You can’t help thinking that these off-the-peg FX are actually beginning to inform the script. I do wonder if the original script for Once Upon A Time episode actually specified “a huge column of black smoke”? Or did it actually say something like, “A hurricane spitting lightning bolts” until an FX bod said, “We can do it a lot cheaper using BlackSmokeGenerator 2.0”? Or do the producers go through a shopping list of what’s available and encourage the writers to stick to things on the list?
That last sentence sounds exactly like what we used to do back in the Jump Cut City days! “Hey, we figured out how to do this! Now how can we use it?” And you know it’s happened in American TV before: that whole Voyager episode where Janeway’s going all Ripley on the floaty stinging macro-virus critters? That came about because Paramount had finally jumped wholeheartedly into doing CGI on Star Trek.
I’m sure the UK FX teams are using just as much off-the-peg software as their American counterparts – economics of TV production anywhere on the planet makes bespoke CG an unaffordable luxury. Maybe somehow, they just seem to be able to customise with a bit more ingenuity. Maybe all those years of having to battle with bargain basement budgets have bred a little more creativity this side of the Atlantic.
Does the writer have a point? Are the UK shows actually looking better now? (With a year or more to produce only 6 to 13 episodes, how could they not look better?)