• The SFX artist behind The Last of Us explains how they created realistic infected using a combination of inspiration from the video game, real-world fungi, and their own artwork.
  • The makeup team developed different stages for the infected, starting with two-dimensional makeup and gradually adding more extensive silicone appliances as the infection progressed.
  • The Last of Us season 2 promises to feature more infected, with a focus on the Cordyceps hive mind and the introduction of new designs and diseases for the zombies.

An SFX artist has gone behind the scenes of The Last of Us to explain how the show managed to create such realistic infected. After the Cordyceps fungus grows the ability to jump into human brains, human civilization completely collapses as the infection spreads early in The Last of Us. Two decades after mankind’s fall, Joel (Pedro Pascal) has to find a way to bring Ellie (Bella Ramsey) to researchers after discovering she is immune to the fungal infection. Along the way, they face the twin threats of the infected and their fellow human beings.

As anticipation builds for The Last of Us season 2, makeup designer and VFX artist Barrie Gower spoke to Vanity Fair to explain how he and his team created such a realistic depiction of the infected. Gower explained that the painstaking process began by taking initial inspiration from The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann’s personal favorite elements from the games. It also involved compilations of real-world mushrooms and fungi before the makeup team put together a list of stages for the infected. Check out his quote below:

“We were incredibly inspired by the original video game created by Neil Druckmann and Naughty Dog. We went back to Neil and said, ‘Do you have in theory what’s like a greatest hits of your favorite art from the original video game?’ So he sends us a folder of about 10 to 15 images, and we used that with a combination of our own artwork and real funguses, real mushrooms, real mold slimes. When we lot at a lot of this fungus, there’s a very repetitive pattern.

There’s lots of holes, lots of clusters of shapes and forms, and it’s something my daughter and I suffer from. Phobia against lots of holes or lots of parallel patterns. Very interesting to the idea, but I think it’s also something that would trigger that phobia. If we did that, I feel we’ll probably be quite successful.

With the infected characters, we used the leaf miner shapes to create all this beautiful organic network of raised veins. We also used a lot of references of shelf mushrooms… For the clickers, we used a lot of reference for chicken of the woods… We wanted to establish a series of different stages going from recently infected human to the clicker and then the bloaters.

The best part about three or four months developing all the different stages for the infected. We would start initially with what was two-dimensional straight make-up to adding projects around the eyes and the mostrils and the mouth to almost suggest conjunctivitus. Infection to the eye and orifices. Our first prosthetics research was a very shallow but raised network of veins on the face, which gave the suggestion that this parasite… was actually making a race in the channel for the brain to infect the host. There, we would start getting a little bit more extensive with stage two, stage three. We would start introducing silicone appliances… As we start to get to stages four and five, there would be more and more expensive appliances. More expensive coverages… They’re glued so well to the actor’s skin that if we would try to tear them off the skin, we would take off the skin with them.”

How The Last of Us Season 2 Could Feature More Infected

Cordyceps fungi infected attached to the wall in The Last of Us

The Last of Us season 1 was subject to serious critique for the lack of infected present in the show. Because the season revolves around the human element of the apocalypse, the infected are typically background elements. When the infected appear as a major threat, Joel and Ellie generally escape them, albeit with losses, such as Tess, Sam, and Henry. Still, much of their presence is generally alluded to as a causative element rather than experienced in force.

Show creator Craig Mazin has already promised that more infected will appear in The Last of Us season 2. While season 1 sets its central focus on character, season 2 will offer a more in-depth view of the world at large. The infected will be waiting around every corner, and season 2 promises to feature more of the Cordyceps hive mind. With the ability to communicate instantaneously across long distances, the infected will be more of a threat than ever before.

The season will also have the chance to introduce more variety in the infected. The Last of Us season 1 was a massive success, and the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes could enable the VFX office to have more time to flesh out new designs for the zombies. With Joel and Ellie likely to explore more of the country — and with more time passing between seasons — there will be new infected with diseases that have progressed far past the points seen in season 1. The Last of Us season 2 could very well change the infected forever.

Source: Vanity Fair

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