Cons & EventsFeaturesInterviewsOn Location

NYCC Interview: VFX Producer Brian Shows Talks ‘The Wheel of Time’

Share this:

The Wheel of Time is still on our minds as we reflect on October and New York City Comic Con. Although our time at NYCC is merely a memory turned into a legend, that doesn’t mean we don’t have exciting details to report from the Javits Center. As part of our final NYCC roundtables, we sat down with The Wheel of Time VFX producer Brian Shows. 

In a candid conversation, Shows talked about his career trajectory, including when he received the call to join The Wheel of Time’s season 2 team. He painted vivid comparisons between working on the fantasy epic and his experiences on the sci-fi series The Orville, highlighting each project’s unique challenges and rewards. With a hint of mischievous delight, Shows revealed some of the VFX magic that brought season 2 to life and hinted at a few Easter eggs in the show.

The interview with VFX Producer Brian Shows about The Wheel of Time

[Editor’s note: The interview has been lightly edited for clarity. Please note, there are very mild spoilers ahead for The Wheel of Time.]

Interviewer: “You have beautiful scenery in the show, the nature is amazing. How much does that influence the special effects?”

Brian Shows: “He’ll [Andy Scrase] speak to it more, but we really do try to take what’s real and then just add to it. All of our focus on all the visual effects, we take that same idea. So augment reality or add to it, but not replace, if possible. We do have some scenery that is CGI, but it’s still based in a practical environment, and that’s some of the work that’s actually probably the most rewarding, because if you can make it look real in a photo-real environment, then we did our job pretty well. So we work with the set design. There’s things that have to be added because physically you couldn’t do it, and things like that. He’ll talk about that, where we try to base everything in some sort of reality.”

On how much of the battles are VFX versus practical effects

Interviewer:“Yeah. I’ll go real quick. So last season, fewer battles. Also dealing with COVID interruption. This season, lots more battles. I’m curious about how much of those battle sequences are visual effects versus practical?”

Brian Shows: “I wasn’t there for season one, just to be clear, but a lot of the battle scenes are practical. The stunts did a great job. The stunts and special effects teams did an amazing job. There’s some parts of those battles. The powers, that stuff’s obviously us, but with the majority of the battle scenes is actually mostly practical.”

Interviewer: “Can you go a little bit into the power?”

Brian Shows: “I think you’re going to want him [Andy Scrase.] Yeah, because that’s actually his baby, he’s the guy, he came up with how to do it, so I think that’s probably most appropriate for him. And I think you’ll enjoy what he has to say. Me, I can talk to you about the efficiencies, the team dynamics, no… Excel sheets, I got you.”

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Dónal Finn as Mat Cauthon in The Wheel of Time (Prime Video)

On the challenges of the job this season

Interviewer: “What was the most challenging part of your job as you see it, for this season?”

Brian Shows: “For my part of it, we have teams in multiple countries at the same time. So we have people in Prague who are shooting, we have people in London who are in post, because we’re posting as we go along as well. And sometimes we were in multiple scouts in multiple countries, so whether it was Morocco in last season, and Prague, we have people in London, and me out of LA sometimes. So being in multiple locations and having that communication to make sure that whole machine runs, is a problem. But yeah, it can be difficult at times, but we have a great team, so it works pretty flawlessly. You get the right people in lots of places, the right people make it work.”

On how having people in multiple countries impacts show deadlines

Interviewer: “How does it affect deadlining?”

Brian Shows: “Sometimes it’s a real benefit, right? Because when you have visual effects vendors and we’re all across the world, you can be in multiple time zones in the same day. So you can be working 24 hours a day around the clock, around the globe. And you can be more productive in a given day having multiple places running at the same time. It works out for us.”

Interviewer: “I hear that it’s a help not a hindrance.”

Brian Shows: “Yeah, it’s definitely a help not a hindrance, but we’ve been doing that in our visual effects department for a long time. Lots of companies are global.”

On how working on The Orville compares to The Wheel of Time

Ayla Ruby: “You worked on The Orville. Does this experience compare to working on that? How is it different? Can you contrast?”

