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Investigating the VFX in Only Murders in the Building

How visual effects house Atlanta VFX employed Blackmagic Design's Fusion Studio CFX and motion graphics software for its work on the Emmy-nominated series

Visual effects house Atlanta VFX employed Blackmagic Design’s Fusion Studio CFX and motion graphics software for its work on Disney Plus’ Only Murders in the Building.

Atlantic VFX used Fusion Studio’s compositing tools to blend camera takes, replace green screens and handle shot replacements.

The team, led by Atlanta VFX owner and VFX supervisor Jason Maynard and compositing supervisor Jeremy Nelson, completed extensive greenscreen work throughout season two.

Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez lead the cast of Only Murders in the Building

“Between Fusion Studio’s Delta keyer, Ultra keyer and Primatte keyer, there’s always a keyer that will get the job done and make it seamlessly integrated,” said Maynard. “For example, in one episode we had more than 60 greenscreen shots in just the apartment building. For that episode, some of the actors were wearing shirts with green hues, so we had to use multiple keyers to properly isolate the colours.

“With the actors framed against a greenscreen that needed to be replaced with interior window shots, we used the Delta keyer as the main key, and then the Primatte keyer and Ultra keyer to complete the shot,” he added. “With all the window reflections and smudges, it was more complex than just setting up a key and rendering the scene. Since one of the actors’ shirts included multiple shades of green, the Primatte keyer was crucial as its additive nature in selecting what it’s keying made it a perfect solution to finish the job.”

“For another episode, we had a tricky shot where Mabel (Selena Gomez) has a flashback to her childhood, and they wanted to blend two camera pan takes into one take,” said Nelson. “Using Fusion Studio, we did 3D stabilisation for the A plate and then projected the image onto the B plate for a seamless transition between the two takes.”

Fusion Studio’s 3D tracker was used to get rid of unwanted boom mics, crew, and camera reflections in windows. Additionally, Maynard noted its node based workflow made complex scenes easier to manage, so they could move quicker throughout the various VFX sequences.

“It’s often the small details that matter when putting together a show like this. For example, we used Fusion Studio’s 3D displacement tools to swap out a letter on the entrance to the apartment building gate,” Nelson explained. “It needed a quick 3D track for the camera move, and a clean plate using the paint node. It was a fast replacement with the displacement tool, which is great for easy 3D modeling with alpha channels or roto shapes.”