultimately consuming the structure. Legion’s team of artists created CG flames with the  scale and ferocity to envelopes the house, layering in smoke, particles, and burning embers into add texture and depth.

    “The final scene presented the biggest creative and technical challenges,” says VFX Legion Creative Director, James David Hattin.  “It closes the movie with a sweeping aerial shot shot from a drone that begins at a distance and passes over the house revealing a 360 view of it engulfed in flames.  A late addition to the production, the shot was included to ensure that the climactic ending left the audience with no doubt as to the fate of anyone still inside.”

    The original camera move wasn’t stable, so Legion was tasked with digitally recreate director Tate Taylor’s vision of the movie’s final moments. Crafting a CG sequence with this panoramic aerial view required a model of the house to be built from scratch, and then enveloped in a computer-generated inferno. 

    “Our team wasn’t on-set during the shoot, so we didn’t have a scan of the house or detailed specs to work from,” adds Hattin.  “This presented the kind of challenge that makes Legion’s remote pipeline invaluable.  Tapping our ability to work as a single unit with the company's global collective of talent, we reached out to our master model builder and CG Artist, London-based Mark Hennessy-Barrett.”

    Working on a tight schedule with only a plate photo taken by the drone, and eye-level footage from the movie as visual references, Mark built a ‘destructible,’ detailed replica of the house from the ground up.  Once Hennessy-Barrett completed the model, Legion was able to begin work on the dynamics. Artists simulated raging flames coming out of every window on each floor, scorching and incinerating the exterior of the structure, and CG smoke, along with smoldering embers, and falling debris. The final shot recreated the sweeping camera move, climatically ending the film with a single overhead view of  Ma's house of horrors consumed in flames. 

    “Of the dozens of CG elements that we created, some of the flames simulated in Houdini to cover sections of the roof didn’t quite hold up for the whole camera move,” says Legion’s Head of Production, Nate Smalley. “We opted to use stock footage from ActionVFX’s library. Layering the high-resolution elements into the shot provided an efficient solution, maintained the integrity of the shot, and kept us on schedule.”

    “Legion’s team is always excited when we’re called on to create visual effects for a Blumhouse film, and ‘MA’ was no exception,” says Hattin.  “We’re thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with them again and proud of our artists for meeting every challenge that ‘MA’ presented.’

    The mix of equipment and software used to create the VFX for ‘MA’ included, Redshift for rendering CG shots, Maya for animation, and Houdini for simulations, along with Legion’s  own proprietary technology.

    About VFX Legion:
    Based in Burbank and British Columbia, VFX Legion specializes in providing episodic television shows and feature films with high-quality visual effects that get the most out of every budget. Launched in 2013 with a pioneering pipeline at its core, Founder, CD, Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, James David Hattin, and the studio’s veteran management team, support staff, and collective of 80+ skilled VFX artists work as a single unit, meeting the challenge of turning around innovative visual effects for multiple projects with high shot counts and tight deadlines.

    Legion’s work includes TV series, such as ‘How to Get Away with Murder,’ ‘Madam Secretary,’ ‘’Scandal,’ Suits,’ ‘El Chapo,’ ‘Eye Candy,’ ‘Revolution,' and ‘Gone,’ to name a few. ‘Hardcore Henry,’ ‘Sinister 2,’ ‘The Purge: Election Year’ and ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ are among the studio’s film credits. Contact for more information about VFX Legion and its services: hhtp://www.vfxlegion.com, contact@vfxlegion.com,818.736.5855.


    TITLE: ‘MA’
    GENRE: Feature Film
    RELEASE DATE:: May 31, 2019

      Blumhouse Productions

    Visual Effects Supervisor: James David Hattin
    Visual Effects Producer: Nate Smalley
    Visual Effects Coordinators: Matthew Noren, Lexi Sloan
    CG Supervisor: Rommel S. Calderon
    CG Artists: Eric Ebling
    CG Artist/Model: Mark Hennessy-Barrett
    Tracker/Matchmover: Ruy Delgado
    Compositors: Nick Guth, Allan Torp Jensen, Christopher Klassen, John R. McConnell, Brad Moylan, Milton Muller, Eugen Olsen, Kevin Shawley, Dan Short

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  • Other Postings By Member

    • Video

      VFX Legion Wraps ‘The Food That Built America'

      August 15, 2019, 4:04 pm
      VFX Legion completed the visual effects for History Channel’s new docudrama mini-series, ‘The Food that Made America,' out of Lucky 8 in NY. Set at the turn of the century, it tells the stories of the visionary men behind the brands that shaped the food industry. Legion's team crafted a mix of VFX, such as fully digital environments and built out large-scale set extensions, recreating the by-gone with spot-on accuracy.

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    • Press Release

      VFX Legion Wraps ‘Madam Secretary' 5th Season

      June 10, 2019, 2:04 pm
      VFX Legion recently completed over 100 visual effects for the fifth season of the CBS series, ‘Madam Secretary.’ Creative Director, James David Hattin assembled and supervised a team of over 30 artists from the LA and B.C.-based company's global collective of talent, working as a single unit via the studio’s next-generation remote pipeline.

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    • Press Release

      VFX Legion Completes Another Season of 'Madam Secr

      May 16, 2019, 10:42 am
      VFX Legion, The LA/B.C.-Based Company, Created All of the Visual Effects for the Political Drama’s Fifth Season and Releases a VFX Breakdown Reel Showcasing Some of the Most Challenging CG Shots Crafted for the CBS Series

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    • Press Release

      VFX Legion/LA Opens Studio in British Columbia

      April 11, 2019, 10:28 am
      The New Division Provides Feature Films and TV Shows with Access to B.C.’s Deep Tax Incentives and the New Studio’s Skilled In-House Talent, Along With its Collective of Experienced VFX Artists Based Throughout the Province

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