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December 11
2018

ISSUE

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BOSCH: The Effects You Don’t See

By IAN FAILES

Amazon Studios’ police procedural Bosch, about Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch, isn’t the most effects-heavy show, but the series does use visual effects to help tell its crime stories.

For Bosch’s fourth season, L.A.-based VFX studio Moving Target completed a range of invisible effects shots. Here’s a look at how they pulled off some scenes you might not have realized had any digital intervention at all, and the toolset they used to do it.

Bosch is based on the Michael Connelly novels and features actor Titus Welliver in the titular role. Moving Target, founded by Visual Effects Supervisor Alan Munro and Visual Effects Producer Brian Jochum, has been working on the series since season one. The studio’s other recent credits include Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and The Founder.

“Fusion Studio’s ability to animate the color range of the specific color to be keyed out was a big help. As the shot pulls out, the color of the tree leaves change very slightly due to lighting changes. Also, the leaves themselves are different shades of green, red and yellow. Being able animate the range of colors over the length of a shot really saves a lot of hassle.”

—Jeremy Nelson, Compositor, Moving Target

The original drone plate for the pull-out shot.

A clean plate made for the scene, which removes unwanted crew and vehicles.

The final composite.

“I try to avoid using third-party plugins, and Fusion Studio has built in all the tools that I need for most shots, and for the rare occasion that I need a tool outside of Fusion Studio’s toolbox, it has a great user community that makes a lot of free or pretty cheap solutions.”

—Jeremy Nelson, Compositor, Moving Target

“For that shot,” explains Nelson, “it was about projecting a still frame onto a 3D object that had been 3D tracked and match-moved to the plate. Once the shot had been technically solved, each new version involved easy tweaks to the still frame matte painting. I use this technique a lot as it’s a good way to save time.”

Moving Target is a boutique studio, which means some of the shots for Bosch and other projects are handled by only a small team. Nelson notes that Fusion 9 Studio gives them a complete solution. “I try to avoid using third-party plugins, and Fusion Studio has built in all the tools that I need for most shots, and for the rare occasion that I need a tool outside of Fusion Studio’s toolbox, it has a great user community that makes a lot of free or pretty cheap solutions.”

As experienced players on Bosch, Moving Target understood what was required on season four and could tackle shots quickly. For example, one shot involved a drone pull-out that begins on Harry Bosch at an L.A. location and reveals a landscape of palm trees, a sidewalk and the busy street below.

The effects challenge here was to remove unwanted crew members and production trucks, and take out some cars while keeping others in the shot. To do that, Moving Target crafted eight matte paintings that changed over the course of the shot to replace the road and sidewalk.

Compositor Jeremy Nelson used Blackmagic Design’s Fusion 9 Studio to key the existing treetops back over the top of the matte paintings. “Fusion Studio’s ability to animate the color range of the specific color to be keyed out was a big help,” he says. “As the shot pulls out, the color of the tree leaves change very slightly due to lighting changes. Also, the leaves themselves are different shades of green, red and yellow. Being able animate the range of colors over the length of a shot really saves a lot of hassle.”

Another scene in season four with a different kind of effects requirement saw Moving Target need to enhance a prosthetic hand. The on-set hand was deemed too decayed, so again in Fusion, Nelson augmented the live-action photography, this time combining projection and grid-warping tools for the final shot.

A prosthetic hand shot for a scene in Bosch featured a thumb that was considered too decayed.

A matte painting of a ‘new’ thumb was made to track into the shot.

A wire-frame of the thumb area allowed the matte-painted thumb to be projected onto the prosthetic one.

The final composite.

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