The Materialization of Visions with Chun Yao Chang

 The productions which utilize the artistry and talent of Chun Yao Chang are known for their edgy reality with dramatic moments. Primetime Emmy Winning TV Series including HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant and NBC’s The Blacklist as well as Amazon Prime’s Heralded The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (awarded twenty Primetime Emmys) and multiple series on STARZ have leveraged Chun Yao’s CG artistry and skill as a VFX compositor to manifest the heightened tension that infuses authenticity into moments of sex, violence, and even comedy. Known for materializing visions only dreamed of, Chun Yao’s contributions can change day into night or provide safety and modesty to the actors while raising the action on screen to a fever pitch. Working with Alkemy X, this remarkable artist has become a key part of many of the most popular and critically lauded series of recent years. 


Chun Yao concedes that his work is not always focused on creating the visually exciting; in fact, sometimes it’s centered on avoiding attention. Fans of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel would be hard pressed to find VFX work in the show, that’s because the role of Mr. Chang on this production is to remove facets that enable the production during filming but need to be omitted later. The most obvious of these are elements are tape marks which the actors use as guides during filming but would be off-putting if visible in the final version. Contrasting this approach of creating the mundane is the work Chun Yao performs regularly for shows in the Power world on Starz. The overwhelming success of Executive Producer 50 Cent’s Power for the Starz network led to multiple programs based on the characters of this seminal production. The dramatic elements of the show are infused with money, crime, sex, and love just as they were in the days of Shakespeare. While the storylines follow the template of great dramatic tales, the visuals are as cutting-edge as possible. Chun Yao’s introduction to the Power universe was on Power Book III: Raising Kanan, a 1990’s setting which depicts the early days of 50 Cent’s Kanan Stark character from the original Power series. The work for a VFX artist like Mr. Chang on this series was eclectic to say the least and was always essential. Removing modesty coverings in sex scenes and digitally replacing these with skin tone matches ensured the comfortability of the actors as well as the production’s MPA film rating approval. Many moments that the audience takes for granted are the result of VFX teamwork and refined skill. Chun Yao describes, “VFX supervisor Bilali Mack was on set for filming to make sure everything was settled in the right way, which is very beneficial process for us before the shots were sent to studio to composite. Scenes involving gunfire involve many components. For example, there was a gunshot night scene which required me to composite several digital muzzle flash when Worrell was shooting at Marvin’s vehicle on the road and create corresponding sparkles and bullet hits on the car and windshield. The challenge part was to rebuild the environment brightness that increased with the muzzle flashes. I needed to observe and locate all the area that would be light up and draw separated maps for each muzzle flash to rebuild the convincing surrounding lighting. For the hits on the car, the sparkles must be right on the designated impacted area and come with the digital bullet holes that fits the right perspective and movement of the car. Muzzle flash is a good method to exaggerate the visual effects and avoid any danger when shooting with the real bullets gun on set.” The tension and violence that drives scenes like this come as a result of this VFX work from the talented artists who painstakingly assemble authenticity rooted in digital prestidigitation.

Chun Yao is pleased about Alkemy X’s work on the upcoming season two of Power Book II: Ghost. Season one of the series earned Image Awards for cast members Method Man and Mary J. Blige, confirming the recognition of this production. While the demands of the storyline involve the usual gun play and blood splatter, Chun Yao notes that there are always new and welcome challenges for him. Though unable to reveal storylines about this soon to be released series, Mr. Chang communicates, “The new challenge I have in this show is to do the translight compositing, which means I need to take the city scene that is shot in the early night with the brighter sky, and make it a dark night scene with the busy building lights, neon, and bokehs. The camera shot from indoors with characters acting in the foreground and it was the dark city outside of the wide angle windows in the background. It is not an easy task because it takes imagination to turn on those building lights that were not previous in existence. The team and I did several versions for the shot sequence, including change the sky gamma, tp create the digital building lights that vary in their brightness and color temperature. The final version contains some lights flickering in order to make it look more dynamic and alive.” Season two of Power Book II: Ghost premieres Sunday, November 21 on Starz.

Writer: Coleman Haan

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