TORONTO – When cast members of the Canadian sci-fi series “Sanctuary” shoot a scene that takes place abroad, they don’t usually get to see or touch the landscapes of the featured city, meet its people, or even breathe its air.
That’s because most of the show is shot in front of a green screen in Vancouver, and it isn’t until post-production that scenes are illustrated with the far-flung locales visited by Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) and her protege Will (Robin Dunne). The pair are on a mission to protect monster-like creatures that are viewed as a threat to society.
But for Season 2, debuting Friday on Space, they got to shoot a scene on a real street corner in Tokyo, which was “pretty amazing and actually kind of weird” for the show, said Dunne.
“I’m sure people will be like: ‘Wow, look at that – that is really good green screen,” Dunne said in a recent telephone interview from New York, where he was promoting the show.
“But it’s actually one of the only times that we’ve gone on location to shoot something.”
“Sanctuary,” created by Damian Kindler, began as a webisode series in early 2007 and was later picked up to be a TV series that debuted in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. in October 2008. Co-stars include Emilie Ullerup, Ryan Robbins and Christopher Heyerdahl.
The series – which is up for six Gemini Awards next month, including one for Dunne-is said to be the first in North America to use the RED camera, which captures images digitally at more than four times the resolution of a high-definition camera.
Dunne, who hails from Toronto and now lives in Los Angeles, said it was shocking to see himself in such a crisp resolution at first.
“I was like: ‘God, I’ve got to start trimming my nose hairs,”‘ said Dunne, whose other TV credits include “Dawson’s Creek,” “CSI: Miami” and “NCIS.” “You could see every pore.”
To help the cast, a visual-effects supervisor usually shows them drawings of what the post-production elements will look like.
That, combined with compelling scripts and strong acting, makes filming in front a grass-coloured backdrop all day “a lot of fun,” said Dunne.
“With all those elements, you kind of forget about the fact that you’re standing on a stage that’s got green floors and green walls and a green ceiling and sometimes even green props,” said the actor, who also co-wrote the Nickelodeon “Roxy Hunter” TV movie franchise and novels.
“The one difficult situation with the green screen is when we’re being chased or when we’re running somewhere because you really have to be mindful of not running through a wall or going through a window or whatever that will be there in post (production).”
In Season 1, Dunne’s character was on the fence about his decision to help the doctor protect the “Abnormals.”
This season, he’s resigned himself to the fact that the Sanctuary is his home, said Dunne.
“It may end up in him being killed and/or permanently maimed, but he’s there and along for the ride,” he said.
“For Will, Season 1 was ‘Star Wars,’ and Season 2 is ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ You’re going to see a darker side of him and the strain is starting to show.”