Two New TV Shows Feature Technology Prominently

Here in the U.S., the new fall TV season is upon us. Amidst the round-up of comedies, procedurals, and retro dramas, two new series feature technology on both sides of the camera.

Person of Interest, a surveillance state drama premiering Sept. 22 on CBS, mines the pros and cons of technology-enabled privacy invasion. In it, a software genius (Michael Emerson) creates pattern recognition software that identifies potential violent crimes, and hires a former CIA agent (Jim Caviezel) to stop it.

Creator Jonathan Nolan took the notion of existing monitoring capabilities, such as Gmail checking email messages for marketing targets, cameras posted around cities like Manhattan and London, and attempts by governments to mine private information for security purposes, and applied more sinister motives.

The show uses a variety of cameras and video techniques to produce a wide range of looks and resolutions – including actual surveillance footage from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

Terra Nova, a Steven Spielberg time-travel adventure premiering Sept. 26 on Fox, is the first to produce high-quality CGI (in this case, of dinosaurs) on a TV show's schedule—six weeks of post-production compared to film’s three to six-month period. In it, Avatar’s Stephen Lang leads a colony of settlers from a depleted Earth in 2149 back 85 million years for a civilization do-over.

“The biggest thing in animation is giving characters a sense of weight,” says visual effects supervisor Kevin Blank. His team harnessed a human walking gait via motion-capture and melded it to digital dinosaur models, then added key frame animation to upper torsos and tails.

Blank saved time by running various animation processes concurrently, rather than in a more typical linear pipeline. His team also used more cost-effective software—animating in Maya, rendering in LightWave 3D, compositing in After Effects and Nuke, and creating landscapes with Terragen 2.

When it comes to visual effects, “TV is a more generalist medium, while features are more departmentalized,” says Blank. “TV is a more exciting place to be figuring out how to do something, rather than going through 100 versions of an effect, making sure everyone’s happy.“

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