Hollywood is still the place where dreams meet reality; a surreal combination of imagination and hard work. There are no guarantees that either of these will achieve success for a person or a production but they are components which are most certainly a necessity. It’s a rule as true for those outside the public view as for those whom are household names. Nuke compositor Ying Lin may be famed only among her fellow collaborators in Los Angeles but she’s worked on television programs of major international acclaim, Ted Lasso and Grey’s Anatomy to name only two. The latter of these holds special significance for Ms. Lin as it completes a circle for her. She recalls, “A long time ago when I was back home in China, my English teacher in high school played some episodes of Grey’s Anatomy for us. I really liked it back then and never would have expected that all these years later, when I began working at Barnstorm in LA, Grey’s Anatomy would be my first project at the company. It’s amazing for a show to air nearly two decades and I’m proud that season eighteen is my second season working on this show.” It’s not lost on Ying that Grey’s Anatomy has received the highest recognitions the industry has to offer including multiple Primetime Emmy Awards, Golden Globes Awards, People’s Choice Awards, and more. Her contributions to the believability of the show are vital and as someone who has been a fan of it, Ying is happy to give other fans some insight on how things worked behind-the-scenes of this latest season.
Although it may not surprise you to know that Grey’s Anatomy is filmed on a Hollywood soundstage to control the audio and video, it seems completely implausible when watching any episode. The major benefit of a green screen for a television production is that it exponentially increases the surroundings available but it also requires immensely skilled artists to “blend” these aspects into a scene. Sometimes this demands the fantastic but quite often it’s a matter of correcting small issues. For Ying, this includes establishing a believable outdoor scene from the window of a conference room at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital (the setting of Grey’s Anatomy) or even creating the outside world in a “set extension.” She imparts, “I’ve done a lot of breezeway extensions for this season. The breezeway extension requires a measurement of how far the cam is from the gate pillar. We have the whole scene set up and everything is camera projected in nuke. There are two 3D gate pillars in this nuke file which help me to align things. After I receive the cam date from our Sup, I open the set up file to enter the cam data and keeps adjusting the perspective until it aligns up with 3D pillar. Nighttime scenes with an ambulance can be tricky because of the flashing lights. The ambulance light is flashing and changing color from red to blue, blue to red every second in the background and affecting everything. It’s very tricky to key the green screen in this odd lighting, so I use four different IBK keys and despill madness. I add keyframes to the switch node every frame and go back and forth to make sure the key works. I also need to do some paint-out on the wall, which is not always easy to do. There was a scene like this where I also added a car driving away in the back just to make the shot more interesting.” Two things are obvious from this description; what the viewer experiences as reality is the outcome of immensely talented and detail oriented professionals, and Ying takes great pride in what she contributes to the show even though it’s not often a spectacle oriented scene. She concedes, “The deadlines are tight and the turnover is quick for Grey’s Anatomy but that’s also part of what makes it such an exciting situation for me. The filming and VFX really works back to back in this show. The good thing is, if we need any reference photo, our on-set Supervisor Tim Carras is always there and can have a reference photo ready very soon. It’s a bit intense because everything happens so fast and there are so many different types of VFX shots. There are a lot of shots to finish each day. You learn tricks and hacks to enable you to work quickly and that pays off down the road when working on other productions. Grey’s Anatomy was my first TV series as a nuke compositor; I’m so happy about that and happy to be still working on it.”
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