Hello Reddit, we are the Supernatural VFX Crew. We've been working on the show since season 12. We have gathered today and we're very happy to answer your questions, as much as we can, about Compositing, FX, 3D, workflows and the show itself.

!!! - Just as an important note, we will answer questions about the show as best we can but we cannot discuss any spoilers or anything in upcoming episodes.

We’ll be answering questions for about an hour or two and then we’ll slow down a bit, but we’ll keep answering and try to get as much of the questions as we can.

u/Petar_BG - Hi everyone, I’ve been a Compositor for 4 years now. I’ve worked on TV and freelance work. I’ve dabbled quite a bit in the 3D world as well and am currently expanding my knowledge in the coding scene of compositing. I love to build tools for Nuke and just be as artistically creative as I can be. I hope I can give everyone some useful information today. To view my work and download some of the tools I’ve made, here is my website: https://www.petartsonev.com/

u/AnsleyCG - Hey folks! I’m a 3D Generalist with a focus on Modelling and Texturing. I’ve worked in games and animation and live action television for 5 years. I drink a pot of coffee every day and I’m learning to speak Portuguese. I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have about the 3D pipeline and any software like Maya, Zbrush, Mari, Photoshop, V-Ray or Arnold. You can check out some of my work at https://vimeo.com/user52302345 or my personal website www.ansleycg.com.

u/nallenVFX - Hey everyone! I have been compositing for 3 years now. I’ve worked on feature films, netflix series, and TV. I have been on Supernatural since season 13. I primarily use Nuke as my main tool, although I use software such as Mocha, Photoshop, and Maya alongside of it. You can view my portfolio at: https://www.nallenvfx.com/

u/edussz - Hey! I'm 3D/FX Artist. I've worked in Brazil for about 4 years as a 3D Generalist, before coming to Canada to study. I started working in Supernatural right after school and have been here for three seasons. Now-a-days, I'm do mostly FX in either FumeFX for Maya or SideFX's Houdini. If you have no idea what FX is, check out my showreel:https://vimeo.com/267926323

Proof: https://imgur.com/gallery/TQJxK2L

Edit 1: Hey guys u/jonparkins is joining us. He is our awesome IT/3D bro. Any IT questions and how this monster runs under the hood go to him.

Edit 2: Thank you Redditors for the awesome AMA. It was a blast answering all of your questions and everyone is part of an amazing group of people. We all really appreciate the support and love the chance to keep giving you great content. I know there's still some lingering questions and maybe some more will come which we'll try and get to. Thanks again and hopefully we can do this again at some point.

Comments: 178 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

Ib14141427 karma

Which of you 4 is most likely to actually be a demon, and is just posing as a vfx artist to try and get at the winchesters?

Petar_BG12 karma

u/AnsleyCG is a shady guy, I suspect him to be trying something out.

FTWinchester18 karma

Which monsters/creatures did you enjoy working the most on and are there unused creatures you want to try to work on?

Which powers/abilities do you love making the effects the most? And good job on the recent powers and portal CGI, by the way. Hope we see more of your work in the future episodes!

Petar_BG12 karma

I'll add on to this with some of the compositing perspective. I really enjoy making looks for eyes. Yes, they can be simple but when done well it can make a scene look really cool. But I also love doing complex work such as the underwater scene we had in the last episode. Any brain crunch and complexity of a shot is what makes it really fun, at least for me. But sometimes you need those fun little ones like eyes :)

of_skies_and_seas6 karma

Great work on that underwater scene! I loved every aspect of it from the VFX to acting to camerawork to sound design. It'll be remembered as an iconic scene in the series for sure.

The eyes are so good too. I like how they can indicate this otherworldly presence while leaving much to the viewer's imagination.

AnsleyCG6 karma

Thank you, the underwater shot was so much fun to pull together. Petar was the wizard that pulled off the final look of the shot, it was great working with ya, bud!

Petar_BG2 karma

It's team work. Nothing would have been accomplished without your stellar work.

Petar_BG4 karma

Thank you very much! I'm very happy you guys are enjoying the content as much as we love making it.

xuberfanx-oops13 karma

What is something that is much harder than it looks and something that is a lot easier than it looks?

Petar_BG15 karma

I feel like decaps are so fast that you can't see all the work that goes in it. Especially the setup that was made for them was quite complex. As far as easy maybe some of the angel smites. I don't know how hard they actually look, but they're pretty straight forward.

DungeonsandDeanmons11 karma

Has Jensen Ackles ever look at you from across the room, how did it make you feel?

