A giant penis, flaming body, and blood shards that kill

All in a days work for the ‘Gen V’ effects team.

If you’ve seen The Boys, you already know some crazy, crazy stuff happens in the Vought Cinematic Universe (VCU)–I mean, just look at befores & afters previous coverage of the show.

Now, the spin-off series, Gen V, might have even gone even wilder in its first season.

Some of the craziest moments, which required a mix of practical stunts and effects, and digital visual effects, include the character Emma (Little Cricket) shrinking and riding a giant penis, the character Luke (Golden Boy) using his pyrokinesis power to generate flames all over his body, and the character Marie being able to manipulate blood with devastating consequences.

befores & afters spoke with Gen V visual effects supervisor Karen Heston about orchestrating these intensive effects gags for the show.

Making Little Cricket

b&a: I was really taken by Emma Meyer or Little Cricket in the show. Obviously The Boys had dealt with a scaled down character before with Termite, but how did you approach the miniaturuzation here?

Karen Heston: First, it was great to have Stephan Fleet come on in a co-producer capacity and make sure the tone of the show was kicked off in the VCU way. All of the lessons that he had learned with Termite were applied during production. Then, in post we really took it a lot further with adding those juicy details of the little dust particulates and some of the selective focus so you really can get into Emma’s world and kind of feel miniaturized with her.

It’s really about that size perspective. If you have Emma here and she’s supposed to be really small, any kind of light source that would be next to her needs to be in that same relationship. Often she was shot on bluescreen, but if we did get some background plates, we would go in and work her lighting and marry them together. For example, if you’re bigger, you just absorb that lighting in a different way.

VFX supervisor Karen Heston.

b&a: How was the sex scene with Emma filmed? In the end, it’s just so horrific even as a sex scene, but it’s just treated so normally, in The Boys kind of way.

Karen Heston: Lizze Broadway did such a crazy take on that–instead of being horrified herself, she kind of goes the opposite way. A lot of her acting and what she chose to do in that scene really helped sell it for us because you’re focusing on that. That was really cool to see her take on it, of her normalizing it and being like, ‘Oh, this is another day and what I’ve decided to do for my choices in life’. That leans into The Boys VCU take on it as well where it is just another odd day in the life of the VCU.

From a VFX standpoint, we really leaned in and worked with the special effects team. They did an amazing job creating various bucks, including a giant penis that Lizzie could interact with. We were able to get all of those real shadows, the size and relationship of what that would look like, some of the indentation and kind of deformation that would happen with an actual penis. VFX-wise, that interaction was key. Having that giant of a penis and doing that live for her as well is amazing and way better than just having some blue form or green form that you interact with. We could get a lot of that actor interaction from the get-go that we could put into our eventual CG penis.

Pixomondo was our vendor that worked on that scene and they really took it home and did an amazing job. We worked closely with Pixomondo to get that realistic penis look. It was definitely a lot of fun phone calls with that as far as critiquing the look.

b&a: And then for the ear sequence–where Emma goes into the ear of one of the guards–how you did film things with the ear?

Karen Heston: They actually did do a giant scale inner ear buck. I forget the exact amount of gallons, but it involved some enormous amount of practical blood that was put in that pool of the inner ear for Lizze to be in. I was hearing that in-between takes, she would dive under and hang out under the blood and then pop back out and just really owned that drenched-in-blood look, which is amazing for visual effects artists because all of that blood interaction would’ve been really challenging had that not been practical.

It all really paid off, because in that main hero shot where she somes out, some of my favorite comments were, ‘I wonder if you put too much blood in that scene.’ I was like, ‘Actually, that’s in the plate.’

It just left us to do fun stuff like, ‘Oh, well, shouldn’t we add some ear hair?’ It needed to be gross. We’d say, ‘Let’s give some ear hair. I don’t think this guy trims his ear hair. Let’s make sure the blood is splashed up on the side where it looks like she really did splash blood up on the side.’ And then of course we had to scale that down and comp that into his real ear as well. That scene was done by Rocket Science.

b&a: The other thing with Emma which I really loved was the scale change when she becomes a giant. How did you approach that as a different kind of scale challenge?

Karen Heston: When she was in the pool, we wanted that real interaction in the water so we had her in a giant kiddie pool which had some practical water in it. We actually did a few tests to try and alter the water movement to see if there was some way we could even heighten the movement. But then we ended up deciding to go with more of the practical water and what it was giving us. Then the fun part was compositing that into the background pool scene and putting Marie in the foreground.

The challenge here again was lighting. It’s a little bit easier to do the right ratio for miniaturizing, but going larger is trickier. Trying to keep the caustics of the real light that’s in the pool and have that interact on her face in a real way was important. Plus there’s the displacement of the water which would be very different being a large Emma versus you or me in a pool. You’ll see at the edge of the pool, there’s some displacement from her going in and splashing the water out. People might not notice them, but adding them in really sells it so it’s not distracting. Pixomondo handled this scene as well. DNEG did the throwing up in the water shot.

The power of Golden Boy

b&a: Then there’s Golden Boy, I loved his fire coming from the core. I felt like it was very different thing than we’d seen before. How did you work on look development for this?

Karen Heston: DNEG handled Golden Boy. We actually started with the hero shot of him walking out of the atrium where he’s about to explode. We originally had a fair bit of black smoke in there, and we had a solar flare or electromagnetic spirals on the sun look. We ended up dialing down the smoke and pumping up the light so that he was brighter. Actually, a lot of it actually was done in DI. So I worked closely with our colorist Siggy Ferstl to really set the look for Golden Boy.

Controlling blood

b&a: I really liked Marie’s power because it’s also kind of weird. Tell me about the different considerations you had to have to have her manipulate blood.

Karen Heston: It really had quite the arc. Marie herself at the beginning of the show is finding her power. She’s figuring out who she is, what she’s capable of. She’s a little nervous or not as surefooted at the beginning of the season as she gets to be towards the end. So with her blood power, we really wanted the first appearance of it to still feel messy. There’s a lot more blood splatter and a lot more blood flies off of the tendrils.

Then she comes to be able to control it, and she eventually does the blood shards or more like blood knives that can be thrown in the air. Rocket Science really leaned into those VFX simulations to really get a kind of temperature and almost like a little bit of a motivation and a little bit of personality to her power over time.

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