Buffy special effects


Buffy the Vampire Slayer
is at heart a comedy drama show - albeit with monsters and the undead. And to create this seamless blend of spooks and spoof takes a lot of technical expertise - and nowhere more so than with its special effects.

The vast majority of the series' superb visuals are the work of special effects company Digital Magic. And according to Loni Peristere, one of its visual effects producer, they just keep getting better.

The opening episode of the new season kicks off with the robot Buffy fighting off the vampire menace, but when the truth gets out it's a blood open day (night?) at the hands of some rather nasty biker demons. Fortunately, Willow has a plan to bring the real Buffy back from the dead... "Willow enacts a spell to bring Buffy back to life. It's not an easy spell for her; cuts appear all over her body, and little bumps form underneath her flesh that crawl all over her, like the scarabs in The Mummy," explained Peristere to the VFXPro website.

"Willow is overcome by the bugs under her skin, which actually come together and form a growth in her neck that she later coughs up as a rattlesnake. As luck would have it, the spell works but there are some nasty consequences - not least is that Buffy has to claw her way out of her coffin. And on her return from the dead she discovers Sunnydale ablaze thanks to the biker demons.

"In the third episode, we realise that in Willow's process of conjuring Buffy back to life, she also brought back another entity. We later find out it is a drowned woman who is trapped so she is disturbing and poltergeisting everybody around. When we got this script it just said Buffy fights a vaporous form of a woman."

With a TV budget and limited time it soon became clear that a CGI demon was not going to be possible so Peristere contacted Gary Platek who shot the ghost scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

"I asked him how he created the ghost without CG," said Peristere. "He said they had puppets on rods with fibre optics inside and they ran them through water. He blocked everything in reverse so that when the puppet is moving through the water, it looks like its reaching out forwards instead of backwards."

Over the seasons there have been improvements in some of the more routine effects work. For instance, the bursting into dust that vampires do when staked has been regularly worked on. "The dusting effect becomes more and more complex as we go along," explained Peristere. "When I started working on the show, they were dissolving the actor off and dissolving on a series of particle explosions to achieve the effect. What I proposed was to make it a more organic process. Then in season three compositor Chris Jones introduced the skeleton idea into the scenario. He thought it would be neat if the audience saw the interim between the body and disintegration."

And we can expect more. In fact, if producer consultant producer David Greenwalt is to be believed, the show will run for 10 years. By which time the level of technical expertise deployed on its special effects should make for truly breathtaking visuals.

Note: For a much longer and more indepth look at the work of Loni Peristere visit the excellent web site www.VFXPro.com


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