CGI isn’t always the answer

Working together with Asylum SFX, Lexhag developed a computer controlled pneumatic suit for the Netflix show The Innocents. Universally made to fit all the different actors’ shapes and sizes, the under jacket contained all the major muscle groups, which could be individually inflated and deflated to give the illusion that the actor’s body was going through a dramatic shift and change.

During early very tests for the show, we experimented with different forms of cloth manipulation, using some physical techniques and some digital methods. The main effect for the show was the shifting transformation between one person and another. Facial features and other “skin canvas” would be performed using digital projection and scanning techniques.

When it came to the body transformations it was quickly decided that creating a method that could be used on the day would be preferable for several reasons. Creating it digitally would have put a big pressure on the post pipeline. Solving faces and hair were challenging enough, so throwing in the cloth would have been very demanding, especially if it was to feel real. If it was to be achieved digitally then the cast might as well performed in green morph suits. Not fun and bad for performance.

Creating an in-camera solution provided a huge opportunity for the actors to perform while the suit was remote controlled creating a choreographed performance, which would mean we’d get lots of material for free, on the day.

The rig consisted of under jacket that was strapped to the actor’s body.  It was designed to be re-usable across different actors. All of the major muscle groups were created as small inflatable bags. Input and output airlines fed the muscles allowing air to blow up the muscle and equally collapse it under the control of a button or a computer controlled sequence, run by Asylum’s Redbeard system. Combined with a carefully choreographed performance by the artist wearing the gag it created a very real sense that the muscles and bones were reforming under the surface, making their way into a new form.

What the video below for the first workshop test for the suit.