Independent post
house provided VFX, color and finishing services for the FX series throughout
its long run.

Calif.—Modern VideoFilm  recently wrapped up a 7-year run as a
post-production services provider for FX’s hugely popular series Sons of Anarchy. The Burbank-based
facility set up a file-based pipeline for the show, about a motorcycle club
based in Northern California, integrating editorial finishing, visual effects,
color grading and deliverables. Despite a tight schedule and sometimes complex
VFX and grading requirements, Modern efficiently delivered a stellar product
each week of the show’s long run.

“Our television workflow is the best I’ve ever seen,” says
online editor Jay Robinson. “We all work from linked files allowing elements to
move from editorial to VFX to color and back again very smoothly. It’s
The show’s visual effects needs were often complex and
challenging, and ran the gamut from rig removal and clean up to intricate
digital matte paintings. David Carriker acted as Modern VideoFilm’s visual
effects supervisor, working with the production team in designing and planning
effects elements, and overseeing the team of artists who carried them out.
“Ninety-eight percent of the digital visual
effects for the show were produced here at Modern,” Carriker recalls. “Part of
my role was to provide on-set supervision for complex shots. I visited the set
four or five times each season to work with the director and DP, and ensure we
got the plates we needed.”
Given the often violent nature of the show, it is perhaps
not surprising that one of the most common visual effects was blood. Gun
battles, knife fights and other action scenes were often enhanced for dramatic
effect. VFX artist Bill Coffin explains, “I put muzzle flashes in guns. I put
bullet holes in people.  I did blood
spurts, pools of blood, blood oozing and dripping. I cut people’s throats. I
once put an ice pick in a guy’s ear.”
He adds that such grizzly effects were never routine. “The
effects required a lot of creative thinking and careful execution,” he says.
“We looked at each one as a puzzle and attacked it piece by piece.”
Carriker notes that Modern has an insert stage that often came
in handy for shooting practical elements for effects use. “We might need a
piece of denim soaked in blood,” he says. “So, we’d go onto our stage and shoot
the props. Five minutes later, it would be in the show.”
Although Sons of
is set in a fictional town in California’s Central Valley principal
photography was shot on a stage in North Hollywood with many exteriors shot in
nearby Sun Valley and Tujunga. As a result, background environments needed to
be augmented or replaced. Modern’s visual effects team removed and inserted
buildings, altered landscape features, and sometimes created complete digital
matte paintings to suggest locations appropriate to the script.
A number of episodes from season three were set in Northern
Ireland. Although some exteriors were shot there, others were shot in
California and digitally altered. Carriker recalls a scene involving a group of
motorcycle riders on a rural highway. “For the first part of the shot, they are
on a road in Northern Ireland, but when they come around a corner, they are in
Chatsworth,” he notes. “In the production footage everything was brown! Artists
spent a week coloring every hillside and every bush. In the end, it looked lush
and green. It looked like Ireland.”
For Modern VideoFilm, the arrival of the show’s finale was
bittersweet. “We were all big fans,” Carriker says. “I sometimes stayed out of
the effects room because I didn’t want to know what happens.”
However, the end of the show has not meant a respite for Carriker
and the other members of the team. They are busy with a number of other shows,
including Modern Family, Madam Secretary and Fresh off the Boat. “We’ll miss Sons
of Anarchy,
” Carriker observes. “But now it’s on to the next big thing.”
About Modern VideoFilm
Modern VideoFilm has been providing post-production and
distribution services to the film, television and media content industries for more
than 33 years.  Its clients include all of the major movie and television
studios, as well as leading on-demand streaming services, online digital media
retailers, ecommerce sites, interactive entertainment companies, and other
commercial entities across the United States and around the world. The
company’s staff comprises more than 500 dedicated and talented artists,
technicians, engineers, producers, client representatives and support
Modern VideoFilm’s Creative Services division offers
complete, end-to-end resources for the production of original motion picture,
television and media content. Its Content Management division provides comprehensive
solutions for the management, repurposing, distribution and archiving of
entertainment content.
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