Fabricating the Realistic and the Fantastic with Nuke Compositor Ying Lin
The goal of any story is to connect with the audience and enable them to accept the “reality” of what is being presented. As techniques and skill evolve, the art of storytelling simultaneously becomes more impressive and more taken for granted. To put it mildly, the audience expects believability no matter what the subject matter or genre. Ying Lin’s professional title may be that of nuke compositor but she is most certainly a magician. Transforming major aesthetic appearances or enhancing the smallest of details, Ying’s work on film and television productions is an essential part of suspending any crevices of disbelief that might take a viewer out of the moment. The versatility of working on so many diverse productions is what keeps her engaged and excited about her work. From the apocalyptic Sci-Fi film The Other Side of Infinity to the internationally acclaimed Apple+ series Ted Lasso (historical in its Primetime Emmy wins and nominations), the fingerprint of Ying Lin is found.
While she’s not a face that the public sees on their television screen, Ying admits that she gets a slight celebrity boost when acquaintances discover that she works on Grey’s Anatomy and Ted Lasso. Responses range from an enthusiastic expression of affinity from the public to that of peers stating how they’d love to be in her position. The general public may not be aware of the magnitude of Ms. Lin’s work on the appearance (and tone) of these award-winning shows, which is grounded proof of how skilled she is. She communicates, “It’s never easy to make fake stuff look real and consistent in a scene. Compared with Ted Lasso, Grey’s doesn’t have that many CG shots, which doesn’t mean working on Grey’s is easier than the other one. Grey’s Anatomy is more serious and focused on people’s daily lives, what people will do when they are experiencing life or death questions. For VFX, Grey’s Anatomy has more variety of shots, such as beauty, paint-out, burn-in, set extension, camera projection, making a fake doll and organs look real, etc.” Ying points out that she’s happy to be working on Peacock’s Bel-Air (recipient of three BET Award nominations and winner of Outstanding Drama Series at the Black Reel Awards for Television) as a fan of the original run of the series which starred a young Will Smith in his early acting career.
The Netflix series Echoes found Ying using her talent to de-age cast members including Golden Globes and Critic’s Choice Award Nominated actress Michelle Monaghan for her dual role as twins. The show follows the lives of identical twins Leni and Gina who swap identities, including their homes, husbands, and a child. Ying informs, “I use something called the spline wrap node which allows me to adjust the nose, cheek, and jawline area to make the de-aging become more convincing. This also allows me to change skin complexion, remove scars, and small appearance aspects of this kind. For some scenes I used a Smart Vector that can calculate pixel motion between frames, which is very handy to track skin or clothes in some situations.” In her work on the Sci-Fi film The Other Side of Infinity, Ying used her artistry to achieve the opposite result, transforming a young actor’s face into that of a geriatric man by using smart vectors and a fluid morph. One of the most stunning visual approaches in this futuristic film was contributed by Ying who describes, “There’s a sequence in which the whole world is in black & white with the exception of a girl who is wearing a red dress. There was a lot going on in the background, making this quite complicated. I used a bunch of different keys on different channels to get a clean key of her as a starting point and then I combined the keys with some roto to get a clean alpha of her. She became the only one in the world who has vivid color. I also color corrected her red dress to make it stand out more. The final result was so good that they used it in the trailer which makes me very happy.”
Entertainment forms like film and television continue to evolve, much to the benefit of audiences everywhere. The amazing imagery that Ying Lin is able to create is proof of this evolution in its current state; one which will no doubt be even more wondrous in the future.