When VFX is the Main Character: Our Favorite TV shows that Rely on VFX

When VFX is the Main Character: Our Favorite TV shows that Rely on VFX

March 1, 2022
Kseniia Serebrennikova

From horror to sci-fi, VFX takes a lead role in these 8 shows.

With the VFX industry expanding and evolving faster than ever before, it’s hard to find a TV show that does not use any CG elements at all. No matter what the genre is, you will almost always find VFX artists on the “Cast and Crew” list - CG is used to alter environments, avoid the use of potentially dangerous practical effects like fires, and even add or remove people from the shot. 

But when it comes to horrors, fantasy series, action-adventure, sci-fi, and superhero shows, VFX often have a role of their own. In this article, we will discuss some of our favorite TV series of the 2010s-2020s where visual effects are the main character. 

Stranger Things (Warning! Contains Strong Language)

At this point, it’s nearly impossible to find a person who hasn’t at least heard of this retro sci-fi Netflix series. Stranger Things has been consistently good since season 1 - the show has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.7/10 rating on IMDB. 

In the first 28 days, season 3 had Netflix users all over the world viewing the show for 582.1 million hours which is the third-best result across all Netflix series. Needless to say, we love it, too, and what we enjoy the most is how incredible visual effects on Stranger Things are. 

As a fantasy/horror TV show, Stranger Things is packed with top-quality VFX including monsters, weather FX, fluid simulations, and mind-blowing set extensions. In the course of 4 seasons, over 10 VFX studios have participated in creating visuals for the series - those include Alchemy 24, Scanline VFX, BOT VFX, Rodeo FX, Crafty Apes, Spin VFX, CVD VFX, and others.

The Witcher

The story of The Witcher began over 35 years ago when Andrzej Sapkowski submitted his first piece about Geralt of Rivia for a Polish short story competition. Since then, the story of the powerful witcher has grown into a series of six fantasy novels and 15 short stories with three video games, a movie, and two series based on it. 

So the level of expectations for Netflix’s take on The Witcher was sky-high and the show did not disappoint. The Witcher’s die-hard fans keep debating over ‘questionable’ cast choices that are not in line with the original story (actually Geralt is supposed to be like two times older?) but we just can’t stop drooling over visual effects on the show. 

Because the story is set in the Middle Ages, there has been an overwhelming number of set extensions from magic forests to enormous castles in the middle of the sea. Plus, with nearly every character being a witch, a mage, or an elf, the show required a massive amount of VFX ranging from energy shields to morphing and everything in between. 

On top of that, the universe of the witcher is full of monsters based mostly on Slavic mythology so look dev artists played a major role in the production process. Visual effects for The Witcher were created by a huge team of artists from top production studios including Framestore, Rodeo FX, NVIZ, One of Us, and others.

The Umbrella Academy (Warning! Contains Strong Language)

While The Umbrella Academy does not break viewership records as Stranger Things does, it is one of the most popular fantasy action series on Netflix. The show is based on the Dark Horse comic created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá and it features some of the viewer’s favorite actors and actresses including Mary J. Blige, Elliot Page, and Kate Walsh. 

Because the main characters have superpowers, The Umbrella Academy is a pretty VFX-heavy show. It’s hard to go into detail without dropping spoilers, but there is plenty of blood, explosions, and all sorts of energy FX as well as insanely realistic post-apocalyptic set extensions and a talking CG chimpanzee. 

The world of The Umbrella Academy was created by some of the best VFX studios in the industry including Weta Digital, Spin VFX, Studio8FX, MARZ VFX, Folks VFX, and other talented teams of FX artists.

The Good Place

As fun and lighthearted as this show may seem, The Good Place is a brilliant fantasy comedy that deals with deeply existential issues in an extremely entertaining, hilarious way. The NBC show about the afterlife that features the insanely talented Ted Danson and Kristen Bell earned over 80 nominations and won 14 awards. 

The series is set in the so-called The Good Place (a.k.a. heaven as we normally call it) where everything is designed to make your (after) life comfortable and carefree. Even though you might think a show like this would need green screens all over the place and a whole lot of matte painting, The Good Place used a lot of real-life environments - the series was filmed in San Marino, California which already looks like a heavenly neighborhood. 

