Supernatural (season 1) - Production - Effects

Effects

To depict the supernatural aspects of the show, the series makes use of visual, special, and make-up effects, as well as stuntwork. While various companies were contracted for the Los Angeles-based production of the pilot episode, subsequent episodes being filmed in Vancouver required a new crew to be hired. The company Entity FX performed the visual effects for the pilot episode, with Ivan Hayden taking over as visual effects supervisor for the rest of the season. The crew was required to design all of the external airplane shots in "Phantom Traveler" from scratch using computer-generated imagery (CGI). As well, they created a time-manipulation effect for the titular villain in "Bloody Mary" by altering the capture frame rate of the camera. Randy Shymkiw acted as special effects supervisor, and the department found the episode "Asylum" to be quite a challenge because one scene has the vengeful spirit collapse into dust. They made casts of the character's torso and hands, and had to find the perfect mixture in order to have the casts remain solid but disintegrate when needed.

The visual and special effects departments often overlap, such as in Mary Winchester's death scene in the pilot episode. Because the character is pinned to the ceiling and burned to death, actress Samantha Smith was required to lie on a floor with two propane pipes spouting fire approximately five feet away from her on either side. For the actual burning of the character, a papier-mâché body was ignited on a fake ceiling. When the burning of the titular creature in the episode "Wendigo" was not sufficient using special effects, a wire-frame mannequin wrapped in steel wool was then burned, with the scene being composited into the original footage to draw out the wendigo's death. To make it appear that the Hook Man is invisible as he scrapes his hook along the wall for one of the scenes in "Hook Man", a wire was placed inside plaster walls and then pulled out; the wire later was digitally removed in post-production. In the episode "Bugs", the cast had to be sealed in a small area with hundreds of bees, and were stung despite wearing special costumes with cuffs sewn into their sleeves and pants. However, the bees did not show up well on camera, so most of them that appear in the final version were added with CGI.

In addition to the digital effects, the series also features stuntwork. Lou Bollo took over as stunt coordinator after the pilot episode, and big scenes often involved the actors, though stunt doubles were used for certain moments. For the final lake scene in "Dead in the Water", in which Dean must save a boy after he is pulled underwater by a vengeful spirit, Jensen Ackles had to hold onto the young actor as they were pulled down ten feet into the water by divers. The actor portraying the vengeful spirit had to wear a wetsuit under his costume due to the extended period of time he was required to spend in the lake. Ackles and Jared Padalecki performed most of the fight scene featured in "Skin", and only took four hours to learn the fight choreography. However, stunt doubles were brought in for the scenes in which they are thrown into bookshelves and through a coffee table. For the episode "Shadow", rather than filming at the exterior location for the scene of Meg Masters being thrown out of a window to the street below, it was decided to not depict the impact, instead having the Winchesters look down at her body after the landing. Thus, filming of it was allowed to take place in the studio using a body double.

Throughout filming, various scenes make use of all three effects departments. For scenes involving the floating, fiery spirit of Mary Winchester in "Home", a small and slim stuntman wearing a fire suit was lit on fire and raised into the air on wires. For the spirit's transition into Mary's normal form, Smith stood in front of a black background with wind blowing onto her, and the two scenes were later combined in post-production. Many aspects went into filming the crash scene in the season finale "Devil's Trap". For the interior scenes used in the first moments of the Impala being hit, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Padalecki, and Ackles were required to sit in the car, which was in front of a blue screen. A sheet of Lexan placed very close to the passenger-side window protected the actors as the window was shattered, and at the same time, cannons beneath the frame blew out pieces of rubber glass to give the appearance that the window exploded onto them. For scenes of the actual crash, the car and truck were cabled together by a winch, and driven toward one another. The intention was for a cannon to launch the Impala into the air at the collision point, causing the car to then barrel roll as the truck drives away. However, the car became stuck in the truck's bumper, forcing the cannon to fail and the truck to go out of control. The truck began to jackknife, but the stuntman driving it saved it from flipping. The mistake ended up being beneficial for the scene, as Kripke and director Manners found it to look "pretty real".

Read more about this topic:  Supernatural (season 1), Production

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