A few weeks back when we visited the set of Knight Rider, one of the things we wanted to be sure to do was to meet the people worked on the special effects for each episode. We feel strongly that they have a huge responsibility for that final product you see on the screen - cause without them, KITT would just be another car. Fortunately for us we were given the chance to meet the folks behind the 3D and 2D effects that make up this show.
On two seperate occasions, they have shown us some alternates from the KITT to Attack KITT transformations, but this was our first time to see some of these other effects before anyone else. There are over 400 effects in the premier episode alone.
In a generic office complex across from the sounds stage that houses the KITTCave, you will find the offices for the special effects team. Elan Dassani and Rajeev Dassani, identical twins, run the group in charge of the effects for Knight Rider. Together, back in February, the two worked on the back door pilot episode and built KITTs panel inteface for that movie. Since then they have started to branch their team out as more of the effects (practically all) are done in house. Soon after the series was given a green light, they hired Stephan Fleet who became the 2D lead. They have continuted to grow, and outgrow their current space where now 1-2 dozen employees are working dillegently.
In talking about the transformations themselves we asked about the differences with going to series. Stephan told us that "In the backdoor pilot it was much more of a nanobot thing, and now we're going for it's a machine." Rajeev contined "More mechnical, but still kinda sexy." But don't worry the nano effects isn't gone completely. "There is still nano everything. There is something in the third episode where he is hit by bullets we kind of see the skin break apart and reform in a gelatinous way. There is an element of that but we found the mechanical cooler and people seem to respond to it more."
While we are shown that the original KITTs voice modulator has inspired the final design of the Knight 3000 modulator, we asked about the transformations and the visual key of KITTs scanner. "That's a general rule that anything that KITT turns into will always have, the lights we are treating as if it's kind of like eye."
While in the original series alot of the effects, specifically for Turbo Boost, were practical but it's a mix of the real and CG that make Turbo Boost come alive now. "The actual landing is a live shot. We actually drove KITT of a ramp essentially. This is also what we try to do, we mix real with digital and that way it will hopefully look seamless." The mysteries of the Turbo Boost were never really considered 26 years ago, but they are trying hard to bring logic to the jumps. "Given that the show is filled with alot of crazy effects we try as hard as we can to apply logic to situations. OK it says he jumps from a parked position, but lets figure out how that is actually viable."
For the crown jewel of the interior dash, the team had to work specially hard to make the heads up display (or HUD) to be convincing and envelope pushing. "At first we were going to have it on the window but when you think of a car there is the slope of the window and everything would just look dented, so we kind of have it on this imaginary plane behind the rear view mirror and coming down. Stuff can even come out in space, and it's very interactive." It goes without saying that they are always working very hard to continue to push the design forward. "Gary words were that KITT can think a million times faster than any human, so twenty things could be happening at a time from a creative perspective"
All of this is done under the eye of Gary Scott Thompson, the showrunner and executive producer. "Gary actually goes through every shot and tells us the speed that kitt should be going - if the dial is in the shot we make it the correct speed." Everyone is really appreciative of this support. "We've been given carblanch by Gary - his response is always make it cooler, make it cool. We'll do something and he will give us notes. He wants us to push the envelope and concept something out that might be more interesting."
The team understands the importance of there work. "We're not old guys, we're practically kids. They definately are putting a lot of faith in us, and we are definately throwing down to deliver." And it's the scripts that help drive them to push even further. "We will get an episode and litterally our eyes will pop out 'he does what now?'"
Our huge thanks to NBCUniversal Pubicity, Gary Scott Thomspon, Elan Dassani, Rajeev Dassani, Stephan Fleet and everyone working on their teams for allowing us to have this behind the scenes look!