‘Madam Secretary’ began its final season with the highly anticipated premiere episode revealing that Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni), had won the race for the presidency. Capping off three years of contributing digital effects to the show, VFX Legion created a mix of large-scale CG shots for this last season, right through to the series finale.
The company’s team has been called on to craft over 140 of the CBS show’s most complex visual effects over the last three seasons. They’ve created everything CG environments that transport the live-action to locations in D.C. and throughout the world – to technically challenging effects. Each shot was designed to elevate the visual impact of creator, EP, writer, show runner Barbara Hall’s hit political series.
VFX Legion first came onboard during the fourth season, after the show’s producer, Tony Palermo, took a meeting with the the company’s VFX Supervisor, James David Hattin, and Executive Producer, Reid Burns.
“Tony was surprised to see such convincing shots of the White House and D.C. from the TV show, ‘Scandal’ on Legion’s CG reel,” says Burns. “Digital environments built from the ground up were indistinguishable from practical footage – and got us in the door.”
Digital taking the show where film cant go.
‘Madam Secretary’ had been using stock footage of the White House and other locations, and working around their limited flexibility. The cost of taking the New York production to D.C., tight deadlines, and actors’ schedules made filming multiple environments unrealistic. Legion presented a viable, efficient alternative: Photo-real CG shots custom-designed to match live footage, as well as locations that don’t permit filming, recreated digitially, with spot-on accuracy.
“The high-quality, visual effects we turned around quickly and on budget for that first episode led to the expansion of Legion’s role,” says Burns. “We became the go-to VFX specialist for ‘Madam Secretary.The writer’s room started developing scripts with a wider range of scenarios that took advantage of our CG assets.”
Shot in New York, and set in Washington D.C,The White House was a crucial fixture in the show. At the same time, international diplomacy also took storlines beyond US borders. Legion created CG sequences that enabled scenarios to play out in political hotspots around the globe, taking the show digitally where it was unable to go to on film.
“Our team replicated computer-generated environments throughout the world, from Syria and Turkey to Iraq and Mexico. We were fortunate to be given the freedom to design shots that were innovative, dramatic, and of a scale rarely seen on the show,” adds Hattin.
Legion created numerous virtual crowd sequences over the years. Towards the end of season six, its team took digital crowd simulation to the next level. Compositors, animators, and artists created a CG motion capture sequence of a large group gathered in D.C. to support the president.
During season five, a crowd of hundreds of people we simulated to augment the original footage of displaced Syrians. VFX Legion was called on to create a motion capture sequence and dramatically bulked up the number of refugees making the trek to the Turkish border.
Before andAfter: Bluescreen Rose Garden Wedding and CG White House Background
Creating animated digital elements
Most recently, Legion completed a number of visual effects for the series finale. The episode closed with an elaborate wedding scene in the Rose Garden that took full advantage of its White House assets. Hattin helmed the company’s team, using SpeedTree software to generate virtual trees animated to match the wind on the day the sequence was shot.. Sections of the White House’s facade visible in the background were added usinglarge blue screens.
“Producer Tony Palermo, and Associate Producer Drew Ysais, worked with us as a team, communicating throughout the VFX process,” says Hattin. “Their approach maximized the efficiency of our pipeline, enabling our team to meet tight deadlines with ease. The close collaboration gave us more time to focus on getting the most production value out of every shot.”
“The prestigious roster of television shows created by Barbara Hall sets the bar high. We’re thrilled that our work met “Madam Secretary’s standards and grateful to have had the opportunity to create challenging visual effects that elevated the visual impact of this hit series,” adds Hattin.
About VFX Legion:
Based in Burbank, and B.C., VFX Legion specializes in providing television shows and films with high-quality visual effects that get the most out of every budget. Launched in 2013 with a pioneering pipeline at its core, Founder, VFX Supervisor, James David Hattin, a veteran management team and collective of 80+ skilled artists work seamlessly as a single unit.
Legion’s work includes TV series, such as ‘How to Get Away with Murder,’ ‘Madam Secretary,’ ‘’Scandal,’ Suits,’ ‘El Chapo,’ ‘Eye Candy,’ ‘Revolution, and ‘Gone.’ ‘‘Hardcore Henry,’ ‘Sinister 2,’ ‘The Purge: Election Year,’ ‘The Purge: Anarchy,’ and ‘Ma’ are among the studio’s film credits.
For more information about VFX Legion go to hhtp://www.vfxlegion.com email@example.com or call 818.736.5855.
Title: ‘Madam Secretary’
Genre: TV Series/CBS
Barbara Hall Productions, LA
Creator, Writer, EP, Show Runner: Barbara Hall
Relevations Entertainment, LA,
CBS Television Studios, LA
Executive Producers: Lori McCreary, Morgan Freeman
Produces: Tony Palermo, Téa Leoni
Associate Producer: Drew Ysais
VFX Company: VFX Legion, LA/B.C. (Seasons 4,5,6)
Creative Director/VFX Supervisor: James David Hattin
VFX Producer/Head of Production: Nate Smalley
On-Set VFX Supervisors: David Isyomin, Eric Pascarelli
VFX Executive Producer: Reid Burns
CG Supervisor: Rommel S. Calderon VFX Coordinators: Lexi Sloan, Amanda VanDeCar
CG Effects: Eric Ebling
CG Artists: Blake Anderson, Trevor Harder, Mark Hennessy-Barrett, Alex Keller, Jake Long, Bryan Shepperd, Chris Strauss
Tracking: Ruy Delgado
Digital Matte Painting: Marc Adamson, Eric Mattson
Compositing: Nick Guth, H Haden Hammond, Austin Hiser, Christopher Klassen,Matthias Lowry, Brad Moylan, Milton Muller, Tyler Nathan, Eugen Olsen, Dan Short, Kyle Spiker, Chris Wood