VFX Golden creates dystopian NYC for DMZ

(Rosario Dawson)

VFX Legion created a mix of digital effects for HBO Max’s dystopian miniseries, DMZ. Produced by Emmy winner/Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay, and Emmy nominee Roberto Patino, DMZ is based on the DC comic book series of the same name.

Set in the not-to-distant future during the Second Civil War, the drama unfolds in New York City, a demilitarized zone abandoned by the country and ravaged by violence. Alma Ortega, an NYC medic, becomes a symbol of hope in a demilitarized Manhattan Island while trying to find her son, who wandered off instead of sticking with her during their evacuation from Manhattan. Watch the trailer below:

DMZ - Official Trailer (2022) Rosario Dawson, Benjamin Bratt

Production on DMZ took place in 2020, with visual effect production beginning in 2021, after the onset pandemic. VFX Legion brought a long-established pipeline, procedures, and creative resources refined over the years, and nearly a decade of experience helming home-based teams to its work on the project.

The company was brought on board at the start of the second episode to craft some of the complex effects that help shape the show’s visual landscape in the final three episodes of the four-part limited series.  

The 59 final shots delivered by Legion seamlessly blend photorealist digital elements of a fictional post-apocalyptic New York with footage of the real world.

‘Zee’ (Rosario Dawson) and Parco (Benjamin Bratt) on streets augmented with CG Building and digital assets

Senior VFX Supervisor James David Hattin and VFX Producer Nate Smalley, the co-founders of  Legion, headed up the project. Drawing from a diverse international collective of home-based talent the company began building nearly a decade ago, they assembled a team of VFX supervisors, producers, compositors, CG artists, animators, tracking artists, matte painters, VFX coordinators, and QC managers, tailored to meet the needs of the series. Hattin provided artists with creative direction, supervising the project through every phase of the production ensuring that the effects aligned with creator and showrunner Robert Patino’s vision. 

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Atlanta Becomes New York

The city of Atlanta stands in for a war-ravaged Manhattan, with the help of visual effects. Legion’s team used a mix of effects to create environments echoing the look of iconic locations in New York City. For a pivotal scene that plays out in front of the State Capital Building, the team digitally defaced the facet of the existing structure, adding graffiti, boarded-up windows, and other CG assets.

The abandoned, deteriorated building provides the backdrop as two power-hungry warlords, Parco (Benjamin Bratt) and Wilson (Hoon Lee,) deliver rousing speeches to shore up votes as they vie for the post of governor. Alma ’Zee,’ (Rosario Dawson) shares her vision of the city’s future. 

Before/After: Contenders for the DMZ’s first election, Parco (Benjamin Bratt) and Wilson (Hoon Lee), speaking to crowd from steps of a digitally defaced Capital Building

Legion augmented footage of the Hudson River and the cityscape in the distance, replacing blue screen shot through a hole in a wall with a panoramic view of the river. Artists removed sections of the shoreline, boats, and other elements captured by the camera, and seamlessly blended stretches of CG buildings and landscaping to create the vista. 

Before/After: Blue screen filling a hole in the wall is replace with digitally altered footage creating a view of the Hudson River.

Military tanks filmed inside a parking garage appear posted at the perimeter of the DMZ and drive out of the city in the final scene of episode four. Interior elements were painted over and replaced with worn buildings, and graffiti-covered walls, transporting the vehicles to the exterior environment. A painted road and CG buildings are among the digital elements integrated with footage shot in an underground tunnel, adding a view of Manhattan to the scene.

Tapping the full potential of a collaborative approach to remote visual effects, the company delivered the high-quality, innovative, and efficiently produced effects that ‘DMZ’ demanded.

The range of tools used to craft the effects for ‘DMZ’ include The Foundry’s Nuke for compositing, Houdini SideFX, Autodesk’s Maya for animation, and proprietary technology integrated into Legion’s pipeline.
All four episodes of ‘DMZ’ are currently available for streaming on HBO Max.


Title: DMZ

Genre: Dystopia, Drama

Streaming: 4-Part Limited Series

Original Network: HBO Max


  • Rosario Dawson
  • Benjamin Bratt
  • Hoon Lee
  • Freddy Miyares
  • Jordan Preston Carter

Production Companies:

  • Warner Bros. Television
  • DC Entertainment
  • ARRAY Filmworks
  • Analog
  • Executive producers – Ava DuVernay, Roberto Patino, Paul Garnes, Ernest Dickerson
  • Co-executive Producer – Carly Way
  • Showrunner, Creator – Roberto Patino
  • Writers – Roberto Patino, Carly Wray (Ep3)
  • Producers -Tim Scanian, Paul Garnes, Dale Williams
  • Associate producers: Emanuel Fidalgo
  • Directors – Ava DuVernay Ernest Dickerson 


  • Visual Effects Supervisor – James David Hattin
  • Visual Effects Producer – Nate SmalleySenior
  • Visual Effects Coordinator – Matthew Noren
  • Visual Effects Coordinator – Patriz ManaloQC
  • Coordinator -Joseph Soloway
  • Digital Compositor – Nick Guth
  • Digital Compositor – Kim Hong Kyoung 
  • Digital Compositor – Mattias Lowry
  • Digital Compositor – Courtney Cheesman
  • Digital Compositor – Kate T.C. Lin
  • Digital Compositor – Eugen Olsen
  • Digital Compositor -Vicki Silva 
  • CG Artist – Bryan Shepperd
  • CG Artist- Shantel
  • ShortAnimator – Sebastian Weber
  • Digital Matte Painter – Dave Tipper
  • Digital Matte Painter -Dave Tipper
  • Tracking Artist – Ruy DelgadoTracking Artist – Lochana Deshpande
  • Tracking Artist – Mauricio Mansilla
  • Tracking Artist – Albrecht Steinmetz

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