A glimpse of the new worlds of Caprica

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

Upcoming episodes of Syfy's original series Caprica will finally take the plot to other colonies, such as Gemenon, and visual-effects supervisor Gary Hutzel is designing those colonies to look like real locations, even though they are computer-generated sets.

Hutzel previewed the upcoming episodes in the press room at the Visual Effects Society Awards, where he won for the model work on Battlestar Galactica.

"When we first see Gemenon and we're within a cathedral, we want that to feel very natural to the audience," Hutzel said in an exclusive interview last weekend in Century City, Calif. "That cathedral will probably draw very little attention aside from the fact that it'll look like a terrific location. Other than that, I don't think people will say, 'I've been transported away out of the show.' I think instead they'll say, 'This is a dark place,' which is correct for the tone of the scene. This is a dark place where bad things could happen."

The point is to make the audience believe that this is the real world we arrive at just before our demise and not some robot fantasy. "My goal always is to make my storytelling, the visual-effects storytelling, a part of the natural flow of the story," Hutzel said. "I never want to do anything that is jarring or will take the audience out of the show. I never want the audience to stop and say, 'We've gone to a fantasy world.' Caprica, like Battlestar, is not a fantasy world. It's a real place. What I need to do is always maintain that framework so we never break that window for the audience. They never feel like they're in a fantasy show."

Hutzel saves the more "sci-fi"-looking effects for the show's virtual world. The V-world will also intensify as the season progresses. "The VR environments, which represent the environments that some of the characters go into using a headset that allows them to go into a virtual-reality environment, yes, those are heightened environments," Hutzel said. "Now there are elements that are real to people, buildings and designs that people recognize and are familiar with, but we heighten the look of them so that they know immediately they are in a different world."

In both areas, the visual-effects work of Caprica has intensified since the initial concept of the show. By the end of the season, Hutzel and his team will have actively created worlds both real and virtual.

"Caprica's been an interesting production in that we started out originally with a very reduced visual-effects [plan] for the show, really just telling the story about Zoe within the robot," he said. "Since then, as we've moved ahead, we began to work later and later in the season; we got to midseason and realized that visual effects could be helping to expand the breadth of the story. The writers and production eventually got on board with that, and we began to expand what we're doing on the show. So we went from simply doing robots and matte paintings of the exteriors of Caprica and really started doing quite a bit more storytelling with full virtual environments, full VR backdrops and full photorealistic backdrops for locations in order to allow Caprica to broaden the kind of scenes in the show."

Caprica airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.

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