We’ve all seen the extremely relatable behind-the-scenes shots of Jamie Campbell Bower sipping iced coffee in his Vecna makeup that Netflix dropped after we learned that the Stranger Things Season 4 baddie was created with an impressive combination of practical and CG effects. The menacing villain and his ever-moving vines have induced nightmares throughout the cursed small town of Hawkins, Indiana, and brought us some incredible closed captioning moments including [tentacles squelching wetly] and [hand unfurling creakily].
In an interview with Collider’s Samantha Coley, Visual Effects Supervisor Julien Hery broke down the collaborative process between his team at Rodeo FX and the makeup artists at Netflix that created the monster that we see on screen. “Vecna is a nice collaboration, I feel, between the practical and the VFX,” Hery shared. “We started with a concept from the same [concept artist] Michael Mayer. So, we had the visual of the creature of a very thin, very tall, super creepy.” Hery went on to explain how his team crafted the 3D model for the character from the concept art, “We added all the moving vines and everything. And once we were happy with the modeling and the texture of it, what we did was to provide that model to Netflix, and what they did, they 3D printed the suit for the actor to basically wear the suit of Vecna.”
Creating the suit for Bower to wear and then ensuring that all of the visual effects Hery and his team created fit perfectly to the actor’s movements involved a complex back-and-forth process that Hery explained:
“There were multiple [pieces of the] suit to be able to wear it. Then the actor was able to put the suit on, with a few hours of makeup. Then, they 3D-scanned the suit again. So we could form what we did previously onto the new suit. It was very much the same, but you still have things that changed, obviously, the morphology of the actor is a bit different, a little bit taller, or there’s some difference. So, we did recalibrate what we did before onto the final scan, and then add the moving vines and everything that is moving, removing the nose, all those kinds of things.”
Once Hery and his team had the new scans of Bower in the suit, they were able to layer in all sorts of unsettling visuals onto the suit. “We were basically then able to match one to one the practical performance and enhance the suit.” In explaining just how much of Vecna they created, Hery said:
“Every time you see the shoulder, the nose — there’s limitations in what you can do in practical [effects]. Obviously, fingers are, I don’t know, 10 centimeters long, but Vecna ones are 20 or 30 centimeters, so you don’t have the full articulation of the fingers. So, what we did was remove the hand, and basically replace it with the CG animated hand, so you have the full control and the full possibilities of performance.”
Hery spoke about the collaboration calling it “very intricate,” elaborating on how his team was able to take the impressive practical work and enhance it for the screen. He said:
“Everything that is moving on him is VFX because you can’t really do that for real, but that’s where you achieve the most. It’s the same for the environment. When you get a base of reality, then you can enhance it. You get a much better result for sure, instead of starting with a CG creature, you’re always questioning something. Whereas when you start with something real, you can’t really question reality. That’s the real thing.”
Seasons 1-4 of Stranger Things are available on Netflix. Be sure to check out our full interview with Hery to learn more about the VFX behind your favorite Season 4 moments. In the meantime, check out our interview with Jamie Campbell Bower down below.
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