A Breakdown of VFX on 'Mindhunter' TV Series

"Mindhunter" is one of the recent Netflix releases that has me hooked. It has psychology, mystery, analysis, and how the FBI and police went about training for the serial killers who didn't have a motive. It's based on true events, and because the series is set in in 1977, which has different cars and fewer people and buildings than we have now. In this video, you'll be able to see how these shots were altered in postproduction to give the story the 1977 setting. Buildings and trees are added, marks on roads replaced and colors changed to give the series its moody, raw film look.

Removal of items that distract the eye is doable in photography. It's a single frame and as professionals, we've all had to do it. But I didn't know that these edits were possible to this degree with video. I presume most of it's done in After Effects, with trackers set up. There is also a serious use of green screen keying when the actors have edited parts of the footage behind them when they are moving from one side of the shot to the other. 

It's impressive. This must've taken time and quite a team to accomplish, and if you take any single frame, the postproduction has been done extremely well. If you're done with "Stranger Things" and want something great to watch, this is it. 

Log in or register to post comments

12 Comments

dimasa sparrow's picture

I wish I could edit like that, I would have made a film out of nowhere

Fantastically good looking show. The period mustaches deserve special praise. Also Anna Torv.

Peter Mabli's picture

It'd be great if they CG'd 70s mustaches on everyone for the show.

I also do VFX for film. Actually the difficulties are not the same as in photography. Usually, you can get away with much sloppier masking than for photography because of motion or short shots duration. On the other hand, it is way more time consuming because also of motion and the number of shots. Moreover you absolutely need a very big stock library (or search and buy a lot on stock websites) to do this.

It's always great to see that in real productions (i.e. not the indie shorts), there is actually a budget for "mood" VFX: yellow trees to create autumn, fake snow for winter, bigger prisons, remove ugly signs, adding an abandoned building, ...

But what I don't understand though (and the video above is a good example of that) is the countless "fixes" that are absolutely non-essential to the story AND the mood (the sidewalk, more scrap metal in the garbage dump, ...). Those seem just like a director's caprice and a waste of money and time.

Great work though.

Fernando Gregory's picture

I don't think the sidewalk is a waste of money or a caprice. I think they are trying to be as historically accurate as possible and my guess is that in the 70's they didn't have wheelchair access on the sidewalks like that, so they covered them up.

That is correct. Wheelchair access was essentially nonexistent in America in the 70s. Unfortunately I'm old enough to remember that. Great decade though. My favorite. Times were so much simpler.

Sad to see they used CGI for the old TVs. I have to wonder if it would have been quicker and cheaper to buy such TVs on eBay. The pictures also weren't that flat and they wouldn't have been essentially the same for each TV. Another disappointing effect is the yellow tint added to some daylight scenes. Makes no sense.

Other than that they did a really good job to get things accurate.

Historically correct on such details is not really essential IMO. I mean, if I had a given amount of money to use, instead of doing that kind of VFX that nobody will notice (except maybe very few), I would give a bonus to the crew or for another piece of set that has a bigger production value.

As I said, simply buying some old TVs from the period might have been cheaper. I would avoid CGI wherever possible for authenticity and cost savings.

I would also bet it's essential for people watching it that actually lived through that period. I'm all for either do it right or don't do it at all in such a case.

As for giving bonuses to the production crew, take it out of the ridiculous salaries actors get and/or don't hire actors and actresses commanding large salaries. That crap is way out of control and consumes a huge percentage of movie and TV show budgets.

As for giving bonuses to the production crew, take it out of the ridiculous salaries actors get and/or don't hire actors and actresses commanding large salaries. That crap is way out of control and consumes a huge percentage of movie and TV show budgets. >> Yeah true, that's the big slice of the pie.

Igor Butskhrikidze's picture

i am concerned about that location scouts will be disappear soon +)

Big productions don't often work with After Effects. All of this was most surely done in Nuke.

Yeah, only little productions such as Star Wars hire guys like Andrew Kramer to work with them on AE.