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The VFX Academy Autumn programme

The VFX Academy Autumn programme

This Autumn our VFX academy programme gave thirty young people (aged 16-19) the opportunity to learn industry skills in both Practical SFX and Post Production VFX through recreating an iconic scene from Breaking Bad.

The death of Gus Fring is one of the most gripping moments in the entire Breaking Bad series featuring a dramatic explosion that leaves the serene villain with one side of his face missing.

To meet the many technical challenges involved in recreating this scene, Nerve Centre recruited industry experts, Niall Carlin of Doublejump Studios, a Derry resident with a wealth of VFX industry experience, Christian Kotey, a respected Storyboard Artist and practical SFX Make up Artist who has worked on 'The Walking Dead', and Props Master Denzil Browne.

The VFX academy programme took place in Belfast over six consecutive Saturdays from 15 October, with ten learning to apply practical SFX make up with tutor Christian Kotey. This involved designing and making moulds to create practical gelatin based prosthetics to emulate scar tissue.

Twenty academy students specialised in Post Production VFX learning to use the industry standard software, After Effects to compile their own VFX edit of the footage.

Preparation for the day of the shoot involved the creation of a detailed storyboard by Christian Kotey which allowed the academy students to see how each shot would be visually realised.

Storyboards by Christian Kotey


The students were separated into various teams to act in defined roles on the shoot day with teams responsible for assisting Filming, Lighting, Sound, Set Dressing, Costume, Green Screening and Behind the Scenes footage capture.

VFX students in action with Adobe After Effects

Niall Carlin as the VFX Mentor was given Directorial duties for the shoot, allowing the young people to obtain real time experience of how to film for VFX using professional equipment.

The shooting of the scene took place on 29 October at a location in Belfast City Centre maintained by Flax Arts who kindly opened their doors to welcome our film crew. Two transit vans full of props and equipment were conveyed to our third floor set. A packed 9 hour shoot ensued with all of the young people engaged in both SFX and VFX on set assisting with all aspects of the day’s tasks. Two of the group even tried their hand at acting - playing characters caught up in the explosion.

The set was dressed by our Props Master, Denzil Browne with assistance from the team of student. After the initial shots were captured the students added some additional realism to the post explosion scenes by distressing the props and costumes.

Some green screen elements were recorded on set to add some practical explosion debris footage into the catalogue of VFX elements at hand for the subsequent VFX augmentation of the footage.

Creating VFX elements with a green screen

After a further three full day sessions of Post-Production VFX, the students were ready to unveil their Breaking Belfast scene.

The VFX academy is one of several Screen Academies funded by the Department of Communities through Northern Ireland Screen. If you would like the opportunity to learn VFX or SFX make-up skills, the Nerve Centre will be running new programmes in February and March in both Belfast and Derry.