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The biggest problem in Netflix's 3 Body Problem is hiding the bodies (of the crew, that is)

Once again, it is the VFX department to the rescue

3 Body Problem VR Headset screenshot
Image credit: Netflix

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Filming a show is full of challenges. Sometimes, your sets are absurdly expensive, or your actors have clashing egos that make everything a bit tense. For the makers of Netflix's 3 Body Problem, the hardest part of bringing the show to life was dealing with an overly polished prop that threatened to inadvertently break the fourth wall.

The prop in question is the chrome VR headsets that the cast wears throughout the show. Their use is particularly heavy in early episodes, establishing the new technology as the characters’ gateway to new virtual worlds. The problem with using such shiny props is that they tend to be very reflective – which caused havoc for the actors and the crew during filming, according to Liam Cunningham, who plays Wade in the show.

“It’s an absolute nightmare to film,” he explained. “Because I swing it around, and I’ve got it all over the place – there was no way of keeping the camera out of the reflection.” It can be difficult enough to keep a stray boom mic or camera from appearing in a wall mirror, so trying to keep the crew out of the reflection of the chrome headsets as they move around would have been nearly impossible.

Fortunately, the VFX team stepped in to make the shots work. Not only did they have to make the effects that you see throughout the show, but they were also called on to clean up the reflections in the headsets, digitally removing any sign of the filming crew to maintain the fictional world that 3 Body Problem creates.

Was it a pain in the backside? Sure. Was it worth it? Absolutely. The headsets, pesky reflections and all, give the show that all-important slick, futuristic feel and provide some of the most memorable images in the show. The twisting reflections of the characters – not the crew – in the curved surfaces distort reality as surely as the virtual worlds they send the characters to.

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