Talent gets recognized no matter what industry you are in. In the realm of television, the artists behind the camera may not get the public acclaim that actors receive but their attention comes in the form of praise and work from their peers. Having witnessed the exceptional nature of Chun Yao Chang’s on previous collaborations, Alkemy X’s Adam Schwartz was instrumental in bringing him to this company where Mr. Chang contributed to productions including HBO’s I Know This Much is True (Primetime Emmy Award Winner), Hulu’s The Good Doctor (Golden Globe Nominated), NBC’s The Blacklist (Primetime Emmy Winner) Warner Bros.
Television’s Prodigal Son, and others. As a VFX team member at the Emmy nominated Alkemy X, Chun Yao has worked on a host of famed television shows but eagerly admits that working AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead was one of his favorite experiences so far. The Walking Dead has established a whole new world with legions of worldwide fans and Fear the Walking Dead has been embraced as a welcomed continuation of the storyline. The realistic horror nature of the zombie genre would be impossible to realize without VFX artistry to empower it.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 6 is the Winner of the Visual Effects Society(VES) Award in 2021 for the Outstanding Special (Practical) Effects in Photoreal or Animated Project. Chun Yao states, “The award truly belongs to the Frank Iudica, Scott Roark, and Daniel Yates, but it was my honor to have participated in this show and contribute my skills to this project, especially the shots with higher priority in the show.
It is always fun and challenging to work on higher budget shows with so many talented artists and skilled production professionals involved because I am able to experience and learn many new things that I couldn’t imagine before. I think the award received by Fear the Walking Dead was well deserved due to the great team at Alkemy X. The feedback from the viewing audience certainly indicates that they feel the same.”
The day-to-day of a VFX compositor like Chun Yao is to transform the conceptual into reality; for Fear the Walking Dead, this means making actors into very realistic zombies. The removal (digitally) of actor’s limbs and replacement of these, including re-establishing the background scenery around this, is an essential part of making the zombies believable. Other zombie traits such as their milky eyes and certain skin appearances also fall under Mr. Chang’s responsibilities. Lethal weapons like swords and axes are a constant in the storyline.
The soft and pliable prop weapons used by the actors during filming become the shimmering steel armaments seen on the show as the result of Chun Yao’s skillful alchemy. Sometimes his work is focused on the larger scale scenes, as when Chun Yao created an environment for the final episode of Season 6. For this climactic scene which takes place in the occurrence of a nuclear blast, Mr. Chang established a modern city scape that has experienced a malevolent blast and communicated the devastation it brought.
After researching the effects and possible results of an actual blast of this magnitude, Chun Yao utilized 2.5D software and collaborated with the CG team to manifest the blast and resulting devastation. The detonation with its ensuing heat wave reflected on the glass as Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) and Howard (Omid Abtahi) watch from inside a building at a high altitude, is a gut wrenching scene for these characters and for viewers.
The charred city left following the explosion, with destroyed bridges and decimated life forms, is all realized by this incredible VFX mastery. What transpires in mere seconds in this final episode of Season 6 takes a tremendous amount of hours and a lifetime of perfecting talent, all for the enjoyment of the viewing audience. How does Chun Yao Chang feel about his hard work passing before the eyes of others so quickly? He concedes, “In this business you have to accept that it is the emotional result you are invested in the most.
Creating small and large moments for Fear the Walking Dead is essential to telling the story the way it needs to be told to transport the audience to a place where this world truly exists. It’s very satisfying to see the fans are so invested in it. Personally, it’s an honor to be part of Alkemy X’s work for this series. I see the advertisements for the show everywhere and I’m continually reminded that my work is part of something that is huge.”
Writer: Luigi Paglia