Mechnology Visual Effects Studio Helps Bring Down the House for Charmed

VFX house, Mechnology Visual Effects Studio, recently created a spectacular, climatic VFX sequence for the penultimate episode of the final season of WB hit series ‘Charmed,’ according to the studio Executive Producer, Chip Potter. Staged in the historic Halliwell manor, the visual effects created by the Mechnology team played a crucial role in presenting the explosive final battle in the supernatural war between the Halliwells and the Jenkins.

Mechnology has provided visual effects supervision, creating some of the most elaborate and challenging 2D and 3D visual effects imagined by writers for the last two seasons of the show with the studio Stephen Lebed (who has worked on ‘Charmed’ from the beginning with other post houses) acting as Visual Effects Supervisor.
‘Charmed’ Executive Producer Brad Kern envisioned a magical standoff that would result in the house being utterly destroyed.

‘Several seasons ago we created a shot where the three sisters use their magic to make their house disappear,’ explained Lebed. ‘In the final shot, the camera cranes up and over the house to reveal that nothing has survived save the foundation. Brad asked us if we could do something similar for the climax of the final battle. Since we could not go back to the location again, we decided to see if we could work with existing shots in stock.’

Lebed and Producer Peter Chomsky reviewed all the stock footage of the house that had been shot over the last few years and picked one that would best show off the explosion.

Mechnology Lead 3D Artist, Mike Walls, built a detailed model of the house in 3dsmax and projection mapped the stock footage onto the model. The 3D model was built in four sections to conform to the desired type of explosion. It included the foundation and surrounding front yard, the first and second floor walls, and the roof. The ground floor section consisted of the foundation and lower wall pieces, which were built to match the live action set. The upper walls were built in pieces that allowed the Reactor physics simulation to be utilized within 3dsmax. Even though the upper walls were a low res model, the model still consisted of about 1000 individual parts that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Countless simulations were run using specially shaped objects behind the walls that would push the walls outward with enough force to create the look the team was after. The simulation launched the pieces everywhere, driving some into the ground in front of the house.

‘Once we had the debris moving the way we wanted,’ said Lebed, ‘we replaced all the pieces with more detailed versions of the debris, adding splintered wood and torn drywall. Flames trailing off some of the debris were created using Particle Flow. Matt Griffith, Mechnology R&D specialist, created the explosion designing CG generated fireball and smoke elements that were animated to match the timings of the exploding debris. This gave us the speed and movement that we needed and allowed us to incorporate real fire on top of it.’

Additional elements created and added to the shot include an interactive light pass to illuminate the house when the fireball erupts and a shockwave that rips apart the first floor.

The dramatic sequence continues with an aerial shot high above the manor showing the aftermath of the explosion. A daytime stock shot of the manor was once again utilized as the source plate, painted by Digital Artist Ben Campanaro to match the surrounding nighttime footage and remove distracting neighboring vehicles. Raining debris and fire elements add life to the shot as viewers are given a moment to fully absorb the totality of the manor destruction.

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