Brian Shows:
Orville was a lot of fun to work on. I came into that on a problem-solving kind of scenario. It had a large volume of shots as well. This is more complicated, the channeling system is by far more complicated. With Orville we had some creatures, but we also had space, right? We’re putting space in. And once you create what space is supposed to look like, you can reuse space over and over and over again. For this show, the channeling system is very complicated. Doing effects simulations is a very detailed and very expensive thing to do for rendering power, and time, and cost, and labor. So the time it takes to do this is by far greater than the time it took to do that. So now it’s a much simpler process. This is by far more complicated, it takes a lot of time.”

On what was really gratifying to bring to screen

Ayla Ruby: “Has there been anything that’s really been gratifying professionally, to bring to life, to get on the screen?”

Brian Shows: “For the show?”

Ayla Ruby: “Yes.”

Brian Shows: “If we’re talking about episodes, I think that’s what I’ll say later too. I think 208 was a lot of fun, but all of them are a lot of fun because a lot of the environments are very challenging to be in. Even if it’s not a very remote location, but even outside the city of Prague, and you’re in a forest, and all of a sudden it’s raining and windy. The dynamic of how we actually go about shooting it in different places, that part’s pretty challenging. But it’s a lot of fun. I think the whole thing is fun for me. I’ve been in this industry a long time, so I enjoy all parts of the process really.”

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Joshua Stradowski as Rand in The Wheel of Time (Prime Video)

On joining a team on season 2 with an already-established dynamic

Interviewer: “You said you joined in season two, how does it feel to join a team that was already working together, and try to bring your own flare to something that was already being done? You had to maintain what was done season one, but also…”

Brian Shows: “Yeah, I think Andy will speak to that too, more in-depth, but it’s a very welcoming team and I think that starts with Rafe [Judkins], all the way down. It’s a very collaborative team, so I don’t think there was any issue stepping in and helping out when we got to the ground. So from Rafe, to the producers, to the cast, to all the department heads, it was very easy, easy to jump into. It’s probably the best project I’ve ever worked on, in that type of environment. It really is a good group of people, a quality group of people, which is not so common.”

“Well, not just that, but industry-wise, when you have it from the top down where it’s just a really great environment, you just want to keep doing it. So that’s why we did season two and we’re actually doing season three too.”

On how Brian Shows got his start in the VFX industry

Interviewer: “I was going to say, sorry, maybe not specifically to this show, but I know a lot of our viewers are always interested. How do you get into this industry How do you get into your line of work? So specifically what you do, what’s the important thing? What would you recommend that people… The track that they follow to do what you do?”

Brian Shows: “Start out at the bottom and find your way through the industry. So I think Andy, and me as well, we were both PAs in different parts of the world at different times. And then just learning about what part of the industry you really like. You just got to get your foot in and then find what you like to do. I think… I don’t know, I don’t know how to answer that really. I started as a PA and I just worked my way through, and as each door opened you take advantage of those situations.”

“Find where you fit in what you like to do, right, because you really have to love what you do in this industry, otherwise you will burn out, right? It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of time, and if you don’t love it then it’s brutal. But if you do love it it’s great.”

On season 3 of The Wheel of Time

Interviewer: “So season three renewal we knew about before. Have you started that? And two, I mean obviously you can be mindful of spoilers, but-”

Brian Shows: “I won’t say anything.”

Interviewer: “I’m really interested in, because the world keeps expanding, but each book we go to a new place, what are the challenges of not being able to exist in the same world, but having to constantly expand that out, especially with how big and global this team is.”

Brian Shows: “I don’t think there’s any more challenges in expanding, it’s that story-driven. And then we’re used to dealing with being in multiple places at a time for visual effects.”

Interviewer: “So it doesn’t feel any different for three than two?”

Brian Shows: “Not as far as efficiency and how we work, and where we are in the world with technology and things like that. As of right now, it doesn’t feel as if there’s much difference. We’re pretty efficient at what we do. I don’t think too much will change. I mean we’ll be in some remote locations that will make things difficult to some degree, but we plan for that.”

Book Review: The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

The Eye of the World Banner

On his history with the Robert Jordan books

Interviewer:“Were you a fan of the books, familiar with them? Did you have to do an intensive deep dive into them?
You can be honest.”

Ayla Ruby: “All 15 books.”