Petar_BG17 karma

My heart fluttered and my legs weakened.

Dx6channel9 karma

  1. I've noticed that on some tv shows the vfx get better season after season. Obviously part of that is budget, but are you able to do things faster because you have a library of assets and looks already built up? How much can/do you reuse?

  2. How much creative freedom do you have an a show like Supernatural, or are the clients pretty specific?

  3. What is the turnaround time for individual episodes?

Petar_BG16 karma

Turn around time on average is anywhere from a week to two weeks. However, when big shots appear we are warned ahead of time and give a lot longer to work on them in order to bring up the quality. We try and use as much of our assets as we can to always speed up our workflow. This way we have speed, consistency and quality. As far as freedom goes, it's amazing here. Some notes literally say "Make this look cool!" As an artist it's one of the most amazing things to hear.

xuberfanx-oops9 karma

What does your average day look like?

AnsleyCG20 karma

Make coffee, check shot list, open Maya, model some upcoming creatures until May crashes, drink some more coffee, send the model to Zbrush and sculpt it until that crashes, drink some more coffee, paint the monster in Mari until that crashes, drink some coffee, get Petar to fix my broken renders, and then call it a day!

Petar_BG10 karma

I break more renders, my job description.

Petar_BG11 karma

Wake up. Groan about how early it is. Reach the studio. Make a cup of joe. Sit down. Assess my shots. Get on it. Crush numbers. Make tasty looking effects. Head out. Code if I'm feeling it.

Agent_Miami7 karma

What scene was the most annoying to do?

Petar_BG10 karma

I would say one of those that pops into our heads right away would be Season 13, Episode 17 where we had to do tentacles. The camera moves throughout all the shots were complex and there were lots of elements to think about. Compositing all of it was quite fun and a challenge on its own but I'm sure our 3D people here have quite more to add to this.

xuberfanx-oops6 karma

What's your favorite episode?

Petar_BG6 karma

I haven't actually watched the full episode but The Thing was a fun one to work. Very hard and complex but those tentacles that u/AnsleyCG made were SOOOO good.

opelan6 karma

For the Supernatural title card which changes each season, do you have much freedom to come up with the designs or do the producers/writers already have very concrete ideas you have to implement?

AnsleyCG8 karma

Yeah they come up with the theme to go along with the story (ie. The Darkness, Jack's eyes, Michael's wings, etc.) and then the Comp Lead creates it as his first task of the year. I was very happy I got to take part in the process this year by texturing the wings :)

HVossi921 karma

HVossi92

Now that's a great start into the year :D!

At your studio, what's the difference between a lead, and a sup? Is your comp lead like a Comp supervisor, or compared to the supervisor way more hands down, the "lead" part being mostly about experience (and helping out, building set-ups, but not so much orga/producing?

Petar_BG2 karma

Our VFX Supervisor will overlook every aspect of the post production. What happens on set and what's needed for us to get the job done. He's also responsible in approving final looks and guiding us in the right path to of course deliver what the client imagines. Our Comp lead does a lot but much more closely involved with us. He does a huge chuck of shots, lots of dev on new looks and also very responsible for the quality that is delivered from the comp team. It's very much a mix of comp lead and sup. So a leadavisor or a superlead :D

Petar_BG3 karma

Actually that's a job of our comp lead so I don't have much details but I do know that there's a theme to be followed.

wholock35 karma

How did you end up being VFX artists? What kind of education and training did you do?

Petar_BG3 karma

I went to VFS for my schooling. Found my first job in France and then came back to Vancouver for work.

TuvoksDoRag5 karma

If you had to do a crossover with the muppets, how would you monster-fy some of them?

AnsleyCG5 karma

Well this guy is obviously posessed by a demon so my work is pretty much already done for me https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/e/e7/Animal_%28Muppet%29.jpg/220px-Animal_%28Muppet%29.jpg

TuvoksDoRag3 karma

Unrelated follow up. If you hit someone with a severed foot, would it be considered a kick?

Petar_BG1 karma

Follow up question with no answer to your question. Would that make them a zombie?

TuvoksDoRag2 karma

Follow up to your follow up without an answer to your question. If someone is undead, what happens to their social security benefits?

Petar_BG1 karma

Alright lets go down this rabbit hole. If they are undead can they be social? And if they can't, do SOCIAL benefits still apply to them?

opelan5 karma

How big is your whole VFX team? How many people are working on the special effects in the series overall?

Petar_BG5 karma

We are 13 people, 9 artists (4 3D artists and 5 2D artists), IO Coordinator, Supervisor, On-Set Supervisor and a Producer.

