[WATCH] ‘Black Sails’ VFX Supervisor Erik Henry: ‘Success comes from relying heavily on things that are real’

“I think television in general right now is just going through an amazing sort of heyday,” declares “Black Sails” VFX Supervisor Erik Henry during our recent webcam chat (watch above). As he explains, “the quality of effects work in at least cable or pay television certainly rivals film.” Henry scored an Emmy nomination for his work on season three of the Starz series, which imagines the exploits of Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and Long John Silver (Luke Arnold) 20 years before the events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic pirate yarn “Treasure Island.”

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After winning Emmys for the show’s first season and for “John Adams” (2008), you’d think Henry and his team would be up for anything. Yet when showrunner Jonathan E. Steinberg approached him with an episode in which a monster storm threatens to capsize Flint’s ship, he admits, “that’s a tall order.” Why? “We knew that it was going to be scrutinized in a way that, not only the casual viewer, but people in the visual effects industry would look at and really critique severely.”

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Yet this veteran of such films as “The Abyss” (1989), “Total Recall” (1990), and “Batman Returns” (1992) didn’t give up so easily. “In taking that on,” he reveals, “we want to make sure that we have the most success, and the most success, in my opinion, comes from relying heavily on things that are real.” This meant using the full-scale ship built for the show, which gives the actors “a stage they can act on that’s real.” The special effects team then used on-set movie magic to create “a starting point that we then used in visual effects to add the water and the storm,” as well as, “the few shots where you have to step outside of that acting area and see the ships tossed amongst the waves.”

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Check out our full interview to find out more about Henry’s work, including an inside look at how visual effects have evolved over the years.

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