IMG VFX Delivers Seamlessly Mysterious Visuals on ‘The Third Day’
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Sky / HBO's psychological thriller, The Third Day, is a visceral, six-part drama set on the mysterious British island of Osea, a fascinating and distorting world where not everything is what it seems.

The first three episodes, "Summer", written by Dennis Kelly and directed by Marc Munden, see Sam (Jude Law) drawn from a mysterious island off the British coast. Sam is isolated from the mainland and cannot leave the idyllic and dangerously enchanting world he has discovered.

"Winter," the final three episodes of Kit de Waal, Dean O & # 39; Loughlin and Dennis Kelly, see Helen (Naomie Harris) as a headstrong outsider who is inseparable from the island looking for answers.

With over two decades of experience, VFX supervisor Ivor Middleton led the visual effects of the project, worked closely with both directors and came up with creative ideas. Since The Third Day is a very dramatic piece, the VFX were often invisible, but an integral part of the story.

Middleton: “In a distorting world, we had to create photorealistic effects that were impossible in reality. They had to look subtle to match the tone and look of the series. Many of the recordings were quite complex and had to be created in accordance with the symbolism and mythology of the narrative in order to appear at exactly the right moment and enhance and intensify the dangerously enchanting world. Doing this was essential to the audience's understanding. The VFX had to be subtle and not overwhelming. "

One of the fascinating things about the show is that it is set on Osea Island in the Blackwater Estuary, a real island with a dam that is only open twice a day. Middleton noted that much of the show was filmed there, which posed significant logistical problems for the production. "We were cut off from the tide, just like the protagonists are in the script," he shared.

Middleton, along with VFX producer Rob Delicata, carefully selected five vendors to work on the project that they knew would be capable of producing the level of intricate work required: the VFX supervisor's IMG VFX company with Sally Goldberg as VFX supervisor; Freefolk with Steve Murgatroyd as VFX supervisor; MPC with Oliver Winwood as VFX supervisor; Lenscare under the supervision of Sascha Fromeyer; and union.

Each vendor handled a wide range of shot types, including environmental work, sky replacement, and changing coasts. The island had to look more remote than it actually is; VFX was used to change horizons and shorelines. For the causeway itself, the rotating window was tight due to the ever-changing tides, so a lot of work was put into adjusting the water level and getting them to look for the narrative.

The dam plays a key role in the story; The aerial photographs, except for the elements of Sam in the car, were stylized and made entirely in CG. These recordings show how the snake-shaped, umbilical-like stretch of land that connects to the mainland is the only way to get on or off the island.

There was a considerable amount of creature and animation work on footage with thousands of crabs, crickets, a living meat platter, and other digital elements. "One of the things that was interesting about the animation was that it was all connected in some way to the mythology of the narrative," said Middleton. "There are some shots of crickets that are a recurring theme throughout the" Summer "series and also appear as various props and works of art that we also see."

"Summer" ends with one of the greatest recordings in which a swarm of locusts soars over the island.

One of the show's biggest and most creative challenges was the acid sequence that spanned episodes 2 and 3. “IMG handled some shots in this sequence, the flesh came to life in the ritual room and the stone sweated on the chapel. We also recorded and finished some recordings that other providers had started but couldn't finish due to the COVID-19 crisis, ”explained Middleton.

The sequence also included people sitting by the fire wearing strange masks, he added, noting, “The purpose here was not to make it clear whether people were wearing masks or not; They looked like faces, but with something very strange about them. “One of his favorite shots was the moment when Sam is led away by Mrs. Martin and appears to float over the street. "This was also a joint recording that we completed," added Middleton. “While the shot was being shot in the camera, we added people from an element that floats in the sky, defies gravity, and dances on the roof of the Seabird Hotel. During the cast and crew demonstration, some mentioned that they couldn't remember shooting people on wires that night – so we guess we got this comp right! "

Munden didn't want to be too strict with the VFX. "He was looking for everyone involved to bring their creativity to the sequence," said Middleton, "as it was a collaborative process of conceptualizing and developing ideas."

Adrian Sturges, the show's overall producer, commented on Middleton's role in production: “Ivor and IMG did a large number of recordings for the show, some of which required a very inventive and creative approach. I was impressed with the dedication of his team to achieve the results the directors wanted. Day three is a really ambitious project looking to break new ground – both in VFX and in every other department – and Ivor played a really important role in making that goal a reality. "

Middleton joined the project during the preparatory phase and oversaw filming, which took place mainly in Osea, but also in a designated interior space of the Oyster Pub at 3 Mills Studios in London. When the last recordings were submitted 14 months later in August 2020, the world was a completely different place. Most of the post-production took place during the height of the lockdown.

Delicata explained how manufacturing dealt with the pandemic: “From a technical point of view, we had to switch to remote working with all of our vendors overnight. But it was surprisingly smooth. We used a combination of Zoom and Google Meet for daily communication and Evercast and Clearview for customer review and approval of recordings. For a company like IMG, this was perfect because they bring together experienced artists who mostly work remotely anyway, so they had everything under control when all production and suppliers had to switch to remote working. "

“We definitely missed the face-to-face customer meetings and were able to check the daily papers in a screening room,” concluded Middleton, “but everyone was able to adapt to the new work practices that now apply to all of us in the future. ”

Day three can be watched on Sky and Now TV in the UK and HBO and HBO Max in the US.

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