Meet ‘Significant Other’ ReDefine VFX Supervisor Vishal Anand

Hi Vishal, can you start by introducing yourself? Do you have any personal fun facts to share?

Hello! My name is Vishal and I’m a Visual Effects Supervisor at ReDefine. Any fun facts about me? No, no, I’m not a very fun person 😉 But I’ve been in the Visual Effects space for 20 years and have recently joined the wonderful team at ReDefine.

In my spare time, I enjoy spending time outside in nature and going on hikes – one of the many reasons I love living in Vancouver.

So now, let’s talk about the work on Paramount+’s ‘Significant Other’. What was it like to work with writer-directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen on their latest genre-bending show?

It was exciting and a very special experience for me. Honestly, it was super fun working with everyone in the team. The directors, Bobby and Dan, from the very get go, knew exactly what they wanted. They had a clear vision for ‘Significant Other’ which made the collaboration ever so smooth. 

I think our biggest challenge was translating their vision into pixels. With alien movies, there’s a lot of room for creativity, you know. When you hear a verbal description, you immediately know this is extra terrestrial. But translating it into visuals is another story. It is an iterative process to narrow it down to something everyone is happy with. 

The overall communication between ReDefine and the filmmakers was very collaborative. We had many conversations about what looks they envisioned for certain aspects of the show such as the finger blade for instance. 

The blade kind of grows out of the character’s finger and they were very clear that it shouldn’t be like the adamantium that comes out of Wolverine’s hand. It shouldn’t look like a spike or ice pick. It had to be a blade of crystalline glass, but organic.

That brings me to the next question. So what was the process to bring the show’s vision to life? 

My work as VFX Supervisor is to translate the director’s vision into definitive steps, and help  the VFX team realise the vision – to make sure each department has all the resources they need to achieve the desired end result. 

As usual we started with some concept work which was later realised into 3D models, complete with shading and lighting. 

There is a sequence in the film where the finger blade slices straight through somebody’s head (gory – I know, right!?). Our reference for that shot was a hot knife going through butter. That’s how sharp and how lethal the blade was supposed to be. The blade’s visual appearance had to portrait the sharpness. And then, when the half head falls on the shoulder, we had to figure out what that would look like. Do we see veins, blood, gore?

At the very beginning, we did some research to gather reference material which was presented to the directors. Once we had a good idea of their desired look and feel, we got into building and look development of the CG assets.

The next and last step was to integrate the CG assets into the live-action shots. Voila!

Please elaborate on the show’s hero assets?

The tendril was one.There was the finger blade asset and the head that gets split into half which I’ve already covered above as well as a one-antlered deer.

Beyond that, we worked on the cocoon in which they were stuck to the wall. The filmmakers shot something on set but ended up not being very happy with what they filmed. So we went in and added some embellishments to adjust and to sweeten it up a little bit.

Of course there was the shark in an underwater scene. It gets a hold of our protagonist’s calf and swims away with it while he ends up with part of his calf missing, and we see it begin to self heal. 

We also worked on the egg-shaped vessel that supposedly transported the man from outer space. 

There is a scene in which the main character says “the whole point of love is two people becoming one”. We worked on a digital transformation for that scene too.

You already talked a little bit about it but what were the biggest creative and technical challenges you faced during production?

Tight deliveries are always a challenge. We didn’t have much time to finalise the show. 

One of the most challenging aspects was not the creative or technical work, it was rather the amount of manpower required. (especially the tracking work). I have to say, our tracking team did a marvellous job in the limited timeframe they had. It was a challenge at first but the end result was seamless!

What did the collaboration across global sites look like at ReDefine? 

ReDefine was the primary vendor and the VFX were produced in both Mumbai and Montreal. I’m based in Vancouver so that makes it three locations really.

The overall collaboration across sites was fairly smooth. The great thing about having your team spread out across continents is the fact that the show is always in motion, literally 24/7 – even while you sleep. You go to bed, you wake up the next morning and you have all this new material to review. And then, while you’re awake, you can focus on the work happening in your time zone. It really gives us a great advantage and a lot of flexibility.

I think that’s one of the reasons why we were able to deliver the show within the limited time. 

What was your favourite shot to work on? And why?

One of my favourite shots was the splitting the head scene (please don’t judge me). You’ve never seen anything like that before and it was “fun” to work out what it could look like. It was interesting to figure out the required characteristics of the finger blade so it could physically do that.

The shot of Jake falling down the cliff (when his girlfriend pushes him off) was another fun one. We built that shot from literally nothing. We just had the guy acting, with a mild push obviously, and from there we built it into what it looks like today.

Is there any particular moment on the show that you remember as “special”?

Talking to the creative team, Bobby and Dan, on an ongoing basis was always good fun. They were very patient, they would not take no for an answer, they were so incredibly clear about what they wanted – it was an absolute pleasure working with these guys. 

What’s one message you’d like to share with your crew?

A big ‘Thank you’ for your perseverance and expertise (and for showing up for some late nights too)! 

And the last question for us today. What are you up to next?

I’m supervising a show for which I just returned from filming. It’s based on a book – a great story that needs to be told – and I can’t wait to see how it gets told. 

There is another alien project I’m currently supervising with the ReDefine team. It’s called ‘Landscape with Invisible Hand’. Again, it’s based on a book by the same name.

ReDefine is definitely a great place to be. I have enjoyed every single day here, the work is truly rewarding. The teams share a great bond and that’s what makes it a great place to work.

Shilpa Bhanushali Head of Production (Animation)

We have top-of-line professionals who are not only creative, but also fun to work with. It has created a lot of possibilities for reinventing workflows.

François Schneider Global Creative Supervisor, North America

The people who form ReDefine have come from varied experiences and all have the potential to develop and deliver world-class projects.

Viral Thakkar Creative Director and VFX Supervisor India

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