Kyrias5 karma

Has there been anyone you work with that's been with the show for its entire run?

Petar_BG7 karma

I don't know about the entire run but there is people here that have been for quite the ride.

of_skies_and_seas5 karma

What is a scene you would have done differently if hindsight, if any?

Petar_BG9 karma

I think we can improve the quality of any scene with more time but I look at it differently. It's something that you've done and have learned from. Instead of going back move forward and make the next thing even better.

TFWBT4 karma

Are you given directions for color of magic? For example, are you told to have Rowena be purple and Jack yellow, or do you decide?

Likewise, could you tell us if that think that woke in the Empty this season was slatted to have red eyes?

Petar_BG6 karma

Yup we're generally told what is what color.

Ib1414143 karma

Have you guys ever used the fact that your worked on supernatural to benefit your social life? Like... "Hey I work on supernatural, pretty much a celebrity.." - free drink "Hey did you now supernatural is the 2nd most watched CW show?" - free admission "Hey I actually designed the demon eyes in supernatural." - free friends (Other)

Petar_BG4 karma

Wait I can get free friends? YESSSS no more shopping at Friends 4 Less. Also I am very much not a celebrity working on this show :D I'm here for the art and I like it that way.

Petar_BG3 karma

Thank you Redditors for the awesome AMA. It was a blast answering all of your questions and everyone is part of an amazing group of people. We all really appreciate the support and love the chance to keep giving you great content. I know there's still some lingering questions and maybe some more will come which we'll try and get to. Thanks again and hopefully we can do this again at some point.

Ib1414143 karma

If any of you, could have gone back and worked on any film that has been around since you've been in the industry, (or the last 10 years) what film would it be? Why that one?

Petar_BG5 karma

Infinity War because umm... geek, Marvel, pew pews and "Mr. Stark I don't feel so good."

AnsleyCG3 karma

Interstellar or Ex Mahina I think would have been amzing to work on. I'm a big Christopher Nolan fan, and the blend of practical and digital in Interstellar was inspiring.

Digital humans are so intriguing to me and the whole "Turing Test" in Ex Machina would have been a cool goal to work towards in a VFX sense: "Do my renders look like a real human?" I love that stuff.

Petar_BG1 karma

Ahhhh Interstellar, I take mine back, Interstellar, Interstellar, Interstellar. Although I probably would have cried while working on it. What a great movie :)

TMcFly3 karma

Pc or Mac when it comes to using these programs?

Petar_BG6 karma

We're all on Windows here, Linux a lot through the industry. I've seen Mac users but don't have any personal experience.

Dx6channel3 karma

A large part of my job is doing removals, and sometimes I've just had to scratch my head at some of the things the client wants, things the slipped through onset. Have you had to fix some crazy things?

Also, I'm generally a compositor in my work. Is it necessary to have skills in a 3D program if you want to be a professional compositor?

Petar_BG5 karma

You don't need to know a 3D program but you definitely have to know how to do projections and work in Nuke's 3D scene. There's been some crazy wire removals to deal with.

BrandonAUS3 karma

Firstly want to say love the vfx of supernatural. I currently work in vfx on feature films and was wondering for TV is having a wider skill set than just what your one department does more helpful/common since it is often a smaller team? Oh and happen to be hiring at the end of this year? :P

Petar_BG4 karma

Yeah I think everyone here dabbles in more than just their specialty. I help out with a lot of tracking, 3D tests out stuff in Nuke all the time. It's one big family of "hey we have to make this work, someone do it." But we also try to stick to and improve in our craft a lot. That final one you'll have to wait to find out :)

BrandonAUS4 karma

Sounds like a great team you have there, I will be sure to keep following the work you guys are doing, been seeing the supernatural vfx reels floating around a bit over the last month. Keep up the great work.

Petar_BG4 karma

Thank you very much. Appreciate the support.

kristykrab3 karma

As a VFX student, do you guys do things besides FX in Houdini, or is Houdini used only for FX? Also, what's the longest sim times you've had?

Petar_BG3 karma

u/edussz our in house Houdini MASTER can give some insight into all of that.

HVossi923 karma

Hey guys, first of huuuge thanks for taking time to answer our questions in this AMA :). It's very appreciated!

So I got a couple of questions^^ (Not gonna lie, I made a list in preparation, sorry if it's too long :p)

Deadlines: So I've been working on Commercials, TV shows as well as Films, and have to say that I find TV deadlines the most punishing.

How do you deal with those tight TV deadlines, do you ever feel unsatisfied with the end result, even if approved by the client?

