‘The Umbrella Academy’ VFX Supervisor Everett Burrell On Creating Powers And Recreating A Dallas “That Had That 1960s Look”
For the second season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, VFX supervisor Everett Burrell was tasked with not only expanding upon the superpowers of the Hargreeves, but also bringing the viewer into the past to show Dallas, Texas in the 1960s.
The Umbrella Academy follows a family of adopted children, now grown up, born with special powers and raised to be a group of superheroes. Following a risky escape from the apocalypse at the end of last season, the second season sees the Hargreeves thrown back in time to the 1960s, scattered over a three-year period. With a new doomsday to stop, the family attempts to reset the timeline once again and subvert the apocalypse.
While the first season took place in 2019, the second season takes place in Dallas, Texas between 1960 and 1963. “That city has changed drastically since 1963,” says Burrell. “We digitally scanned all of Dealey Plaza with a LiDAR, a laser range finder, and that gave us an amazing 3d geometry of that area of the city.” Location wasn’t enough though, as Burrell wanted everything in the world to have a ‘1960s look.’ “We built a very special color correction lookup table that had that 1960s look,” says Burrell. “It was based on old films from that period and how the old Kodak film stocks dealt with color and film grain, so the whole show has a film grain laid on top, even though we shoot the show digitally.”
An essential part of The Umbrella Academy is showing the superpowers of the Hargreeves, which can be difficult to visually represent for some with powers that use sound. Allison Hargreeves, played by Emmy Raver-Lampman, has the ability to compel people to do things by saying, ‘I heard a rumor,’ followed by the command. “It’s tough, with Allison especially,” Burrell says, “because of that rumor effect. We went really big at first from almost like an ‘Aquaman summons a fish’ sort of thing, but that looked really weird. So, it’s a very subtle displacement in the air and we try to always make it go into the victim’s ears that she’s rumoring.”
Vanya Hargreeves, played by Elliot Page, is much less subtle with her powers. “For Vanya,” Burrell says, “a lot of it was the way it was edited and the way the sound effects were played. But then, in season two, her powers just get bigger and bigger. She absorbs sound into the center point of her chest, and then she releases it back out.” Between seasons, it was important for Burrell to show more restraint in how Vanya used her powers to represent her growth. “In season one, she was releasing a lot of rage and anger and it was less controlled,” he says. “But now, in season two, she can focus it much more precisely. And I think all the characters are evolving and their powers are getting more control.”