VFX Legion uses Unreal Engine to create real environments for Quantum Leap

(Pictured: (l-r) Caitlin Bassett as Addison, Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

The international team at VFX Legion, the LA and B.C.-based global visual effects company, recently delivered two dozen key shots for the first episode of NBC’s new series, Quantum Leap, creator Donald P. Bellisario’s revival of the ’90s sci-fi cult classic.  

The show picks up 30 years after time-traveler Dr. Beckett (Scott Bakula) stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and disappeared as a new team restarts the project. The story follows lead physicist Dr. Ben Song (played by Kevin Can F*ck Himself’s Raymond Lee) on an unsanctioned leap through time and space to a succession of locations – navigating new challenges while trying to find his way back to the present.

Legion, an end-to-end visual effects studio specializing in crafting meticulously detailed photo-real virtual locations, was brought on board to create complex digital environments integrating 2D and 3D assets across several episodes. 

The ability to efficiently produce large volumes of high-quality digital assets that align seamlessly with the look and texture of practical footage was key to the production.  Co-founders VFX supervisor James David Hattin and VFX producer Nate Smalley led the effort, assembling a team drawn from Legion’s local and international collective of artists. Working as an integrated unit, Smalley and Hattin provided creative direction, guiding artists through every phase of the production process.

The initial CG work for the first episode, July 13th, 1985,’ called for sets built on a backlot at Universal Studios to be digitally extended, creating expansive cityscapes replicating bustling downtown Philadelphia – circa 1985. Watch the breakdown below:

To achieve the final shots large green screens strategically positioned at the end of short stretches of fabricated streets were replaced with renderings of historically accurate buildings and signage. Animated pedestrians and vehicles move in sync with the pace of the city.


“The pilot was scheduled to premiere September 19th, giving us a three-week deadline – more than enough time for our team to deliver the scope and caliber of shots the show demanded,” says Hattin. “However, that window was cut down to one week when a promo incorporating several of Legion’s visual effects was slated to air during the NFL pre-season games.”

Hattin adds, “Our team met the even more challenging accelerated deadline with ease, thanks to the flexibility and real-time connectivity of Legion’s cutting-edge remote pipeline – and the caliber and scale of our tightly integrated collective of extraordinary senior talent.”

“The advantage of real-time remote production remains essential to VFX Legion’s ability to provide films and episodic series with a resource that clients can rely on to meet their visual effect needs,” notes Smalley.

“Leveraging exceptional talent, strategic workflow, and tools that accelerate the production cycle enabled Legion to meet the show’s tight deadline while leaving more time to focus on elevating shots beyond the client’s asks.”Legion, a global company with studios in Los Angeles and British Columbia, assembled a custom-tailored team drawing upon the meticulously vetted international pool of talent the pioneering remote visual effects studio began building in 2013 before opening its doors. Hattin immediately reached out to Eugen Olsen, an experienced lead compositor based in Johannesburg, South Africa working with a small team under his banner, Alpha VFX. 

The artist used Unreal Engine as his primary tool for ‘the job. Integrated into Legion’s pipeline, Unreal enabled shots to be rendered in real-time – optimizing efficiency and making it easy to adjust workflow and enhance shots further down the pipeline. 

Olsen has been a member of Legion’s core remote team for nearly five years. He has collaborated with Legion’s supervisors, producers, and artists on visual effects for dozens of films and television episodic shows over the years – from Scandal (2015-2018) to recently released films, including Ambulance (2022), DMZ (2022), and The Black Phone (2021).

Eugen is a top-tier compositor committed to finding innovative solutions that maximize the potential of technology and elevate visual effects,” says Hattin. “He embraced Unreal Engine early on, tapping the efficiency and power of the real-time 3D tool to accelerate the remote production of photoreal visual effects. Eugen’s skill as an artist coupled with a forward-thinking approach to remote visual effects production makes him a great fit with Legion and our company’s ethos – as well as an invaluable to this project.”

VFX Legion is currently working on effects for upcoming episodes of ‘Quantum Leap,’ The first season of the series is currently airing on NBC Television Network and available for viewing on Peacock Streaming Platform. 

CREDITSTitle: ‘Quantum Leap’ (2022) Episode 101, Title: ‘July 13th, 1985’Category: TV Series /Drama/Sci-FiPremiere: September 19, 2022, NBC TV Network – September 20th Peacock Streaming Platform
Production Companies:

  • Belisarius Productions
  • Quinn’s House
  • Universal Television
  • Universal Content Production (UCP)
  • Dean Georgaris Entertainment 2.0

Distributor: National Broadcasting Company (NBC) USA

Created by:

Donald P. Bellisario 

Written by:

  • Donald P. Belisario
  • Steven Lilien
  • Bryan Wynbrandt

Directed by:

Thor Freudenthal 

Director of Photography:

Ana M. Amortegui


Benjamín J. Bumgarner

Visual Effects: VFX Legion 

James David Hattin – visual effects supervisor

Nate Smalley – visual effects producer

Blake Anderson – CG supervisor –

Matthew Noren – senior visual effects coordinator

Joseph Soloway – visual effects QC coordinator

Nolan Conrad – digital compositors

Nick Guth – digital compositor

Eugen Olsen – senior digital compositor

Ruy Delgado tracking artist

Dylan Yastremski – chief technology officer 

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