HBO Max's critically acclaimed science fiction series Raised By Wolves is about two androids set to raise human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling people's beliefs is a treacherous and difficult task. The series is produced by Ridley Scott's Scott Free Productions.
Working with full VFX supervisor Ray McIntyre Jr. and VFX producer Ruth Hauer, MR. X provided 476 VFX recordings for the series from its Toronto and Bangalore studios. Post-production ran from June 2019 to summer 2020.
MR draws on Scott's sketches and storyboards. X VFX Supervisor Eric Robinson and VFX Producer Sam Banack ran the MR. X team. Working closely with production, the team conducted thorough visual research that used real-world references to influence the CG environments, creatures, and effects they provided for this otherworldly series. Robinson notes that there was a very collaborative relationship between production and the MR. The X team said, "This was one of the funniest and most creative shows I've worked on at MR in over 11 years. X. We had the client's trust to come up with ideas. Not all ideas stuck, but we persisted to give them a WOW! "
Hallway explosions in the hallway.
One of the most challenging sequences was the hallway scene in which Mother attacks the Mithraic Arc with a fatal scream attack, wiping out everyone in her path. Scott had made his own conceptual sketch for the aftermath of the devastating attack with a corridor full of blood. The MR draws from the set photography. The X-Team went to work to interpret the scene. The scream was an all-in-comp effect that used distortion and glow to create the appearance of sound waves directed from mom's face towards their targets. In response to the fatal screaming attack, the simulation of the blood tendrils had to show both weightlessness and a feeling of otherworldliness. "It was a layered shot because a certain amount of exploding blood came in handy," explains Robinson. “What hits the wall is 70% practical most of the time”. Mr X had to enlarge to improve the continuity between the location of the blown blood bags with special effects and the location of the actors before the explosion. The team also had to kill the actors once they exploded. “So we had an actor and an explosion layer to get married. We didn't always have the actor where the blood bag exploded so it was part of the job to improve all of those things, ”said Robinson.
The MR. The X-Team had to show that the necromancer possesses powers that go far beyond the capabilities of a human. In doing so, the team had to balance a fine line between baseless, chunky pieces that make for a different kind of show and the dazzling immediacy and speed of their attack, which is obviously much more in line with the rest of the series.
Much of the MR. The X-Labor revolved around the Necromancer, the metallic killer version of the Android mother. To give the character a compelling metallic appearance, the team pulled photo references of the old Atlas bronze statue in Rockefeller Center in New York City. This meant drawing from images of the atlas and different lighting conditions (natural light, flash photography) at any time of the day to ensure that the bronze responded realistically to its surroundings.
The necromancer's muscles were a different challenge. The MR. The X-Team had a scan from mom (Amanda Collin) to justify this. The VFX team had to transform Mother's necromancer and back again so that key proportions had to match. Since the Necromancer is an extremely powerful version of the Android and has more muscle than the mother, the team had to make sure that the transformations were subtle and properly contoured around her body.
The necromancer mother design was 70% completed by the production department when it was handed over to the visual effects team, estimates Robinson. "The aging and patina and bronze cooling wasn't complete," he adds. "We actually had shots in production for a while and they were still changing their shape – they were changing their silhouette, and that was deep in the production, so it was something that developed as we worked on it."
The transition of the necromancer to her more normal state has also been difficult because, as a necromancer, she has an idealized form. The necromancer has wider shoulders, a narrower waist, and looks much stronger. “We used the Houdini sim to create the mats for the transition. So we would have a nice contour for this, ”explains Robinson. The transitions should generally last between 15 and 25 frames. “So we had to do a lot of comp warping to massage that and keep the silhouette in line. So it wasn't a joke when she switched between the two characters. "
The external work was carried out in South Africa. Many of the separate locations in South Africa had to be mixed and matched to create the Raised by Wolves environment. The huge mountain seen in many wide angle shots was named Olympus Mons in reference to the 21 km high, very large shield volcano on the planet Mars. "The huge mountain that dominates a lot of the backgrounds is a feature Ridley really likes," comments Robinson. “And I think that has to do with his work in The Martian. We have called it Olympus Mons all along. We had to put a lot of shots in the background, it was usually a DMP (Digital Matte Painting), but we had to adjust with more or less snow, different times of the day, atmospheric values, etc. “The team also had to build a bridge between the arid, desert-like landscape and the green forest that the atheist Lander flies over in Episode 1. "We're switching from a record shot in Jordan to a shot in South Africa." We had to marry some of them, change silhouettes, add dimensional layers, and give the shot just enough depth so that the lander itself was really dominated by this vast empty landscape. "
The show's signature wide-angle shot of the rolling cloud coming over the mountain, featured in at least a few episodes, was captured both as an actual time-lapse and by MR. X as a Houdini simulation imitates the time lapse in 3D.
The environments and most of the effects were modeled in Maya, put together in Nuke, with simulations in Houdini. Black Ginger, a local supplier in Cape Town, supplied the LIDAR scanning in South Africa. MR. X previously worked with them on Resident Evil 6 and Monster Hunter for Paul W.S. Anderson.
While the flashbacks of wrecked Boston were brief, they were complex and there was only so much that MR. X was able to work over matte images because the camera was moving with the flying necromancer and there had to be some interaction with CG elements. “It was a huge build for us and very little used. We had effect simulations for explosions. We had ships flying through the scene. It was just one of those things that you just bite your nails about creating as it will be almost a one-off, very different build, ”explains Robinson.
For the aerial versus the ground in the flashbacks of Boston, there was only one real connection point in these environments, namely the destroyed stadium. The team "took the exterior shots of the stadium, which you can see in the air and from the ground, and some shots in a later episode," says Robinson.
Ridley Scott was the producer and director of the first episodes. The stadium actually appeared for the first time in a so-called "Ridley gram". The award-winning director is known for making very simple, yet informative, sketches of what he wants. MR. X got her first sketch long before the actual show recordings were made. “There was a shot in the main trailer close to the ground that was filmed with soldiers running through the foreground. And part of the stadium is in the background while a ship flies through all of this ruined environment, ”recalls Robinson. "We didn't know if they were going to use this in the episode, but it would be in the trailer. And that was based on this super-simplified sketch Ridley made. He had a horizon, he had drawn a curve for the stadium, little one." People showing the scale and how far the camera would be, then they shot a few people in the foreground and that was it – we just built everything around that one simple sketch!
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