Brian Shows: “I read all of them 19 times. No, I was not involved with the books prior. Andy has more knowledge on that from the historic perspective. My part when I got into it was to watch season one just prior to starting, and then obviously we get into the scripts, and then we get into the video with the different professionals who really know the books. We were using them as resources right, it’s a great tool. But I wasn’t involved prior.”

On getting the call to join season 2 of The Wheel of Time

Ayla Ruby: “Can you talk about how you specifically came on board, given that you weren’t on the previous season? How did you get the call? What was that like?”

Brian Shows: “I had came off another project and became available, and they needed a person. So it’s a small industry right, a lot of people know a lot of people, and there’s only so many degrees of separation. And one of the executive producers I was working with on a previous show also knows Rafe [Judkins], they’re friends. Also got routed through the vendor side. I knew somebody who knew one of the producers who was looking. So a combination of multiple avenues ended up on this project.”

On his favorite character, and who he’d play if he was an actor

Interviewer: “Just for fun. Who is your favorite character? And if you were an actor and you could play one of these characters, don’t worry about gender, who would you play? Who would you be?”

Brian Shows: “I mean, Moiraine’s [Rosamund Pike] a badass. Look at her in 208, it was just a lot of fun. I never thought about that. I’m a behind-the-scenes guy. I like being behind the camera.”

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Natasha O’Keeffe (Lanfear), Josha Stradowski (Rand), Rosamund Pike (Moiraine), Daniel Henney (Lan) in The Wheel of Time. (Prime Video)

On dealing with reviews and feedback from the internet

Interviewer: “Speaking to that, specifically from your role, when you’re looking at maybe reviews come out, do you, ‘I’m not caring what they thought of the episode, but what did they think of the visual shots or the VFX?’ What do you look for when you’re getting feedback?”

Brian Shows: “Honestly, I never actually looked at any feedback in 27 years. Just because typically there’s people who are going to love it and there’s people who are not going to like it. As long as you know that you put your best foot forward with the time and budget that you could possibly do, put out the best quality product, then to me that’s all that really matters. But this time I heard so much about the fans, I was intrigued. So I did watch and read, and I watched some of the shows, and I did read some of the Twitterverse out there, and most of it was pretty good with respect to our part. So it’s good.”

Interviewer: “That has to be difficult hearing feedback from people who don’t quite understand what your job is.”

Brian Shows: “Some of the feedback is fun because I like how the fans will go down these rabbit holes of, ‘This is what they meant by…’ And they zoom in and you see the smallest thing, and you’re like, ‘Well that had nothing to do with it. But I love the fact that you read into it that far, right, amazing.'”

“And then they go through and then they take the blur off to see what was in the background. Like, ‘I saw those boots once before.’ You’re like, ‘Okay, you did.'”

On Easter eggs in The Wheel of Time

Interviewer: “Again, being in your position, you hear stories about like, oh, guys that like to hide Easter eggs or calls to certain things. Do you ever sneak any stuff in there for you?”

Brian Shows: “He [Andy Scrase] does. But he really does pay attention to the books as much as we can. We definitely find things and we add things to it to give people and fans something to look for. So yeah, he definitely does. I’m not sure he’ll say exactly what he puts in but he definitely does.”

Interviewer: “We’ll pry it out of him, it’s fine.”

Brian Shows: “By all means. Good luck.”

How to watch The Wheel of Time

With season 3 already in the works, our roundtable interviews with the creative team of The Wheel of Time hint at an adventure even more thrilling than previous seasons. For now, we’ll just have to wait and rewatch season 1 and season 2 of the show on Prime Video.

Are you excited for the next season of Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time series ? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!

For all our past NYCC coverage, including more interviews coming this week, check out the NYCC tag

NYCC Interview: Executive Producer Marigo Kehoe Talks Wheel of Time

Interview with marigo Kehoe Wheel of Time Banner

Interview: Andy Scrase Talks VFX in The Wheel of Time

NYCC Wheel of Time season 2

Book Review: The Wheel of Time: The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt Review Banner

Share this:

Ayla Ruby

I am a writer and interviewer based somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant. I love all things nerdy - but Star Trek and Spiderman have special places in my heart. Find me at @TulinWrites on Twitter. And visit my other website for more reviews and interviews:

Ayla Ruby has 170 posts and counting. See all posts by Ayla Ruby