The series, which plays more like a movie than a TV series, follows a ballistic missile submarine crew that is being pursued by the government after refusing to follow morally questionable orders. The threat posed by their ballistic missile submarine, the USS Colorado, is the only thing that stands between them and the full force of the US government. With a submarine as the centerpiece of the entire narrative, “Last Resort” has the feel of epic submarine feature films, such as “Hunt for Red October,” “Crimson Tide,” and “U571.” Unlike those movies, where the submarine was created using miniatures in smoky warehouses, “Last Resort” relies on visual effects and computer-generated imagery for all exterior shots of the sub (USS Colorado).
The pilot and first few episodes set a high bar for the series and include extremely demanding action sequences featuring the Colorado. These sequences include the sub crashing to the ocean floor, surfacing in multiple conditions and environments, firing a ballistic missile, getting in dogfights with other submarines, maneuvering through elaborate underwater terrain, sending divers out on expeditions, and evading navy ships pursuing from the surface. The scale and power of a nuclear ballistic missile submarine is critical to the story. In order to achieve the epic quality of the show and convey the presence of the Colorado, FuseFX needed to have total control over camera motion and composition for shots of the sub. So the decision was made to create most of those shots as completely computer-generated effects. This included shots underwater as well as shots with the submarine on the surface.
Scenes above water with the Colorado required the development of photoreal ocean surfaces, including realistic wake and foam generation for integration with the sub. For underwater shots, besides the sub itself, multiple digital environments were created and various effects to show cavitation, ballast bubbles, and interaction with the sea floor or other aspects of the environment. These types of ocean simulation have been seen in major films such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Battleship,” but it is unprecedented on television.
In addition, FuseFX was also tasked with creating an all-CG version of the Early Warning Station. In the story, this is a NATO listening post built to monitor activities of the Soviet Union during the cold war and a primary location on the island.
To generate these effects requires a team of artists with a highly technical and creative skill set, along with the latest software tools, hardware, and pipeline to create and integrate these complex elements into photo-real sequences. The tools employed by FuseFX for this project include Autodesk’s 3ds Max, Chaos Group’s V-Ray renderer, Exotic Matter’s Naiad for water simulation, Sitni Sati’s FumeFX for fluid dynamic simulation, and The Foundry’s Nuke for compositing.