Boardwalk Empire

Austin Meyers, an Emmy winning compositor for the HBO hit show Boardwalk Empire, uses visual effects to realistically portray life in the Prohibition Era in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His favorite project on the show was to replace actor Jack Huston’s face for the role of former sniper Richard Harrow. Photo Courtesy of Austin Meyers.

Austin Meyers, a UT radio-television-film graduate, manipulates faces, redesigns streets and changes landscapes as a compositor for the hit HBO show “Boardwalk Empire.” Using computer-generated graphics and visual effects, the artists behind “Boardwalk Empire” attempt to realistically portray life during the Prohibition Era in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Meyers recently won the Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role for his work on “Boardwalk Empire.”

The Daily Texan talked to Meyers about remaking faces, winning an Emmy and intramural handball.

Daily Texan: What has been your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?
Austin Meyers: The work I did on ‘Boardwalk Empire’ where I replaced a guy’s face. From a technical standpoint, it was really interesting to problem-solve that stuff and make it work and make it look real. In addition, whenever you work on somebody’s face, you have to be very tight with your work because when there’s an actor on screen, people are usually looking at their face, especially if that face is as mangled as this guy’s. So the level of detail we had to pour into those shots was next level.

DT: What was the experience of winning an Emmy like?
Meyers: My head still kind of spins about the whole deal. They give you 45 seconds to give a speech, but it takes 20 to 25 seconds just to get there because the place is so big. Then the producer gave a 15 second speech. Then they rush you back stage, make you sign something and hand you a statue. You ask, ‘Well, who do I give this back to?’ and they say that “No no, that’s yours.” So you have to carry it around the rest of the night, and it was funny seeing everyone walking around in clumps carrying their Emmys. 

DT: So where do you keep your Emmy?
Meyers: It hangs out on my coffee table because I don’t really have anywhere to put it. So it just sits on the coffee table, and we try not to knock it over.

DT: How do you think your life changed as a result of working on ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ and what did it teach you?
Meyers: ‘Boardwalk’ is the highest quality stuff I’ve worked on, and a lot of people will go their whole career and not get to work on stuff at that level. It gave me a critical eye to work at that level and to bring that back to my other projects. Even if we don’t have the time or the resources to get that done, it’s nice to know what it’s supposed to look like.

DT: Is it unnerving having an image of the shot in your mind but not having the time to create it?
Meyers: They say you never finish a shot; it just escapes. There’s always something you could do to make the shot better. That’s the way of the world in visual effects because no one has the budget or the real time to make it right. We’re never done.

DT: How did the University of Texas influence your development both as a visual artist/editor and as a person?
Meyers: UT ... instilled in me an open mindedness and a path towards continually learning new skills and ideas that has carried on into my professional life. It’s strange to think of myself as a “prominent alumnus;” on the inside I still feel like a country boy from Northeast Texas. I remember being absolutely thrilled just to get my picture on the wall in Gregory Gym for winning IM handball doubles with my brother. It’s crazy looking back on how far I’ve come and how quick it happened.

Printed on Monday, November 19, 2012 as: UT alumnus finds success at HBO with digital graphics, visual effects