A scary CG demon face was just one of the visual effects we created for ITV’s Too Close. Snowed-In Productions commissioned us for their new three-part psychological thriller, which aired in April 2021. Lexhag VFX Supervisor Jonathan Hancock and the team worked as lead VFX vendor on the show delivering pre-vis, on-set supervision, complex particle simulations and creature sequences to portray disturbing psychoses in the story.

It’s a story of Connie (Denise Gough), a young mother struggling with psychosis and her relationship with Dr Robertson (Emily Watson), a psychotherapist in crisis, tasked with assessing the high-profile client dubbed ‘The Yummy Mummy Monster’. The scope of work, among other things, was to bring these delusional episodes to life in a way that felt realistic but also disturbing enough to pack a visual and emotive response to aid the narrative.

One major set-piece Lexhag VFX was tasked with creating was a ‘Demon Tarpaulin’ sequence – whereby Connie watches a tarpaulin draped over a level crossing light turn into a demonic face.

Read the full overview of our work on the show, here.

On the shoot day, the practical tarpaulin was manipulated using a combination of fishing wire and a wind machine to ‘guide’ the tarpaulin into the rough conformation the director wanted. It was then down to Lexhag to embellish and enhance this original shot to produce the final scary CG demon face effect seen in the episode.

Tarpaulin draped over the level-crossing lights manipulated using a combination of fishing wire and a wind machine to ‘guide’ the tarpaulin into the rough conformation the director wanted for ITV's Too Close.

Given the abstract nature of the shot, we first generated a range of concept frames to hone down what the creative would be before moving onto the production process proper. This stage went through a number of quick, freeform iterations.

Pre-vis of the demon face seen on the tarpaulin at the level crossing by the lead character in ITV's Too Close.

A big request from the production was that the eyes should feel demonic. To convey this demonic feel we generated a CG flame effect, almost like the hatch opening of a furnace. This was then positioned onto the level crossing lights made to look like fire was shooting out from the core of the demonic tarp face. 

See the VFX breakdowns from the show, here.

For the mouth and the cheekbones, we opted for a more subtle approach. The rain on the side window of the car was generated purely in CG using fluid simulation. As such we were able to manipulate the windscreen drips to form paths that roughly outlined cheekbones and also a mouth. These were also graded slightly in comp to accentuate their shapes and make them readable without overpowering the effect. The brief of the director was to make the images disturbing but base them in reality as what Connie is viewing is real but what she is perceiving is not.

The flapping of the tarpaulin was mostly all captured in camera and a decision was taken to keep it this way as it added to the reality of the effect and was also quite disturbing by itself. We did however use motion warping and retime techniques to retime certain elements of it together in a way that made it wrap around the entire light fixture and make the overall silhouette more menacing.

The final element added to fully integrate the sequence into the scene as a whole was falling rain. Like the window drips, these were produced entirely in CG by generating them as a particle effect which was overlaid over the whole shot with certain grade windows added to the comp to highlight the rain as it went over light parts of the frame like the eyes.

Learn about how we created CG bugs for the show, here.

Final VFX comp of the scary demon tarpaulin face from ITV's Too Close.