Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2020

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e d i t i o n 2 , 2 0 2 0 c g w 9 T here have been many retellings and in- terpretations of the Arthurian legends, particularly those involving Excalibur. And with the magic, drama, romance, myth- ic battles, epic quests, and more, it's easy to see why the subject is so spellbinding. And indeed, the latest version of this medieval myth, Netflix's Cursed, follows that tradition, although it places a unique spin on the tale with familiar characters in very different roles, all supported by a wide range of stun- ning visual effects. Based on the illustrated novel by Tom Wheeler and Frank Miller of the same name, Cursed re-imagines the story from the perspective of Nimue, a young woman with a mysterious gi who is destined to become the powerful (and tragic) Lady of the Lake. Aer her mother's death, she finds an unexpected partner in Arthur, a humble mercenary, in a quest to find Merlin and deliver an ancient sword. Over the course of her journey, Nimue will become a symbol of courage and rebellion against the terrifying Red Paladins – Christian Crusaders whose goal is to rid the land of druids and all mys- tical/magical beings – and their complicit King Uther. Nimue draws strength from the magical sword she possesses, imbuing her with amazing fighting skills. Everyone, however, wants to possess this weapon, known as the "Sword of the First Kings," as it is said that whoever wields this Sword of Power shall be the one true king. King Uther Pendrag- on wants it, as do the Paladins. Cumber the Ice King covets the sword, as does the ruby-eyed shadow lord King Rugen, the Leper King. At one point Merlin possessed it, or more accurately, it possessed him, turning the magician into a primal, vengeful being. Nimue's mother relieved him of the sword to save his life, but he lost his magical powers as a result. Now, believing the sword is cursed, Merlin intends to melt it using remnants of the long-ago Fey forge fires from which it was craed – fires kept in a treasure room at Rugen's lair. The weapon, it seems, is the ultimate double-edged sword for Nimue, as well. It enables her to protect the mystical Fey beings against the murderous Paladins, but it also begins to nurture a darker side – just as Merlin had warned. Season 1 of Cursed, which comprises 10 one-hour episodes, dropped July 17. Wheeler and Miller are co-creators/execu- tive producers, while Silenn Thomas serves as co-executive producer, and Alex Boden, a producer. David Houghton is overall visual effects supervisor. Cursed is set in a mythical medieval version of England, although filming occurred at Langley Film Studios, outside of London, with a good deal of location shooting near Surrey and in North Wales, around an area called Betws-y-Coed. VFX were used to transform the soundstage and modern locations. All told, the series contains 2,051 VFX shots: Episode 1 (390 shots) and Episode 10 (360 shots) contain the highest number, followed by Episode 4 (282 shots), Episode 2 (261 shots), and Episode 7 (229 shots), with the remaining dispersed among the other episodes. The work was shared mainly across five vendors: DNeg, Milk VFX, Mr. X, Goodbye Kansas, and Freefolk. "We did just about everything," says Houghton. "I'm not sure what we didn't do; we didn't do spaceships." There is quite a bit of blood from battles, massacres, and brutality, as well as magical effects, all-CG environments and digital extensions, com- puter-generated creatures and animals, and fire/ash/embers/smoke/water. Most of the Fey, however, use prosthetics. "One of the decisions we made early on in conversations with Frank and Tom was that the magic was going to be visualized through elemental forces rather than more traditional wand/firework-type effects," says Houghton, "more embedded in elemental forces." This can be seen in many scenes, such as when Nimue summons the Hidden with animated vines representing the mystical, natural forces that give the young woman some of her powers; or when she manipulates smoke, flames, and ash to her advantage. Lightning also becomes a natural force that is manipulated by magical char- acters in the show. DNeg: Hawksbridge, Gramaire, Village Massacre, Vines, Bear DNeg's work across its 822 shots in Cursed spanned the series' 10 episodes and ran the gamut, incorporating just about every type of work, from environments, to creatures and digi-doubles, to fire and blood, and far more. This includes building some of the DNeg built a large set extension for Hawksbridge port, including the sea. Nimue and Pym approach the CG-augmented town of Hawksbridge.

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