When VFX Supervisor Peter Crosman came on board Made for love, he found the kind of “puzzle” he always looks for in his work.
For HBO Max’s dark comedy, examining a dystopian tech world, it should help give visual form to a futuristic campus known as The Hub, as well as the sentient dolphin that resides in its swimming pool.
Composed of nested virtual reality cubes, The Hub was designed by tech billionaire Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen) as an oasis, completely removed from the real world and all of its imperfections. While the desert campus is heaven for Gogol, it turns out to be hell for his wife Hazel (Cristin Milioti). During Made for love‘s first season, she flees her stifling marriage in this totally organized environment, only to discover that Gogol has implanted a revolutionary monitoring device in her brain, which tracks her every move.
As Crosman notes in Production Value’s latest installment, The Hub was “absolutely the brainchild” of Alissa Nutting, who produced the series and wrote the novel it is based on. It was production designer Jordan Ferrer, however, who defined visual concepts that the VFX team could work on, while also augmenting this key environment.
“We knew we had to go through all of these simulations and develop a language, a syntax for the aerial projections and the doors that open, and where to pull the curtain and show the interstices of the projection cube environment, and where not. not, “Crosman says of the VFX work done on The Hub.”[All of that] was something that came with production all the time, but we didn’t have to make those final decisions until release.
Ultimately, it would be Toronto’s Marz VFX who would flesh out The Hub, based on 3D resources provided by Ferrer and his team. The show’s photorealistic dolphin, Zelda, was created in collaboration with Olcun Tan and his team at Gradient Effects.
The stakes, to bring Zelda to the screen, couldn’t have been higher. “Zelda is an actor, so it was indeed a really big burden to consider becoming perfect,” Crosman said. “No matter what everything else looked like over the course of the series, obviously he was going to have to be a flawless character in every way.”
Since Gradient Effects did not have a “model dolphin” to work from, Zelda would have to be created from scratch. “[But] once I spoke to Olcun about it, we were convinced that it was probably better that we didn’t have another dolphin model, that we would do this in a unique way, ”notes the VFX supervisor,“ that we would build what was to be the Gisele Bündchen, beautiful graceful dolphin the showrunners wanted.
From Crosman’s perspective, Zelda was “the hardest thing” to create for Season 1, “in terms of rendering and precision.” Yet he knew he and his associates had succeeded in their mission when PETA reached out. “The director’s agency was called after the show aired to ask if a real dolphin had ever been used on the show, so we’ll take that as a compliment,” he said with a smile. “Maybe mission accomplished.”
During his appearance on Production Value, Crosman breaks down his entire entertainment trajectory, recalling his early experiences as an animation assistant on classic children’s programs, including Sesame Street, as well as his time at Industrial Light & Magic.
At ILM he worked as a facilitator on a number of classic franchises, Back to the future at Star Trek and Indiana Jones. “It was an amazing community. I was lucky to have the animation department as a mini home away from home because we really lived there seven days a week, often, ”recalls Crosman. “The work was hard. It was very trying and the people were amazing at what they were doing. I absolutely loved being there for this special learning experience.
Crosman also discusses his big break as a VFX Supervisor, with the 1995 film. Tank girl, and the challenges that make her job so exciting. “Every show has its core of concentrated issues that… you’re going to sort out gradually, until they can be analyzed and attributed and they all come together in that post-process,” he says. “I just can’t get past the idea that I want to be the person to solve this problem, and I want to see the result. I want to be in this dark theater when we’re basically doing something impossible that people can see.
Check out our full conversation with the Emmy-nominated VFX Supervisor by clicking on the video above.