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Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Showtime’s original series, Homeland. Khaos Digital creates much of the content seen on simulated screens on television and in film.
Kent Smith/Showtime

Khaos can create animated graphics, such as words being typed on a computer. “On set, an actor won’t be able to hit the right keys,” says Simon Knights, senior designer in the Khaos graphics department. “They’re used to acting, so they’re not used to typing 60 words a minute correctly. We have to create all that up front so it’s repeatable, so it can be used across multiple takes.”

They also know how to keep themselves and their clients out of legal trouble. That social-media page inside your favorite show? Look closer: It’s a fake created by the Khaos magicians, despite the fact that it looks darned close to the genuine article (albeit without using the name Facebook and thus inviting a lawsuit). And the Khaos graphics you see in television shows are often much more pleasing to the eye than the actual stuff as well. It is Hollywood, after all.

“In real life, if a detective is searching for a set of fingerprints, it’ll say, ‘Match found,’ ” explains Khaos graphic artist Jim Van Over. “But for a show, we’ll have several pairs of fingerprints flashing by on the screen. It’s more interesting to the viewers. Some shows, like Southland, like to keep it simple and real. Meanwhile, a show like Hawaii Five-0 loves to do really, really spectacular stuff.”

For budget reasons, some shows and movies work without a service like the one Khaos provides. But Marcum believes the future will bring more demand because audiences will expect to see high-quality images on those small screens within the screens.

“We have become a culture very much addicted to, and reliant upon, visual technology,” he says. “And it’s becoming harder and harder to shoot around it.”

MICHAEL VENTRE is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. The content on his screens could use some livening-up.