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Quick Takes EXCLUSIVE: Hemlock Grove’s Todd Masters Talks the Season 2 Werewolf Transformation [Interview + VIDEO] 


A lot of people remember the werewolf transformation from season one – it even received a nomination for an Emmy award – so SFX artist Todd Masters knew he had a huge challenge in front of him for season two. The producers wanted something different, they wanted to raise the bar. That pressure only made Todd more excited to see what he and his team could come up with. Below is a behind-the-scenes video that includes some footage of Landon Liboiron‘s Peter Rumancek wolfing out.

As part of the season 2 press day for the series, TV Goodness talked EXCLUSIVELY with Todd about the process of transforming a human into a werewolf.

TV GOODNESS: Can you walk us through Peter’s transformation in more detail?

Todd Masters: “So the first thing we do is get everybody on the same page. We have a few producers and a director. We basically bring everybody the storyboards. We try to get the sequence out in storyboards. Our director Spencer did a really cool videomatic with a bunch of his friends in his apartment and shot the whole sequence with really funny little examples to sketch it out. That gave us the opportunity to then break it down in storyboards, to get into his mind what shots he wanted, where he wanted to move the camera and then we started breaking it down to gags.”

Photo Credit: Kara Howland/TV Goodness
Photo Credit: Kara Howland/TV Goodness

“The mandate was a little mixed. Obviously we had a schedule, we had a budget. We knew we had that. We also had to beat this competitive first season werewolf transformation and people kept pushing, ‘What can you do with practical effects?’ We had already pushed it open, this whole practical/digital marriage on Falling Skies, a little on True Blood and a couple other shows like that, so we came to them with these ideas. That’s what all those tests were. It was, ‘Look. Look what we can do.’ And they went, ‘Whoa.’  When we actually showed that bit where Johnny spits out the werewolf, literally you could hear a pin drop in that room because they didn’t know what to do with this sequence. They didn’t know where it was gonna go.”

Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie/Netflix
Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie/Netflix

“We originally planned this much of a sequence [indicates a large amount] to shoot in this much [indicates a small amount] of a day, so fortunately they gave us the chance to edit it down content-wise. Once we were able to figure out what shots we would need, then we broke it down to elements. This is the big money transformation. We do a life cast of Landon’s face in this screen position, make it out of this weird elastic material. That stuff’s called thermal gel. It’s actually sex toy material, if you could believe that. We use the weirdest stuff. We use it because it has a great fleshy feel and it’s safe to use and it stretches like you don’t know. So we made the whole skin out of that so you can really stretch that face, you get great natural wrinkles and all that and then with the same camera angle we shot Landon doing that stuff. We found the natural marriage points and used his performance – you saw his track – to then integrate the elements that we shot. So those elements are now molded the same way and moving the same way he is.”

Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie/Netflix
Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie/Netflix

“By careful marriage – which we call digital makeup effects – we have a very special system that puts all this stuff together. It looks pretty believable because it’s all shot in the same lighting and the scale is very tangible and very organic. It just seems to be more compelling than the other solution, which is typically people would do a 3D mesh and make it more the traditional way. We like to keep things more organic. We like actors to really see the stuff and feel the stuff, perform to things that aren’t tennis balls, for instance.”

TV GOODNESS: It was a great transformation. I liked how the human hand came out of his mouth to touch the guy and then how the hand came back down.

Todd: “It’s so funny. When we were originally shooting – David Straiton shot that, he’s one of our director/producers. Landon does this performance [mimes bringing his hand down to his side], he does that with nothing on it. I look at [David] and I go, ‘Is that what you want?’ He goes, ‘It’s all we could afford.’ At the 11th hour we go, ‘Wow. We gotta do something with this. What if we had some cool gooey transformation?’ So literally from the phone call to that evening before dinner, we had to test it. That’s the great thing about having it all in one house, people can go downstairs and shoot a big, messy crackle effect- actually we have a little filming area. We were able to put it together so fast we were able to send it to them before dinner. It was just a rough, but it gave us a real good finish.”

Edited for space and content.

We got to play with some of the props as well. Here’s a short video demonstration of the werewolf’s snout emerging from Peter’s mouth.

Season 2 of Hemlock Grove is available now on Netflix.

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