LOS ANGELES — The family-friendly Netflix series Raising Dion takes a fresh look at the superhero genre, telling the tale of Dion, a young boy with extraordinary gifts, and his widowed mother. Based on the comic book written by Dennis Liu, who also serves as executive producer, the series finds Dion learning to harness emerging powers, which Method Studios (www.methodstudios.com) helped design and create with production VFX supervisor Bill Powlosky.
Under the guidance of Method VFX supervisor Sean Schur, the studio’s artists conducted comprehensive R&D to develop a distinct and cohesive look for the way Dion’s powers are visually conveyed.
“While Dion is able to emit an energy that takes on different forms and was created using different FX techniques, we wanted to maintain a sense of visual continuity across his powers. Our amazing team of artists came up with some very clever ideas and we ultimately used the concentrated strings effect as the consistent thread,” explains Schur.
Since Dion is not the only character with supernatural abilities, color was used to help with differentiation. As the lead hero, Dion’s powers appear warm, featuring heavy oranges and reds, with a hint of purple for dimension. In a similar vein, Charlotte’s powers appear pinkish, while series villain Crooked Man is contrasted with cool blue tones.
Dion’s teleportation effect was also created by Method. Depicted in a brief 2015 trailer created for the Raising Dion comic book, artists used that visual reference as a kicking off point, then evolved a look distinct to the series.
“The basis of the teleportation effect is the same concentrated strings as Dion’s energy effect, though it happens so quickly, it’s not noticeable,” Schur explains. “This helped us create a look that was consistent and reminiscent of the original smoky aesthetic, without being too particle heavy. We also used a lighter gray for the main trail and incorporated colors from Dion’s clothing.”
Throughout the season’s nine episodes, Dion has multiple encounters with the Crooked Man, a nefarious entity that’s essentially a walking storm system and appears at various sizes. Method crafted a high stakes showdown that takes place between 30-foot tall Crooked Man and Charlotte in the middle of a residential street. Given the guidance that Crooked Man was an evil character made of lightning, Schur and his team began researching visual reference and iterating on an effects-driven creature that was able to emote.
“We first modeled a human version of Crooked Man based on the actor, then animated his beats and gestures, which was used to drive the lighting system,” notes Schur. “We tried to make Crooked Man as procedural as possible and were able to get about halfway there with that approach, then took it the rest of the way in comp to make the effects more photoreal. Each shot was treated differently to maximize visual impact, and this battle is happening in the midst of a localized microstorm with lots of rain and wind, with Charlotte working to fend him off with her powers.”
Method’s additional work for the series includes reviving a dead rosebush, healing a fox, and melting a Lego sculpture. Artists also created the effect used to transition between the actor and his full evil form as Crooked Man, which features cloud structure elements, internal lightning flashes, and a vortex-like motion. The teleportation effect was also incorporated for visual continuity.