Chicken Bone FX’s work on SEE spanned 6 episodes of season 2. The work ran the gamut from simple paint and cleanup fixes to matte painted backgrounds, day for night conversions, CG set extensions, and crowds, to extended battle sequences with CG swords, arrows, crossbow bolts, blood sprays, decapitations, and trenches filled with fire. Over the course of the show, our scope of work increased several times, ending up more than doubling the size of our initial bid. It was tough work, but we were happy to do it.
The most complex work was in the final episode, 208, which features a climactic battle between the Payans and hidden tribes, led by Baba Voss (Jason Momoa) and the mighty Trivantians led by his brother, Edo (Dave Bautista). Much of this had a handheld feel with a lot of camera motion blur, and several very long shots to keep you engrossed in the action. This meant some tricky tracking and extended cleanup and composite work. This final episode, “Rock-A-Bye,” won a VES award (Chris Wright, Parker Chehak, Javier Roca, Tristan Zerafa, Tony Kenny).
VFX – Fire
The fire trench was our biggest set piece in episode 208. A length of the trench had been seeded with a flammable liquid the enemy was drawn into. Then, a thin trail of liquid at the end of the trench which acted like a fuse ignited resulting in an expanding fireball that rips down the trench and incinerates all the unfortunate soldiers within.
For the ignition shot, we had a small area of practical fire as a reference point for color and look, but that didn’t move correctly. Lacking a clean plate for this shot and needing to rebuild under the reference fire and behind a large practical light designed to get interactive light in the shot, we built the plate using the lidar scan from production, graded to match. Two pyro sims were built in Houdini, one for the ground fire and one for the explosion once the fuse touched off the saturated area. Each was shaped by the lidar geometry of the trench and went through dozens of iterations to get the right look, feel and speed so that it engulfed the in-camera and CG background soldiers, but just kissed the back of our main character’s head as he fled.
The following shot took a similar approach with fire engulfing a squad of CG soldiers as the camera swung down the trench from above, with extensive paintwork to remove all of the safety cables, lights, power, and other set elements in the shot. We used a combination of the practical light on set and light cast from the fire volumes onto the lidar to bed the flame into the shot and went through many sims to get the right speed, explosiveness and expansion upwards on the fire so that we didn’t catch the camera itself.
The last shot of the fireball had a pass shot on location of a huge gout of fire. This was combined with a plate of the heroes diving out of the way, and more CG fire sims to tie the fireball traveling down the trench into the practical fire pass. Finally, the practical fire was filled with sparks from the ignition mechanism which had to be painted out by hand, which took a hot minute! One final aftermath shot of the fireball had several soldiers shot in camera who we needed to add fire. They were rotomated and rotoscoped and fed through pyro sims so the flames believably engulfed them.
VFX – Weapons and Battle
On set they used a mix of full-length prop weapons, partial ones, or just handles depending on the shot. Production provided scans of all the props and they formed the basis of the CG models for each asset. Each shot was camera and object tracked, with the swords either extended or added in their entirety.
For one particular long shot known as “olives on a stick” where Edo skewers two enemies at once on his huge sword, we added the CG sword back in for over 45 seconds including various stabs, slashes, and a decapitation, complete with blood spraying everywhere. This shot also required going from one take to another in the middle of the shot, hidden by a falling soldier, and a replacement of the tree-filled background of the left side of the frame to remove flags and lights.
Haniwa (Nesta Cooper) is an archer, and all the shots featuring her bow had the arrows added in CG, tracked to the bow and fingers, and hand-animated as they flew into enemies and struck. Lots of blood was added throughout the battle scenes, mostly using 2D elements but with some CG blood for very specific moments. One shot required a last-minute addition of a face being ripped open by a knife – this was built with a combination of CG head and blood elements, a sim for a shattering face mask, and blood elements added in comp to finish it out.
We also added background characters into various shots throughout the series. Covid restrictions during production meant that various scenes were not as full as the director had intended. Some characters that needed to be close to camera were shot after the fact against blue, but others were CG soldiers built from scans and animated as crowds; fighting, running, or trudging through the snow to fill out the ranks.
VFX – Snow and Visors
Much of this season takes place in the snow – and most of this was captured in-camera, but we did have to add falling snow for continuity in places and for one battle scene, snow on the ground. It had snowed for most of the shoot but melted by the time this scene was filmed, so we needed to add snow back underneath dozens of battling soldiers. This took extensive roto, along with rotomation of pairs of legs to get contact shadows out of CG to match onto the snow, and grading to add light bounce back onto the characters.
One final addition to the show was the visors. Almost everyone in the world of SEE is blind, so the soldiers wear armor on their faces to protect them in battle. The performers, however, could not do their job while blinded by real visors, so we had to track their heads, and add visors onto dozens of soldiers throughout the episode.
There was a ton of work on this season, huge thanks to all the artists and support staff who contributed.
VFX Supervisor: Sam O’Hare
VFX Producer: Katherine Soares
CG Supervisor: Dan Warom
Mike La Fave