An inside look at how SNL creates their ambitious videos in under a week.

All images and videos via NBC/SNL.

Saturday Night Live has been a staple of American television since 1975, offering humorous and astute sketches on everything from pop culture to global politics. The show’s writers, actors, editors, and crew must come up with fresh content and execute it in under a week.

With a rise in the popularity of the show’s digital shorts (cinema-quality videos the crew shoots and edits sometimes in fewer than twelve hours), SNL‘s digital VFX team has to come up with creative and realistic effects for all types of shots.

In this video released by SNL, we see some of the VFX breakdowns behind some of their most popular (and hilarious) visual effects.

Green Screen Keying and Replacement

Behind The Scenes with SNL's VFX Team — Green Screen Keying

As you can see above, the VFX team often has to recreate iconic scenes and effects from popular films like The Ring for comedic effect. While film production budgets and timelines are often much, much greater, recreating the visual effect of a demon child crawling out of a television requires several layers of green screen production and spot-on chroma-keying in post.

You can check out the full video  here.

Cross-Screen Stitching

Behind The Scenes with SNL's VFX Team — Cross-Screen Stitching

Another challenge SNL VFX crew faces week in and week out is managing their talent with limited schedules. In this skit with Dave Chappelle, who is undoubtedly only available for a minimal amount of time during rehearsal, the team has to film Dave in three separate costumes (he plays all three characters) before cross-stitching each into the same screen for the final scene.

Here’s the full video.

Cinema 4D Character Creation

In this interview, SNL Editor Adam Epstein talks about the crew’s challenges and workflow. While they mainly use programs like Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, they occasionally use higher-end programs like Cinema 4D for complex character creations, like the flamingo you see above.

You can check out the final video here.

Watch the full behind-the-scenes SNL video below to see the variety of VFX tricks they have to pull off every week.


Do you have tips for visual effects in a crunch? Let us know in the comments below!