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.


Veteran writer/producer Yvonne Troxclair joined ER to pitch for an on-going project for Disney’s Partnership Marketing and Creative Division to air on Disney XD. Shortly thereafter the new What’s Up 2.0 series was awarded and quickly went into production.

“Working with Yvonne has been amazing. She collaborates on everything creative, from casting, to writing to on-set production” says ER owner Dan Schmit. “With our 13 years of experience and Yvonne’s 15 plus years writing and producing shoots, we make a bullet-proof team!”

What’s Up spots are :60 branded installments made exclusively for the DXD audience. The ER/Yvonne team have executed spots for Disney sponsors Activision, Mattel and Hasbro, supplying soup to nuts production from writing and shooting, to post audio and delivery.

Key to production is a stylistic loft set design, a clever combination of a re-occuring set pieces and virtual extensions. It’s surprising to discover how much is green screen, seamlessly composted by ER’s talented VFX artists.

So far, five episodes have been produced and they have all been a huge hit. Not only with Disney, but with their clients as well.

Be watching for more to come…

Watch the Spots:
Activision Skylanders
Spy Gear
Angry Birds
Hot Wheels

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HOLLYWOOD—June 7, 2013—Hollywood Center Studios (, the iconic studio in the heart of Hollywood, has forged a new alliance with shooting and visual effects company Engine Room (, headquartered on the HCS Lot. The strategic relationship provides Engine Room live action clients with exclusive rates on lot services for in-studio stage rental, production offices, and grip and lighting services.

Engine Room offers a unique production partnership to clients. With a turnkey shooting unit that’s ready-to-roll, it provides an extensive menu of production services including cinematography, casting, talent, crew, art, equipment and large scale stages.  Creative directors and producers of all types love the simplicity and fluid collaborative experience of working with ER.

Hollywood Center Studios,  located in Hollywood’s Media District, hosts a dozen sound stages and more than 200,000 square feet of production office and other ancillary production space. The studio has a cinematic history spanning nearly a century, but has kept pace with technological changes.  The studio has three dedicated, coved, green-screen stages with enhanced virtual technology, as well as two large, dedicated, coved, white-cyc stages primarily servicing the commercial production industry.  From this exceptional location, Engine Room has crafted high-end production, visual effects and post solutions for feature films, episodic television, network promotion and commercial clients over the last seven years.

“We love being part of the HCS family,” says cinematographer Dan Schmit, owner of Engine Room.  “The studio lot is an inspiring mix of classic Hollywood and modern technology. We share a passion for shooting talent and bringing stories to life, and we have also contributed to the development of the HCS permanent green screen stages. This new alliance takes our relationship deeper, matching our creative and execution capabilities with Hollywood Center Studios’ premiere offerings, all for the benefit of our clients.”

“Having Engine Room at Hollywood Center Studios has been a perfect fit,” according to Jerry Cole, Director of Virtual and Broadcast Services at HCS. “As the industry forges new roads into digital storytelling, we’ve expanded and developed the palette of resources and facilities while maintaining the magic of the classic Hollywood production studio. We see the alliance with Engine Room as an opportunity to welcome even more of the industry into this one of a kind environment.”

HCS has added motion capture to its largest green screen facility, Stage 12, which, according to Schmit, “provides the hardware front-end required for the some of the more serious VFX production we specialize in.”  But not all Engine Room/Hollywood Center Studio shoots are focused on technology, many productions are straight talent and/or product shoots that involve interior studio sets.

With all these elements in place an Engine Room/Hollywood Center Studios shoot can be ramped up within hours.  “Our location at Hollywood Center Studios gives our clients a powerful homefield advantage making smooth running productions and, of course spectacular on-camera results,” Schmit says.


Once in a while a good one comes along…. That was the case when Create Advertising of Culver City, CA reached out to Engine Room to shoot the release ad for Just Dance 4’s new Gangnam Style Edition. It was a rush production on an extremely tight deadline with only 3 days of prep, in other words it was right up ER’s alley.

The relationship between Create and Engine Room now spans half a dozen shooting projects. ER’s film unit is a perfect match for Create’s in-house creatives who regularly call for unique collaborations. This one involved recreating many of the costumes and gags from the Gangnam music video as well as casting look-a-likes for Psy and other members of the original music video cast.

Directed by Create’s own Jake Black, the spot was shot entirely at a residential location in Sherman Oaks, CA, and depicts a family and a group of friends as they blow the doors off with Gangnam’s crazy dance moves and over the top antics. End client Ubisoft was ecstatic with the final spot as the footage cut seamlessly with scenes from the original Gangnam Style music video.