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The Good Fight with Dianshuo Zhang

A gripping drama about human interaction will always be popular with audiences. CBS’s Golden Globe winning series The Good Wife aired from 2009-2016, becoming one of the most popular shows of its kind. The show’s premise and characters also spawned the first original CBS All Access series The Good Fight. With two Primetime Emmy nominations to its credit, The Good Fight has led the charge in this new television presentation. Like many of us, Dianshuo Zhang was a fan of The Good Wife; when she was brought aboard (as part of The Molecule) to work as a VFX compositor on the show, it was a chance for her to become part of a world she loved. The fact that you don’t recognize much of the VFX work on this series is a credit to the skill Zhang has and the tasteful manner in which the production utilizes her talent and that of her team. While many of us simply watch these dramas, Dianshuo finds herself in the surreal state of bringing them to life.

The trick of working in VFX is that these professionals must be able to make that which doesn’t actually occur appear completely believable. While this sounds a little bit like every aspect of TV and film production, it is most prevalent when it comes to the work of Dianshuo and her peers. It requires someone with an extremely heightened sense of detail. Zhang openly admits to being an over-planner who doesn’t like surprises. While this aspect might result in a cumbersome personal life, it’s an overwhelmingly benevolent trait for a VFX compositor to possess. As a fan of the seminal series The Good Wife, Dianshuo reviewed the seasons of the show, taking great pains to match the aesthetic feel of that series to her work on The Good Fight.

VFX work doesn’t always need to present dragons and superheroes. While this end of the spectrum may get the lion’s share of attention, Zhang’s work on The Good Fight is an example of presenting the more realistic dramatic moments of life in today’s society. When Diane Lockhart (played by Christine Baranski) has a conversation with Tara Strokes (played by Taylor Louderman), and they walked through the parking lot to Tara’s car, this parking structure seems to stretch to infinity. Of course, this is the result of Dianshuo’s work transforming an ordinary parking building into an almost hyperbolic one. In the final dramatic scene of season three, a massive explosion occurs which changes the color tone of the skyline. Zhang explains, “The production wanted the sky to transform from blue to a pinkish fiery hue. There was an explosion last year in Astoria (NYC) from a transformer and I used this as a kind of template for the colors.” Sometimes the detail demanded of a VFX compositor is astounding. Dainshuo describes, “It can be quite challenging, as in Fluid Morph shots. This is when we stitch two different sets of footage together. Sometimes I’m asked to alter a scene because of the acting. I used a node in Nuke called SplineWarp to stitch the two sets of footage together. Basically, I needed to draw shapes of all the features on the actors face, such as eyes, nose, lips, ears, etc. I also needed to make keyframes for every frame of this shot, otherwise it will create some artifacts during the transition. The goal is to have audiences watch these scenes, completely unaware that it is actually two shots stitched together.”

Humbly and yet honestly, Dianshuo is adamant that the end result is a part of an important team. That group includes not only her coworkers at The Molecule but also the overall production crew that ranges from the producers all the way down to the most junior of production assistants. The Good Fight’s pair of Primetime Emmy nominations attest to the fact that the process the show has is most definitely working for fans and critics alike.

Written by Doug Dradge

The Good Fight with Dianshuo Zhang Reviewed by JaamZIN on 7:41:00 PM Rating: 5
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