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Muse VFX Delivers Horror and Gore on ‘From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series’

“One of the challenges for this season was re-imagining the culebra immolation VFX with the idea that the bodies should burn from within," says creative director John Gross.

Expanding on the horror film franchise developed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series follows the story of the Gecko Brothers as they navigate a world of crime and immortal reptilian vampires known as culebras. The television series from El Rey Network and Miramax is now in its second season, with Muse VFX at the helm for its sophisticated visual effects work.

Muse VFX founder and supervisor Fred Pienkos says that “episodic work requires feature film quality.” From culebra transformations and immolations to matte paintings and high-res simulations, Muse VFX uses Blackmagic Design’s Fusion Studio software to help deliver the horror and gore.

Muse VFX founder and creative director John Gross notes, “One of the challenges for this season was re-imagining the culebra immolation VFX with the idea that the bodies should burn from within. Fusion was an integral part in accelerating the progress of the nearly 100 immolation shots throughout the season.”

One of Muse’s lead artists, Dan DeEntremont, developed the process, which begins with a subsurface glow under the skin. Next, artists add bubbling veins, followed by individual layers of burning, sparks, ash and bone. The Muse team used Fusion’s particle system in addition to various other 3D particle systems for the finishing touches.

Muse believes that a combination of good special effects and VFX always leads to the best results, especially when it comes to bringing the culebras to life. Gross notes, “On From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, the makeup effects team did a fantastic job designing the culebra look. One of our jobs with Fusion is to handle the transition from human to culebra both seamlessly and believably, mixing reality with the supernatural.”

That combination worked effectively when a recent episode contained a scene in which Muse VFX had to heal a wound on the face of Malvado, one of the lords of the culebras, and then transform his face from human to his culebra look. Muse created and tracked the healing wound and then blended in a CG version of the special effects culebra makeup over his human face.

“The VFX work for Malvado’s face had certain challenges because it had to match both the lighting and coloring of the real face and the coloring and look of the special effects culebra makeup,” says Pienkos. “What’s nice about Fusion is the stability and speed, empowering us to get things done. Without having to worry about technical issues, we’re able to focus on the task at hand—in this case, a human transforming to a culebra.”