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Artist Profile

Emmys 2023: The VFX Editing of Andor

6 minute read

First-time nominee Liyana Mansor breaks down the vital role VFX Editors play and how she used Continuum and Sapphire in her workflow.

Our introduction to Liyana Mansor was a happy accident. We had initially reached out to Editor Cheryl Potter on Twitter (now X). She, in turn, kindly referred us to her colleague, whom she described as a "VFX Editor extraordinaire" and Boris FX user. You can find out how Liyana got her start (and more) in our Ask the Artist from October 2021.

Flash forward a little over two years, and she's nominated for her first-ever Emmy — Outstanding Special Visual Effects in A Season Or A Movie — as the Lead VFX Editor on Andor (Disney+)!

We recently caught up with her to learn more about what it was like to work on the lauded Star Wars series and discover which Continuum and Sapphire effects she relied on to handle temp VFX compositing.

Congrats on your Emmy nomination! How does it feel to be nominated? 

It's an absolute thrill to be nominated for my first Emmy as the Lead VFX Editor on Andor. It's truly a testament to the dedication and collaboration of the entire team. Working on this project has been an incredible journey, and to be included as a nominee and to receive recognition from the industry in this way is both humbling and incredibly exciting. I'm immensely grateful for this opportunity and proud of what we've achieved together.

What is the general role of a VFX Editor?

The role of a Visual Effects Editor has become more and more pivotal in the post-production phase of filmmaking. They are the bridge between Editorial and VFX Production departments — working to ensure the tracking of visual effects shots from the assembly edit stage all the way through to the final delivery of the show. The general role of a VFX Editor is to manage and organise the vast amount of visual effects elements that have been captured during production and then ensure the VFX Vendors and Artists receive all the correct plates, references, and data necessary for them to do their work. 

An important factor in achieving this is creating a workflow that is as seamless as possible and the VFX Editor is often involved in this. They also supervise the influx of visual effects shots coming back into the cutting room and often contribute creatively by creating temp mock-ups of VFX shots to help articulate the desired visual idea of a shot for the edit. The role also involves continuity and quality control so the final product meets the artistic and technical standards set by the showrunner and production team. 


How did you use Boris FX products on Andor

As a VFX Editor, I relied on Boris FX products like Sapphire and Continuum throughout the production as a go-to tool to tackle various VFX compositing tasks. 

One thing to understand about the role is that we are often already in the temp compositing phase before any VFX assets have even been built. At this point, you don’t have a lot to work with, so we either have to source or create temporary elements and use concept art or reference photography as a guide to help “fill in the gaps” until we are ready to turn a shot over to the VFX Artists. 

Continuum’s Primatte Studio was utilised across the episodes for removing blue screens and dropping in temp background plates. These can often look really rough in the offline stage, but with tools like Primatte and integrated Mocha, we were able to achieve excellent tracking and integration, minimising any unwanted attention, which in turn allows our focus to stay on the story. With Continuum, we have access to ready-made elements that can be manipulated and integrated into footage, such as BCC Rain, which we used for weather continuity for Cassian entering Preox-Morlana in the opening episode. Likewise, we used Sapphire’s S_FogExponential for fog continuity in Aldhani. 

Integral to any Star Wars project of course, are the blasters. Using S_Laserbeam we were able to animate lasers into the cut and achieve the red glow with hot white core as well as the tapered "spear" shape and with a range of perspectives across action scenes where they would travel in all directions!

My favourite was probably using a combination of BCC_Scanline, BCC Rays Textured, BCC Rays Radiant Spotlight, and S_Laserbeam layered up to affect the images transmitted by the holoprojectors — a device in Star Wars used to record, send, receive, or just display holograms; like Cassian’s profile. The transmitted images tend to have a low-quality feel and are rendered with a blue hue and some level of distortion. Using a combination of these Continuum and Sapphire tools, we were able to create a look reminiscent of the device used in Rogue One, to tell this story and work out the mechanics of timing and scale for each hologram, which then served as a guide to the VFX artists who created the final shots. 

Why is it important for you to have access to Boris FX products as a VFX Editor? 

We’re always trying to make the most polished version of the offline cut as we can to help the Editors put their best foot forward whenever they present the cut to the Director, Producers, or the Studio. It helps the storytelling by keeping the focus where we want the audience to be directed and by being illustrative of what is to come further down the line. There was a time when we used to just slap a title on screen that said ‘VFX: Hologram’ or ‘VFX: Crew removal,’ but now, we can remove the distraction by actually painting out the crew and comping in an element so the viewer doesn’t have to work out what this mysterious and nondescript ‘hologram’ is supposed to be. There is also the matter of time. Often, Editors will request a temp comp to help a shot or scene and we will have a few days to create something. Other times, we will have twenty minutes. These tools help expedite the process in so many ways that benefit the user. 

VFX can quickly become a very expensive aspect of the filmmaking process, but the more we’re able to problem-solve and mock-up shots to help the cut as proof of concept, the more time is saved when it comes to the final VFX work. With the Boris FX products we have an incredibly useful toolkit to both streamline the work and help elevate it at the same time. 

Andor is an extremely VFX-heavy show. What was the biggest challenge you faced on the project?

The scale and complexity of the visual effects in Andor presented an array of challenges, but one of the most significant was the volume of material, managing the high number of VFX shots, and then meeting the delivery schedule. Being across 12 episodes simultaneously is akin to juggling 4 feature-length movies. 

The show demanded a high level of realism over the numerous intricate sequences, which amounted to hundreds of shots per episode. Achieving this required meticulous attention to detail sustained over a marathon 22-month period. It was no small task! 

I was fortunate to have an incredibly supportive and skilled VFX Editorial team on the show — VFX Editor Beau Loewenthal and VFX Assistant Editor Kenny Li. With their individual talents, positivity, and commitment to the show, we were able to make this monumental task achievable. Together, we tracked over 4000 Previs, Postvis, and VFX shots, handled over 8000 plates and elements, and QC'd over 16,000 iterations before each of the final 3843 VFX shots were delivered.

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