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How Westworld VFX Artists Created Disturbing Illusion of Burning Flesh

Gif: HBO’s Westworld (Pixomondo)

Even knowing they’re robots, watching Westworld’s hosts go under the knife for repairs was even more gruesome than the bloody battles that sent them to the ER. But in addition to using lots of CG, visual effects studio Pixomondo employed some old-school special effects tricks to make those surgeries look as disturbingly realistic as possible.

Pixomondo’s work on Westworld season two which recently earned the studio an Emmy nomination.

Instead of trying to completely simulate the appearance of flesh being cauterized by a laser using computer-generated particle effects for the smoke and sparks, the visual effects artists seared a real piece of flesh (animal, not human) and then composited the results onto footage of actress Thandie Newton’s Maeve character on an operating table.


The results are incredibly realistic, but this approach undoubtedly also saved visual effects artists from having to spend hours and hours trying to create the perfect digital simulation of burning flesh for a shot that would be over in a few seconds. By just grabbing a hunk of meat and hitting it with a torch, the artists created the illusion in a manner of minutes. For a visual-effects-heavy production like Westworld, any shortcut that can make post-production cheaper and faster is always welcome.

Pixomondo’s work on Westworld season two recently earned it an Emmy nomination.

[Art of VFX]

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Wow. SO much CGI even in scenes where you’d think none was needed.

Dunno how I feel about that, not that this is a new revelation...but thinking about it now...

Maybe a big jump, but we seem to be actively separating ourselves from the various realities around us.

Politics, conservation, social norms all can be viewed through whatever lens you prefer nowdays. “Virtually” CGI’d messages are tossed at us everyday.

While those of us who know what to look for can pinpoint something “fake” with decent accuracy...but so many folks accept what they’re presented, even getting angry and defensive when someone tries to illustrate the factual reality...

I digress... Cool story.