Oblique FX has let us in on its VFX work for Being Human, the US remake of the popular BBC TV show about a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire living together in houses in Bristol and Wales (Boston, Massachusetts in the remake).
The third series of the remade Being Human is currently being shown in US (the fifth and final series of the British version is currently on BBC3). Oblique FX worked on all three series of the US version, and was recently nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for its work on an episode in the second season called The Ties That Blind. A VFX breakdown spot can be seen above.
Starting from scratch, Oblique FX built the elements that became the supernatural and magical characters. For The Ties That Blind, the firm created extensive VFX work to show paranormal phenomena. A poltergeist splits a staircase in half as Sally, the ghost, runs frantically backwards to escape the unseen force. Later, the ghost of her ex-boyfriend is shredded and sent into limbo by the Reaper, a swirling amorphous character. The episode culminates in a night fight in the woods between a pair of vampires and four werewolves, who have just transformed from their human shape.
“The werewolves have always been our most interesting challenge on this project,” said Pierre-Simon Lebrun-Chaput, VFX supervisor for Oblique FX. “Each one is a complex character with emotions and individual traits that we need to convey convincingly. They get a lot of screen time and it’s crucial that we integrate them believably into their environments.”
The fight in the woods is the most VFX-heavy sequence of Being Human to date. There are 15 werewolf shots during the night hunt, accounting for over one full minute of CG. Every element was hand-built in Softimage, lit and rendered with Arnold and composited in Nuke. Extensive rotoscopy was used to place the werewolves seamlessly among the leaves and trees of the forest.
CG assets of the werewolves were built from designs that were sketched early in the first season of Being Human. Oblique FX then used these elements to depict the human transformation into the very different anatomy of the werewolves. In the case of a facial morph of werewolf twins (below), the camera was close up, with a large part of the transformation happening on screen.
This sequence involved a painstaking 3D recreation of the actors’ faces and bodies. The 3D recreations were match-moved and then distorted to depict gradually sharpening teeth and extending bones, and subsequently, used to add growing CG hair and to animate changes in the colour and texture of the skin.
Oblique started with shots of the actors wearing prosthetic teeth, then animated the plates. Hair was added to the face next. A prosthetic chest mimicked the expansion of the torso. Once the werewolf transformations were complete the creatures were animated to continue the action sequence.
“It was easy to fall into in-between shapes that looked weird, like a raccoon or a rat,” Lebrun-Chaput explained. “We overcame this by redrawing the details of the face to make it more wolf-like and realistic. Because we were playing with the details of a human face, even a small error would have been immediately obvious to the audience.”