On top of that, many visual effects you see are either practical effects build by set dressers or a combination of practical effects and a bit of CGI. Though there’s a ton of awesome VFX that include flying shrimps, portals to hell, monsters of all shapes and sizes, and more. 

Visual effects were created by artists from Digital Domain and Zoic Studios.

The Boys (Warning! Contains Strong Language)

If you are tired of typical fantasy superhero TV series and would rather watch a show that mocks the entire concept of perfectly perfect superhumans who are always here to save the day, you would love Amazon Prime’s The Boys. It’s rated 8.7/10 on IMDB and has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 

The show deserves all the praise but The Boys’ visual effects need a separate round of applause. Every episode is the definition of eye candy with VFX varying from the regular effects like fires to hyperrealistic energy blasts and terrifyingly true-to-life gore. 

Because the genre of the show required impeccable visual effects, several big production studios were involved in the creative process - Framestore, DNEG, Rodeo FX, Folks VFX, Zoic Studios, OllinVFX, RSVFX, and others. The Boys was nominated for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Season or a Movie award of the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Currently, they have had over 50 nominations and won 8 awards in total.


Dark is without exaggeration a German sci-fi thriller mystery that is often called one of the best and the most underrated series on Netflix. The show has an 8.8/10 IMDB rating, and even the merciless Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 95% rating. 

Dark is a mind-bending existential series that explores the concept of time and how everything is connected on a deeper level than one might think so if you are looking for an easy-to-watch TV show with cool VFX, you might not be ready for Dark. There is plenty of time traveling, several tragic deaths, and a few ends of the world so you can imagine how rich and stunning the visual effects in this show are. 
The visual component plays a crucial role in creating this eerie atmosphere of unavoidable doom. The signature gloomy look and mesmerizing VFX for Netflix Germany’s Dark were created by Cinesite, RISE FX, and ARRI Media


Loki is one of Marvel Studios’ Disney+ superhero series based on Marvel Comics. Out of all Marvel-based TV series, Loki has probably been the most highly anticipated one and it exceeded the viewers’ expectations - the show earned over 24 nominations and won 3 awards. 

Because this is Marvel and because the series is about one of the most beloved characters of the MCU, the show couldn’t be any less than what it is - beautifully shot, polished down to the tiniest detail, loaded with outstanding high-quality VFX. Visuals on Loki are a feast for the eyes with its hypnotizing sci-fi environments, astounding magic FX, gigantic destruction FX, and more. 

Unsurprisingly, VFX for the show was created by the leading production studios including ILM, Digital Domain, Rodeo FX, RISE, Luma Pictures, Method Studios, Trixter, and other teams.

Sweet Home

It is undeniable that shows from Netflix Korea are taking over and attracting millions of viewers worldwide. Thanks to Squid Game, which is to this day Netflix’s top series with 1.65 billion hours of streaming in the first 28 days, people are discovering more South Korean TV shows like Strangers from Hell, All of Us Are Dead, Hellbound, and the 2020 apocalyptic horror Sweet Home. 

If you want more of the sinister Korean psychological thriller/horror series where pretty much everyone dies, you might like Sweet Home. Think of it as a mix of All of Us Are Dead and Stranger Things with a pinch of Birdbox - there are horrible monsters hungry for blood, a disease that spreads at the speed of light, and on top of that, the main characters are hopelessly trapped in a building trying to survive this madness. 

The show features a wide variety of VFX including destruction, morphing, blood and gore, CG creatures, and massive explosions. Hyperrealistic prosthetics for Sweet Home’s monsters were created by Legacy Effects and Spectral Motion while CG-related work was handled by Westworld and BadClay Studio.

Regardless of the series genre, VFX artists often use stock footage when creating visual effects - they help achieve a photorealistic look without the need to use practical effects. 

If you are ready to take your visuals to the next level, check out our VFX stock footage library. You will find dozens of VFX assets including flamethrowers, water splashes, blood hits, ground fog, snow, fireworks, and many more. 

You can buy asset collections with FX of your choice separately starting from $50 or subscribe for as low as $14.99 per month to get instant access to our entire library. 

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