How ‘The Boys’ VFX team crafted that heartbreaking octopus moment, and *that* penis scene
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- August 3, 2022
Here at befores & afters, we’ve previously covered some of the most over-the-top scenes in Prime Video’s The Boys—from the dolphin in season 1 to the whale in season 2. Somehow, those moments seem to pale in comparison to what delicious sequences were featured in the show this year.
Indeed, for this latest season 3, overall visual effects supervisor and associate producer Stephan Fleet oversaw such occurrences as The Deep being intimate with octopus, and then having to eat one, and the shrunken down Supe Termite entering a man’s penis/urethra (you’ll have to read on to find out what happens next).
And there’s plenty more of these wild scenes that required specific visual effects solutions in season 3, which Fleet breaks down in his own words for befores & afters.
What you have to think about in VFX when a shrunk-down Supe sneezes inside someone else’s penis
Stephan Fleet: Content aside, the first thing I honed in on for this sequence with Termite was from a technical standpoint. We’re dealing with miniature worlds, Ant-Man style. Personally I had never done anything like that before. So I instantly said, ‘I’ve got to hit the books and do a lot of research.’ So I did. You watch all the behind the scenes of other movies throughout the history of cinema, how they’ve done it from Darby O’Gill and the Little People to the Ant-Man movies to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, et cetera, et cetera.
I knew without even asking that the first thing that would come to me from showrunner Eric Kripke was that it had to feel more grounded and real, as crazy as that sounds in this situation. I knew that the words ‘grounded’ and ‘real’ would come out, which to me meant really studying what cameras would do when they shrink down, as well as the people.
There’s two basic worlds: First, there’s the world where the person shrinks down but the world stays the same (they get small). Second, there’s shrinking with that person into their scale and the world around them being scaled up. I quickly realized that there needed to be some rules put in place. I was reading the script and it didn’t describe how much he shrinks down, but in one scene he’s having some fun with a doll, and then in another scene he’s entering a certain orifice, and you quickly realie that he’s not going to be the same scale in every scene. A doll is 12 inches. Then the penis entrance–the meatus is the clinical term for it–is much smaller than that, like a centimeter-or-two-ish.
So, I got into the math. I actually created a full spreadsheet for the crew where we tracked his scale in different places and came up with the scale multiplier, which helped props create little avatar dummies that we used, reference stand-ins and things like that. It also helped us with the scaled set for the giant cocaine lines.
What it came down to was, I wanted to figure out how exactly this stuff was done. What’s the math? It actually ended up being very simple. I just popped into Blender or Cinema 4D and created a shrunk down world based off of polyscans of our set. I plugged in all the variables, the camera sensor, everything. The very simple math was that the camera distance is multiplied by the scale factor, so if you have something that’s going to be 10 times smaller and your camera’s five feet away, you multiply it by 10, and it’s 50 feet away, but you have to go straight back, keep your tilt and angle exact. That’s the actual math for how you would shoot a plate.
For example, the shot where he’s running up his leg, that’s a real piece of footage. It’s not CG. Now, I realized very quickly when we shot the plates where we would want to marry scale that you’d need a lot of space and you’re not going to have the space to put the camera 300 feet back. But what I then discovered is that there’s this point of ‘parallax termination’ where when you go so far back, it doesn’t actually matter anymore. Everything flattens out to the camera, so we just have to get to that distance. But tilt and height still are really important.
Planning and shooting
We previs’d the sequence with The Third Floor and then I techvis’d it myself. One thing I used was a new program which had just come out at the time for iPhones. It’s called Polycam, for scanning. I bow down to Polycam because I was able to go and just quickly 3D scan sets with my iPhone. The scans are not great quality, but everything’s to scale.