Disfiguring The Man in Black for HBO’s Westworld

If you watch HBO’s Westworld, you are familiar with the once-good guy turned bad guy The Man in Black. He is ruthless and easy to hate, so when Karma caught up to him audiences were not too upset about it.

Westworld doesn’t shy away from violence. In fact, it has a major role in the series. A recent example of an invisible effect displaying mutilation came during the show’s recent Season Two finale. CVD VFX, a boutique visual effects house based in Vancouver, was called on to create the intricate and gruesome result of what The Man in Black’s hand looked like after being blown to pieces.

During the long-awaited face-off between The Man in Black (Ed Harris) and Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), we see their long-simmering conflict culminate with his pistol pressed against her forehead, cocked and ready to fire. But when he pulls the trigger, the gun backfires and explodes in his hand, sending fingers flying into the sand and leaving horrifyingly bloody stumps.

CVD VFX’s team augmented the on-set footage to bring the moment to life in excruciating detail. Harris’ fingers were wrapped in blue in the original shot, and CVD VFX went to work removing his digits and replacing them with animated stubs, complete with the visceral details of protruding bone and glistening blood. The team used special effects makeup for reference on both blood and lighting, and were able to seamlessly incorporate the practical and digital elements.

The result was impressive, especially considering the short turnaround time that CVD had to create the effect.

“We were brought on a little late in the game as we had a couple weeks to turn it around,” explains Chris van Dyck, founder of CVD VFX, who worked with the show’s VFX supervisor, Jay Worth. “Our first task was to provide reference/style frames of what we’d be proposing. It was great to have relatively free reign to propose how the fingers were blown off. Ultimately, we had great direction and once we put the shots together, everyone was happy pretty quickly.”

CVD used Foundry’s Nuke and Autodesk’s Maya to create the effect.

CVD VFX’s work on Westworld wasn’t the first time they worked with Worth. They previously worked together on Syfy’s The Magicians and Fox’s Wayward Pines.


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