stranger things garnered 13 Emmy nominations this season, including Outstanding Drama Series, thanks to the show’s unsung heroes — the departments below the line that worked tirelessly to create the show’s “surreal madness.” From “aging” Millie Bobbie Brown to building Vecna and her Inside Out lair, the collaboration of craft departments continues to take the series to new heights. Here, some of the Emmy-nominated craft department heads provide insight into the most important aspects of this season.
One of the toughest tasks this season was aging Eleven for the flashback scenes. “Prior to filming, we explored just about every option, including deepfake, full CG head replacement, smoothing, and warping,” says visual effects supervisor Michael Maher Jr. “Fortunately, our friends experienced staff from Lola Visual Effects agreed to take over the work and help us. . They staged a shoot with a unique, exclusive camera and lighting called an egg. Using a combination of 2D footage and projection, they were able to graft Millie’s performance onto a different body.
“The devil is in the details of skin prep,” says Amy Forsythe, the department’s lead makeup artist. “We played with the texture and quality of the skin for each location in the show. At Hawkins, skin reads like skin, acne pops, dull makeup applications look self-applied with the applicators that come with makeup. It shows how basic and humble a town like Hawkins is. In Lenora, California, the skin has a much more luxurious cinematic sheen to it, as if each character is their own 80s pop culture icon they’re current with, or staging, pastel and more pigmented makeup trends. In Upside Down, we needed to see the challenges these characters face, so we used a dewy/sweat glow on the skin to reflect the moody lighting flashing all around them. Every light that hits them in Upside Down causes a visible reaction on the skin that draws the viewer into what the character is going through.
“When you make a wig that short, they have to put it in one hair at a time and it has to go the right way,” says Sarah Hindsgaul, the department’s head hairstylist, “otherwise we can’t style it properly if it’s not put on properly because it’s so short. It took a lot of tweaking, just to make sure the hair growth in the wig was correct and matched Season 1. Millie’s desert cut wig had to go through sandstorms, which was very difficult as the sand stuck to the lace wig in the front. She also had to go in salt water tanks, which was very difficult to do because the wig was so fragile. The wig itself, when you hold it, is completely transparent, you can see through it. That’s how there is little hair on the wig.”
“The surreal madness of Vecna’s Mind Lair is a testament to how the art department can combine with special effects, camera and visual effects to seamlessly create a psychedelic horrifying space that is practical at its core but extends beautifully into an otherwise impossible distance. “explains production designer Chris Trujillo.
The Mind Lair included a “myriad of different types of visual effects”, explains Maher, “including CG vines on Max and Vecna, a complicated set extension with full CG floating objects, explosive debris, blood simulations Ground CG and portal smoke effect simulation.
Maher, who worked on the concept design for Vecna in 2019, worked closely with prosthetic designer Barrie Gower to become the villain of life. “Although Vecna was primarily a hands-on character makeup on set, it was decided early on that it would have digital elements – beautiful, undulating tendrils, which would have been nearly impossible to pull off the same way. “They moved so organically,” Gower says.
“Once everything was pretty much shot, VFX worked with our vendors to create the moving vines on her body and remove her missing nose and pupils,” Maher explains. “We were very careful to retain so many of Jamie [Campbell Bower]’s as possible when increasing vines. Several times we slowed down the creep speed of the vines to preserve what was happening in the shot.