THE MENTALIST aired its final 151st episode earlier this year after a historic seven seasons and Engine Room was an integral part of the series success from day one. Besides steady high ratings in the US, the procedural police drama set in California, forged unprecedented international audiences with nearly 59 million weekly viewers worldwide.
Hit shows like THE MENTALIST only happen when there is a perfect balance between all aspects of production, from the creative visionaries behind the show, to the cast, the performances, and the writing. Equally important, but often less recognized is the approach to technical execution. Since the beginning of its seven season run, this was very much the case with the working relationship between VFX Supervisor Michael Caplan and THE MENTALIST Executive Producer Chris Long and series Creator Bruno Heller.
Few if any viewers could ever detect the consistent contribution from Engine Room to the weekly airings of THE MENTALIST, but the VFX element was always present behind the scenes. “We’ve done our job properly when no one notices what we were ever involved”, says Caplan. Needless to say, this was consistently the case.
Many of the show’s location based scenes, written to take place all across the state of California, were actually shot in Burbank at Warner Bros. Studios or in and around the Los Angeles area. It was not uncommon for 100ft green or blue screens to be raised on the studio backlot under Caplan’s direction, where foreground set pieces needed to be enhanced with post-inserted background elements. Whether it was the Sacramento State Capitol Building, San Francisco city vistas, desert locations, or any other scene settings called for in the scripts; post production visual effects techniques were regularly relied upon to enhance the visuals of the series while also helping to set the story locales. In addition, Engine Room also designed the iconic main title for THE MENTALIST.
From Engine Room’s point of view, few if any shows, or film productions used digital effects in a smarter or more efficient way than THE MENTALIST Producers did. They understood that visual effects can save resources by reducing actual location filming days, while at the same time increasing the overall look and production value of what’s up on the screen.
By the time the final episode of this historic series aired, Engine Room had delivered close to 1,600 VFX shots. The show established that there is truly no limit to where they can travel; with the help of VFX Supervisor Michael Caplan and the Engine Room post production team, the characters of THE MENTALIST could literally go anywhere, solve the show’s toughest cases, and break international ratings records in the process.