Netflix has been backing a range of different productions lately – both film and episodic television – and generating a tonne of work for production and visual effects (VFX) houses no doubt. Beyond its treasure trove of cult series such as Black Mirror and Stranger Things, the online streaming service has recently funded equally dark films such as murder mystery 1922 and The Ritual, Netflix’s new original horror film based in the Scandinavian wilderness.
But no fantastical indulgence can be enjoyed by all without hard work from visual effects houses.
"Netflix presents an ever-increasing opportunity for studios to experiment and push the boundaries of what is considered 'traditional' VFX and animation for television," says Axis Animation chief executive office Richard Scott. "Directors are looking for bigger, splashier, feature-film effects for their shows. It's challenging, but absolutely exciting, for studios such as Axis to explore what they can do within this remit."
Here we take a look at the VFX breakdown reels which have been released so far from individual studios, including Nvizible’s work on the creature from The Ritual and how the CG Okja creature was brought to life by a team of animators at Method Studios.
Take a look – but of course be warned – this feature is full of spoilers.
This horror follows the story of reuniting after the tragic death of their friend, four college pals set out to hike through the Scandinavian wilderness. A wrong turn leads them into the mysterious forests of Norse legend, where an ancient evil exists and stalks them at every turn. The Ritual was nominated for best VFX at the 2017 British Independent Film Awards.
Nvisible visual effects is based in Soho, London. It created the ‘beast’ for the film – see how in the reel below.
This film is based on Stephen King’s novella about a rancher who conspired to murder his wife for financial gain and convinces his teenage son to participate. Mostly based in a giant cornfield, much of the visual effects work in this film was to enhance the environments.
Australian production company Siamese specialises in post-production and VFX. See its breakdown reel below, taking a sample from over 150 VFX shots it completed for the film.
Lost in Space
Lost in Space is a science-fiction TV series based on the 1965 series of the same name, following following the Robinson family, who were supposed to set on a mission to explore a distant planet but whose spaceship veers off-course.
Image Engine was the main VFX vendor for the series. It completed 266 shots across five episodes. You can see how Image Engine worked on enhancing a lush woodland, creating a raging wildfire, directing a colossal crash, and building robots on its in-depth write up here.
"It involved a lot of concept art, a lot of shot development, and a lot of fun," says VFX supervisor Joao Sita. "The client was really open to taking feedback and guidance based on our expertise in sci-fi concepts. We were able to be really creatively flexible, which is a dream brief on a show like Lost In Space."
Take a look below.
Okja is a Netflix series about a massive animal, Okja, from the mountains in South Korea who gets taken away from young Mija and transported to New York.
Director Bong brought on Method Studios and VFX supervisor Erik-Jan De Boer (Life of Pi) to take his concept of Okja. To create the feeling of a living, breathing animal, the team created a foam puppet rig to serve as Okja on set and for the actors to interact with (which looks quite hilarious in the film below). Method’’s VFX animation director Stephen Clee puppeteered the unique rig in nearly 300 shots during production.
4th Creative Party, a VFX studio in Korea, also helped to produce VFX for Okja.
Kiss Me First
Kiss Me First is a new Channel 4 and Netflix British drama series created by Bryan Elsley. It began airing on Channel 4 on April 2. Blending live action and animation, it’s based on Lottie Moggach’s debut novel about Leila, a lonely video game addict who dives into the virtual world of Azana. Take a look at the trailer below.
Axis Animation created over 50 minutes of animated virtual worlds that intersect with the live action storyline. Although we can't get hold of a breakdown reel as of yet, this is what chief executive of Axis Animation Richard Scott says about working on the series.
"We’ve produced over 50 minutes of animation across 500 shots for the six episode series, revealing the digital world of Azana. This is an unprecedented level of animation for a television drama, but in the coming years such briefs will be the norm, rather than the exception.
"Kiss Me First was a golden opportunity for Axis to flex out skillset and feel out what's possible within a TV turnaround. The answer is a lot. Enabled by today's tools, television and streaming services can offer viewers more exciting, visual experiences than ever before. Kiss Me First was an interesting example due to its combination of live action and animation. We worked in incredibly close collaboration with Kindle Entertainment and Balloon Entertainment, as well as writer and executive producer Bryan Elsley and live-action director Misha Manson-Smith from the earliest days of the project, ensuring the aesthetic of the in-camera work was mirrored in the animation. It's this kind of close collaboration that enables great work to end up on screen."
A Series of Unfortunate Events
This comedy series follows the tragic tale of three orphans who investigate their parents mysterious death alongside an evil guardian, based on the series of books by Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket).
California-based VFX company Zoic Studios worked on the series. Take a look at its breakdown reel below.