Halloween Horror Roundup Part 3: It's the End of the World with Muse VFX and 'Y: The Last Man'
October 28, 2021

Halloween Horror Roundup Part 3: It's the End of the World with Muse VFX and 'Y: The Last Man'

Based on DC Comics’ award-winning comic book series, “Y: The Last Man” brings life to a death-filled world, following the survivors of a cataclysmic event that decimates every mammal with a Y chromosome, except for one cisgender man and his pet monkey. Starring Diane Lane, Ashley Romans, Ben Schnetzer, Amber Tamblyn and more, the new television series from FX on Hulu explores how those left living in this new post-apocalyptic world struggle to rebuild and restore what was lost.

With death and destruction at the core of the show’s premise, the series’ VFX team had to make sure that it was prevalent throughout. Los Angeles-based VFX house Muse VFX used Fusion Studio to help create the show’s post-apocalyptic world, with their work on the series ranging from explosions and creature creation, to split screen composites and set extensions.

According to Muse VFX Co-founder and VFX Supervisor John Gross, “Every shot in the show needs to depict that a large number of people have perished. It relies heavily on VFX to keep that front and center. Even though we may be seeing cities and buildings that look familiar, there is something very eerie and unfamiliar with the death and destruction of this world.”

Gross’ colleague, Muse VFX Co-founder and VFX Supervisor Fred Pienkos, adds, “Not only are humans affected in ‘Y: The Last Man,’ but we also see how different animals are impacted. For example, in the pilot episode we see foreshadowing of what’s to come when we happen across a dead deer and a dead mouse, both showing signs of the same illness soon to affect the humans. We also witness a mischief of rats panicking, running down a city street. For this scene, a crowd simulation of rats was created by our 3D experts in Houdini and rendered in Redshift with a collection of buffers that would allow us to control lighting conditions in Fusion Studio, which is our go-to compositing solution. The rats run through the shadows, under cars and then reappear to be lit by the cars’ headlights, so the lighting fluctuates a lot. By creating the sequence this way, we’re able to easily augment the lighting in Fusion Studio to accommodate lighting direction from our client without having to go back and re-render the CG.”

“Whether it was rats, mice, deer or humans, we had to make them look pretty gruesome,” he continues. “A lot of invisible VFX went into making things look dead and destitute, whether we were adding details to props or starting from scratch in CG.”

In addition to creature animation, Muse VFX created destruction for the post-apocalyptic series, blowing up houses, burning buildings and crashing helicopters. They also helped add more blood and gore to the show, increasing the impact of its destruction.

Pienkos says, “We’re lucky enough to work on a wide variety of genres, but horror and gore seem to be something our team excels at. While ‘Y: The Last Man’ isn’t a horror series, death is certainly central to its theme, so alongside that comes gore.”

“We love working on horror-related projects because it’s always fun to take something passed the limit of what can be done practically or to push it to the edge of what’s too gross,” adds Gross. “For ‘Y: The Last Man,’ we’d add touches here and there to create more of a ‘realistic gore’ to scenes. Whether it was expanding blood pools when characters are shot or the aftermath of body parts to an explosion sequence, we made things a bit more gruesome.”

As for what they enjoy watching around Halloween, Gross prefers anything over the top, along with the classics, such as “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” while Pienkos notes, “Having started my career as a character animator, my favorite movie to watch around Halloween has always been ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’ but being from Chicago, I would be remiss not to also mention all the Saturday mornings ‘Son Of Svengoolie’ haunted me as a young child.”