For Season 5 of Snowfall – a gritty FX drama based on the emerging crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles in the 1980s – Framestore’s New York studio was tapped to create, animate and integrate a CG tiger and a human limb for key scenes in Episodes 505 and 506.
We first meet the menacing creature pent up in its cage at the end of episode 505, but in 506 the tension builds to a climax when the back and forth pacing turns horrifically violent, viciously ripping off the leg of one of the show’s characters. To create this gruesome scene, the team pushed the boundaries of the photoreal quality generally found in an episodic project. Beginning with creating muscle simulations of the animal, an intensively detailed groom followed in Houdini, in addition to a highly specific rig which helped to elevate the visuals using Mudbox and Maya.
“With a show like Snowfall that doesn’t generally employ a lot of CG, it was important for us to ensure that the animal was of photoreal quality so that the audience stayed within the storyline without noticing any effects,” said Framestore VFX Supervisor, Thomas Montminy Brodeur. “Our brief was for the tiger to be impressive and intimidating, without ever looking unrealistic. We knew we were on the right track when the showrunner Dave Andron and director Kevin Rodney Sullivan said it looked ‘terrifying’!”
Furthering its realistic nature, CG artists added dry grass and imperfections to the tiger to create the sense of tangible interactions with its environment. They then built a CG human leg that the tiger attacks, adding blood spatters on the tiger, leg and ground in Houdini, with final compositing in Nuke.
Season 5 of Snowfall is now live on FX.