Mud-baked automobiles piled high under overpasses, damaged houses with fresh water and mold lines inside and out, downed fences and debris strewn lots where homes formerly stood, all the internal visual effects for the ten hour opening season of HBO new drama series, ‘Treme,’ were designed and executed by the design and visual effects house Phosphene.
Set in one of New Orleans oldest neighborhoods ?‚àö√ë‚àö¬® a hub of African-American and Creole culture known for its rich musical tradition ?‚àö√ë‚àö¬® ‘Treme’ is the brainchild of David Simon, creator of ‘The Wire’ and ‘Generation Kill,’ and Eric Overmyer, writer/executive producer of ‘Law & Order,’ and chronicles the rebuilding of the city unique culture and features a rich gumbo of characters including several struggling musicians and other New Orleans locals in the aftermath of the 2005 devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.
Visual Effects Director John Bair and Executive Producer Vivian Connolly, Founders and Co-owners of Phosphene, and their creative team, were tapped to digitally retrofit the post-Katrina landscape for ‘Treme’ (pronounced truh-MAY), which premiered Sunday April 11.
‘The entire first season takes place in the months immediately after Katrina and, fortunately, things have improved in New Orleans since 2005. In general, the bulk of our work, and our most complex shots, involve the recreation of the look and feel of a specific moment in the history of the city. The producers wanted to include locations that no longer looked as they did which meant adding back the horrendous damage and destruction done to the landscape. Reference photos and extensive research provided the inspiration for the environments we created, ‘explained Phosphene John Bair.
‘Another massive group of effects involve the dressing of locations that were not damaged, or have recently been refurbished ?‚àö√ë‚àö¬® removing air conditioners, boarding up windows – essentially taking now functional residences and retrofitting them to look as they did when they were closed off from the public. Further, there are some driving shots lensed green screen and a number of straight forward effects.’
“Although John was not on location he worked closely with the preproduction team in anticipation of their shoot in New Orleans. There were several shots, key visual moments, on which he collaborated throughout the prepro phase. A digital still photographer shot every day, grabbing references and resources and documenting all the locations. We are always excited about participating as early in the process as is possible. It was all planned out ahead of time and has really paid off,” added Vivian Connolly.
‘There was a lot of camera movement and characters that pass in front of the environment and our work really had to look like it was there when the footage was shot. Tracking all the elements, matching lighting and texturing and making sure that our work is accurate and believable is always a challenge. The entire series has a high level of authenticity and our effects, of course, must as well,’ continued Bair.
HBO Post-Producer Jessica Levin says of their work experience, ‘Phosphene’s John Bair is the most talented Visual Effects Artist in New York, and Executive Producer Vivian Connolly is a production’s best friend. Phosphene does the best possible creative work (some of my favorite shots in my films), on-time and budget, and they’re a pleasure to work with. I’d be lost without them!’
The Phosphene creative team, lead by Bair and Connolly, included Associate Producer Jody Peters; Senior Compositor Scott Winston; Composite Artists Connie Conrad, Tara Jacobson, Sergei Martirosov, Thomas Panayiotou, Aaron Raff and Mark Rubbo; and 3D Animators Vance Miller and Steve Sullivan.
Phosphene utilized After Effects CS4, Photoshop CS4, 3ds Max 2009 and Nuke and PC (Intel Xeon Processors running Windows XP 64-bit) in the execution of this project.
Representing HBO/Blown Deadline were Executive Producers David Simon, Nina Noble, Eric Overmyer and Carolyn Strauss; Co-Executive Producer David Mills; Producer Anthony Hemingway; Line Producer Joseph Incaprera; Post-Producer Jessica Levin; and Associate Prod: Laura Schweigman.
Postproduction was completed at PostWorks (New York, NY) by Online Editor Pat Kelleher and Colorist Ken Rubenfeld who handled the film-to-tape assignment.
Phosphene is an independent design and visual effects house led by Founders/Co-Owners John Bair and Vivian Connolly. The principals and their creative team recently completed visual effects for ‘You Don’st Know Jack’ (HBO) directed by Barry Levinson and starring Al Pacino; they are in the process of completing visual effects for ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt; On set VFX Supervision and VFX for ‘The Beaver’ starring Mel Gibson and Jody Foster; VFX for ‘Vanishing on 7th Street’ with Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo; VFX for ‘Salt’ starring Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber; and ‘The Real Housewives of D.C.’ (Half Yard Productions) for which they are designing and animating the show package; John Bair will direct the talent on this shoot.
Airdate: April 11th, 10PM premiere on HBO
Length: 10, 1 hour episodes
Description: Mud-baked automobiles piled high under overpasses, damaged houses with fresh water and mold lines inside and out, downed fences and debris strewn lots where homes formerly stood – all the internal visual effects for the ten hour opening season of HBO new drama series, ‘Treme,’ were designed and executed by the design and visual effects house Phosphene.
Visual Effects Company: Phosphene
City/State: New York, NY
VFX Director: John Bair
Executive Producer: Vivian Connolly
Associate Producer: Jody Peters
Senior Compositor: Scott Winston
Composite Artists: Connie Conrad, Tara Jacobson, Sergei Martirosov, Thomas Panayiotou, Aaron Raff, Mark Rubbo.
3D Animators: Vance Miller, Steve Sullivan
Software/hardware: Phosphene utilized After Effects CS4, Photoshop CS4, 3ds Max 2009, Nuke and PC (Intel Xeon Processors running Windows XP 64-bit) in the execution of this project.
Client: HBO/Blown Deadline
Executive Producers: David Simon, Nina Noble, Eric Overmyer, Carolyn Strauss
Co-Executive Producer:David Mills
Producer: Anthony Hemingway
Line Producer: Joseph Incaprera
Post-Producer: Jessica Levin
Associate Producer: Laura Schweigman
Location of Shoot: New Orleans, LA
Postproduction Facility: PostWorks
City/State: New York, NY
Online Editor: Pat Kelleher
Colorist: Ken Rubenfeld