Drama and action ignite with the help of explosive visual effects work in the new CBS series Fire Country. The producers relied on the experts at CBS VFX to fuel digital infernos and spectacular firestorms for the primetime hit from Jerry Bruckheimer Productions and CBS Studios.
Led by visual effects supervisor Colin Strause — whose career includes such big-screen blockbusters as Rampage, San Andreas and The Avengers — CBS VFX brought together a crew of more than 100 people to deliver as many as 135 effects shots in every episode of the series.
Fire Country follows Bode Donovan (Max Thieriot), a young convict who is given a chance at a redemption by joining a prison-release program in Northern California in which prisoners fight fires alongside elite fire crews. Visually, the show’s combustions range from small brush fires to wilderness infernos.
To make fire into a palpable antagonist in the series, and to showcase the many different and terrifying forms that fire can take, the work from CBS VFX incorporates multiple elements, sometimes including actual pyrotechnics that were filmed on set in highly controlled circumstances. Although the series is set in Northern California, it’s shot in British Columbia, where extremely dry conditions mostly prevent the large-scale use of physical fire.
Shots of real fire are combined with an enormous library of flames that has been amassed and catalogued by the CBS VFX team. “Each kind of fire, whether it’s a little brush fire or a huge forest fire, has its own library of footage,” Strause explains. Elements from those shots are extracted and further combined with computer-generated fire — the creation of which is itself a tremendous challenge, he says.
“Fire is notoriously tricky to create on screen, but there have been huge advances in the simulation software for making fire, including the Houdini software from SideFX and the newest graphic cards and processing systems,” says Strause. “Only a few years ago, what we’re doing would have taken days or even weeks, but now we’re able to do massive shots in a couple of hours — sometimes even overnight.”
As well as Fire Country (which airs Fridays at 9/8C on CBS), recent projects for CBS VFX have included the acclaimed series One Perfect Shot for HBO Max and ARRAY Filmworks; an innovative virtual-production solution to COVID-related challenges for The Drew Barrymore Show; and special productions for the 2021 MTV Movie Awards and NCAA Final Four.
CBS VFX has developed groundbreaking technology and created visual effects for multiple series across many networks, including Apple TV’s Roar, The Offer for Paramount+, This Is Us on NBC, Netflix’s Dead to Me and Big Shot on Disney+. The studio maintains a dedicated virtual production soundstage, and its team is available to television production professionals for live demonstrations of virtual production, digital set extension and real-time pre-viz technologies.