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What These Scenes From The Boys Look Like Without Special Effects

Anyone who's watched "The Boys" knows the creators don't shy away from blood, gore, and shocking fight scenes. The pilot episode alone has several scenes of superheroes — also known as Supes — both using and abusing their powers as they fight anyone who dares to get in their way. Whether it's a Supe literally running through someone or shooting down a plane with their laser eyes, the show uses special effects to tell a story that's just as powerful as the characters in it.

It took a combination of practical and visual effects to bring these spectacularly violent scenes to life on screen. Sometimes the team used green screens and computer-generated imagery to create the desired effect, while other times, they built an entire rigged set to get the right shot. 

Although the results seem larger than life, visual effects executive producer Christopher Gray notes the importance of tiny details. "In visual effects, 90% of it is in your face, and the detail is what really sells it," he says. "The subtleties and imperfections in the shots are what actually take it fully there for you."

Keep reading to see what these five scenes from "The Boys" looked like before and after special effects were added.

Warning: this article contains spoilers for Season 1 of "The Boys."

Queen Maeve Stops an Armored Truck

The pilot episode starts off with an impressive scene of superheroes Homelander (Antony Starr) and Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) foiling an attempted bank robbery. During the dramatic sequence, Queen Maeve manages to stop an armored truck just by jumping in front of it. The truck crashes into her and she goes straight through it, halting the vehicle and saving the day without even breaking a sweat.

Surprisingly enough, this scene was mostly made with practical effects, although some visual effects were used as well. The team started by creating a previs (or previsualization) of the scene so that everyone was on the same page before filming began. From there, they used wires to drag a truck carcass into a big metal pole. They also captured a shot of McElligott jumping in front of a green screen, which was later integrated with footage of the crash.

To make it look like Queen Maeve was inside the truck as debris flew around her, the team actually built a special set. The whole set was on wheels, allowing them to move it around the actress while a fan blew on her hair. Later on, all the shots were combined and the debris was added with CGI.

A-Train Plows through Robin

Who could forget the gut-wrenching scene in the pilot episode, when Hughie's girlfriend Robin seemingly explodes out of nowhere? One moment, lovebirds Hughie (Jack Quaid) and Robin (Jess Salgueiro) are holding hands while saying goodbye. The next moment, she takes a small step onto the street, only for A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) to run through her at superhuman speeds, tearing her completely apart. Hughie is left splattered with Robin's blood and guts while holding her severed hands.

The scene was filmed in front of a green screen with a Phantom high-speed camera at about 500 frames per second. The crew positioned the camera on a big robotic arm so they could move the camera quickly enough to get the perfect shot. "What you're seeing there when it's rounding around Hughie is one second of time being slowed down," explains Stephan Fleet, the visual effects supervisor, in an interview with VFX Voice.

As for Robin's disintegrated body and the blood splattered on Hughie, the team tried using practical effects, but it didn't quite look the way they wanted. They ended up using CGI to create just the right amount of blood in the right places.

"It became about the storytelling," says Fleet. "How much of Robin do we see, how much of her guts do we see? How much blood do we see? What's the trajectory? There's probably more blood than a real human would have, but it would be a lot less interesting if it was a real situation. A-Train would pretty much atomize the person and there wouldn't even be as many guts and spines and stuff as you see there."

Failed Dolphin Rescue

Most of us can recall some memorable fight scenes in TV shows, but what about memorable dolphin scenes? If you can't think of any off the top of your head, you've got to check out Season 1, Episode 4 of "The Boys." The episode features a bizarrely violent scene of The Deep (Chace Crawford), a Supe who can communicate with aquatic life, trying to save a dolphin from an aquarium.

The Deep puts the dolphin inside the van in a position that seems safe — until he slams on the brakes during the escape, flinging the poor animal through the windshield and onto the street. It miraculously survives the impact, only for a truck to run it over and instantly kill it.

A dolphin puppet was used for the shots of The Deep speaking with the ill-fated creature throughout the scene. For the crash, the team built a green dolphin doll and a device to launch it through the windshield. The interactive glass broke as this happened, lending a realistic look to the scene. "It was kind of one of those funny nights in visual effects, you know, you're working until five in the morning launching green dolphins out of a car," says Fleet.

Soho VFX later replaced the green dolphin with a CG version that looked more like the real deal. "They also came up with the idea of him flopping on the ground before the truck hits him," adds Fleet. "Those little details make it great."

Translucent's Invisible Fight

The scene of Hughie and Butcher (Karl Urban) going up against the invisible superhero Translucent (Alex Hassell) during the pilot episode is action-packed, to say the least. Translucent starts by pushing Hughie around, and things quickly escalate as Butcher crashes a car into the store, pushing Translucent through a bunch of shelves. Butcher and Translucent engage in a bloody fistfight until Hughie electrocutes the invisible Supe.

The shot of Butcher ramming into the store required building a duplicate set that the stunt coordinator rigged, complete with a rail system and camera that were both linked to a green "wrecking ball" on wires (which was later edited out) capable of smashing through real shelves. The setup was motion controlled so the team could repeat the movement until they got the right shot.

Butcher and Translucent's fistfight was filmed in a few different ways. First, Urban did the choreographed fight with a stunt double in a gray suit, who was later edited out. The actor then repeated the entire fight by himself. The special effects team used some shots with the stunt double, but the majority of the footage came from Urban fighting alone.

Throughout the bloody brawl, Translucent is partially visible, thanks to Butcher spitting blood on him. The team used the stunt double as an animation reference for this part, then tracking a digi-double of the character to add blood to him.

Homelander Takes Down a Plane

Near the end of the first episode, the audience begins to understand just how cruel Homelander really is. The mayor of Baltimore and his son are on a plane when they see Homelander flying beside them. The mayor had previously attempted to blackmail the superhero company Vought, which leads Homelander to use his laser eyes to shoot down the plane. The superhero (or should we say supervillain?) watches with a slight smile as the plane catches fire, rips in half, and falls through the clouds.

To create this shocking scene, the crew filmed Starr hanging on wires in front of a green screen. They combined that footage with CGI to create the final effect. Homelander uses his laser eyes many times throughout the show, and it was during this scene that the visual effects team refined the look of his most memorable superpower.

"There's also a lot of subtlety and a lot of breakup in those lasers that make them slightly unique from your average CG laser eye gag and they play into his character," notes Fleet. "I think that the timing and the tempo and the rhythm of when we fade them up and down, we use his performance to really gauge that."

"The final shot is really [director] Dan Trachtenberg's vision in doing a slow wrap-around reveal of Homelander's character," adds Fleet. "So, you get the plane ripping in half, which is awesome, it's probably the biggest spectacle thing we have in that episode, and then we meander the camera over to Homelander and see that little bit of a smile on his face and you realize, 'Oh this guy's a sociopath.'"

This incredible attention to detail almost makes the Supes seem real... but after seeing this show, we're glad they're not!