Westworld has some pretty amazing visual effects. Granted, a lot of it is done via CGI but some of it is done using old school special effects tricks.

Even knowing they’re robots, watching Westworld’s hosts go under the knife for repairs was sometimes even more gruesome than the bloody battles that sent them to the ER.

Instead of trying to completely simulate the appearance of flesh being cauterized by a laser using computer-generated particle effects for the smoke and sparks, the visual effects artists (Pixomondo) seared a real piece of flesh (animal, not human) and then composited the results onto footage of actress Thandie Newton’s Maeve character on an operating table.

The results are incredibly realistic. No doubt this approach saved the visual effects team loads of time and countless hours trying to recreate the perfect digital simulation. Practically, this shortcut makes sense since the actual time we get to see it on screen is only a few seconds. Wasting hours on a simulation just isn’t cost effective.

By just grabbing a hunk of meat and hitting it with a torch, the artists created the illusion in a manner of minutes. For a visual-effects-heavy production like Westworld, any shortcut that can make post-production cheaper and faster is always welcome.

Pixomondo’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed as they’ve been nominated for various Emmy’s, all well deserved. Of course they’re not the only ones working on Westworld as there are plenty others but Pixo stand out for their ingenuity.

Here’s a short video from the company itself showing various places where they had to use VFX including the aforementioned cauterized flesh wound. Enjoy!