Craig Mazin, co-creator of HBO’s “The Last of Us,” remarked in the official podcast for the video game adaptation series, “Nobody does creature work the way Wt does. You would probably agree with him if you had seen the bloated incident from episode five.
It’s understandable why HBO asked Wt. FX to serve as the principal vendor for the creature work. The New Zealand-based digital visual effects firm, formerly known as Weta Digital, has contributed to some of the most well-known properties, including “The Lord of the Rings,” “King Kong,” and “Avatar.” In fact, the group just received an Oscar for “Avatar: The Way of Water’s” Best Visual Effects.
Simon Jung, the VFX supervisor, and Dennis Yoo, the animation supervisor, discussed their teams’ contributions to the HBO series, which included digitally remaking the live-action actor’s prosthetics, making computer-generated (CG) animals, and modifying sets to make them appear overgrown with vegetation and cordyceps fungus. Also, the business digitally swapped out the live-action clickers from episode two and the clicker kid from episode five.
Aaron Cowan, Dave Hampton, Claude Schitter, Ben Campbell, and Ben Roberts from the WT FX team also contributed to “The Last of Us” as VFX producers and associate producers, FX supervisors, and CG supervisors.
The company says that Wt FX made 456 visual effects shots for six of the nine episodes. According to Alex Wang, VFX supervisor at HBO, there were over a dozen other VFX studios working on the program, and each episode featured about 250 visual effects shots. Over the course of the entire series, there were about 2,500 photos.
The bloater is one of the final phases for cordyceps fungus victims and is one of the hardest adversaries to defeat in the original video game due to their thick fungal plating that serves as armor. Thankfully, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) survive the drama unharmed. Not everyone was as fortunate, though.
One of the series’ bloodiest scenes was undoubtedly the cul-de-sac scene in Kansas City. A hideous, mushroom-infested monster was seen by spectators smashing and tossing people like ragdolls. Who could forget the scene in which it tore Perry’s (Jeffrey Pierce’s character) head off like Sid from “Toy Story”?
Barrie Gower, a prosthetics designer best known for his work on “Game of Thrones” and “Stranger Things,” created the appearance of the blower. We should also recognize stuntman Adam Basil’s performance, who put on the roughly 88-pound outfit comprised of foam rubber and foam latex, according to an interview with Variety. Gower claimed that in order for the outfit to appear like fungus, it needed to be coated in a slimy lubricant.
Jung thought that the prosthetics were usually helpful and made their jobs a lot easier.The fungus bits linked to the costume didn’t quite move the way you would expect them to because prostheses are made of rubber material.
Yoo said, “The movement was limited by this enormous rubber suit, and the items that were linked to him were a little shaky.” Yoo added that HBO wanted a creature that was seven feet tall, although Basil (a regular man) is just six and a half feet.
This is when the power of VFX, visual effects, and CGI come into play.
According to Jung, “We had to take the skin, then clean up that geometry, then re-texture it, and put shaders on it” in order for the crew to digitally reproduce the blower’s prosthetics. “I’m just attempting to replicate the appearance as nearly as I can,” he stated. “Light penetrating through the material, like a subsurface scattering effect, is something that prosthetics can’t accomplish very well or at all, for example. So, that is a benefit of being digital.
Together with the blower, Wt FX is responsible for the fire effects, damage, over 50 computer-generated clickers coming from the sinkhole, and the young clicker who gets into Ellie’s car and ends up tearing the resistance group’s leader Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) apart.
Another notable and unsettling aspect of episode five was the child clicker. When referring to Henry’s deaf brother Sam (Keivonn Woodard), who had cancer, Kathleen once told him, “Kids die, Henry, they die all the time,” in a scene starring Lamar Johnson. According to Mazin in the HBO podcast, the notion that she would finally be killed by a child felt like a cyclical way to end the narrative.
Skye Newton, a gymnast and contortionist who is only nine years old, played the role of the child clicker in a computer game.
Initially, the child clicker was only supposed to have a new head, according to Jung. “But, we realized that because so much of the face is covered with fungus, getting the proportions correct and making sure the creature ranks as a child or what used to be a child was incredibly hard.”
Yoo added, “The actor with the prosthetic head had a helmet-sized kind of clicker head, to put that into greater context.” It threw it out of proportion from the beginning. Thus, trying to decide what we were going to do was a constant back and forth. In the end, it was just CG. To make her look the way we wanted her to, we just had to use modeling magic.
The scene with the giraffes in the final episode was probably a kind little gift for game players. It debuted last Sunday, March 12. Ellie stumbles into a herd of giraffes after having a traumatic experience with cannibals in Colorado, which seems to temporarily lift her spirits.She had no idea, though, that the towering mammal is regarded as a symbol of guidance since it has a propensity to spot danger before other creatures with poor vertical vision can.
The giraffe that Ellie feeds at the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada, is a real giraffe by the name of Nabo. But what is to blame for both the herd and the Salt Lake City baseball field they roam in?
According to Jung, the genuine giraffe Nabo, who was photographed in a zoo, served as a basis for the giraffes in the film. Also, we took a trip to Wellington’s zoo, which is home to three giraffes, where we spent the afternoon observing them, filming them from various perspectives, and even scanning them with 3D scanners when they were still enough for us to do so. We tried to match, implement, and collect as many reference prints as we could in order to make it look as accurate as we could.
Also by Wt, were the CG monkeys in episode six.
The entire series was filmed in Canada, including the full giraffe scene, which makes the work done by WT all the more astounding. Popular Boston sites, including the Bostonian Museum and Faneuil Hall, which were included in episode two, “Infected,” were changed and expanded by the production firm. The business claimed to have aged all of Colorado University’s structures.
Wt also said that in the second episode, the crew made the fungus prosthetics look more real by adding light transmission and sub-surface scattering.In contrast, some sequences were either practical or had partial CG head replacements.
According to HBO first-party data and Nielsen, “The Last of Us” on HBO averaged 30.4 million viewers over the course of its first six episodes. With 11.6 million viewers, episode five, “Endure and Survive,” was the most watched of the season. With 8.2 million people watching, the finale, “Look for the Light,” received the second-highest viewership.