Do you ever have to sacrifice Quality for Quantity?

Pipeline: Bascially what software packages do you use? All out of box, or is there a lot of customized Pipeline? Any plug-ins, gizmos, scripts you could not / would not

want to work without?

Do you have dedicated Pipeline or even Comp TDs? Is there a big, or at least some focus on improving your pipeline with custom scripts/Plug-ins?

I like programming, and got started by writing workflow tools for AE, but ususally it's:"Cool scripts, but you have to work on shots, no time for scripting." ...

VFX Sup: I guess you got VFX or even Comp sups, how much supervising vs how much actual comping/working is there? What would you say makes a good vfx sup, what are the most important qualities?

And finally it would be really interesting to know what your most difficult, as well as what your alltime favourite vfx shots or effects were on the show.

:D.

Again thank you very much for your time, you seem like a very nice bunch of guys :) also I've been a long time fan :p

King regards

Vossi

PS: Awesome showreels, all of you, that looks like so much fun to work on :D

Petar_BG3 karma

Thank you very much for the kind comments. I'll try and knock these out best I can since I do a lot of pipeline here.

Deadlines we deal with by either working extra or making setups for shots. What I mean by that is we try and automate effects that way when there's a lot we can pump out a lot. Sometimes it'll get crazy and there's just so many shots but we try our best to always improve the quality rather than anything else.

We use out of the box software but a bunch of plugins, scripts and gizmos for them. I've tried automating our pipeline as much as I can. I will also always try and make new gizmos/setups for effects even to replace stock footage. And no one is dedicated to pipe but I try and improve it any second I get the chance and it definitely speeds up everything.

Our lead is an amazing compositor and person. What I think makes him so amazing is that he's understanding and encouraging and also an awesome artist. But as a sup you always have to be aware of what's going on in the studio and try to address it.

One of my most favorite shots is the recent underwater shot I did because it was a lot of complex nuke particle work and also advanced deep work so it gave me a run for my money.

HVossi923 karma

Oh I've seen the underwater shot, that really looked like a fun Nuke project :) (also a great shot), do you use a lot of deep comping, or only in some special cases (cause overhead)?

Thanks for your quick reply, very interesting!

Petar_BG3 karma

Thank you very much and it was quite a fun one indeed. I try and push deep to be used but only when it will actually be useful. It's not really needed for everything. That shot was amazing for deep because it allowed me to do on the fly changes which instead would have been rerendered from 3D and it would have wasted a lot of time. Plus I could implement a lot of particles on the fly. But it's a totally different workflow and very heavy so it's definitely a per need scenario to use deep.

waidt993 karma

Has there been something on the show that we would be surprised to learn is visual effects?

Thanks for doing an AMA!

Petar_BG4 karma

Lots of clean ups, stunt mat removals and such would be fully invisible.

DungeonsandDeanmons3 karma

If you had to fight Dean and Sam, how would you do it?

Petar_BG7 karma

Lots of scotch and beer and the we just hug it out!

katherineramdeen2 karma

Hey guys! Thanks for doing this AMA! Thank you for all of your hard work on the show, and congrats on 300 episodes!!!

My question: How long until talks of SUPERNATURAL: THE VR GAME EXPERIENCE happens? Or any kind of game, and also, who would make it?

Rock on!

Petar_BG1 karma

Hmmm maybe I should go in my basement and start working that in secret, muahahaha. Also thank you very much the AMA has been a blast. We'll keep rocking as long as you guys do.

DigitallyDaniel2 karma

How's your OT and crunch? Fellow vfx artist here, I'm always curious how peeps handle that in our non unionized industry.

Petar_BG2 karma

It's different every season and usually not too bad through the season. It picks up and becomes a lot heavier at the end of it but it makes sense since we always try and go out with a bang.

Animalion2 karma

I'm glad the pictures of cookies worked for u/Petar_BG. ;) So, thanks guys a bunch for doing this.

So, my first question is what is the process of doing the shadows of wings of angels? (i.e., Castiel in Lazarus Rising and more recently Michael at the end of season 13) I have very little idea of how VFX works so I am curious of what is actually done.

My second question is on the program Maya. I showed one of my art friends u/AnsleyCG video on the Archangel Blade and she basically shouted "I HATE MAYA!" So my question is using Maya really that frustrating? :)

Petar_BG1 karma

Hey cookies always get me going. It was very fun doing it and I think the boys took care of the question so I'll just sit here and enjoy my chocolate chip, or do I go for the macadamia, hmmmmm.