Computer Graphics World

July/August 2014

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36 cgw j u ly . a u g u s t 2 0 1 4 king can only work with his best tools." ― T.H. White, "The Once and Future King" Unlike the time-shi ing that occurs in Once Upon A Time and Wonderland, the plots that unfold in Merlin stay rooted in Arthurian times. Alas, a er many adventures through digital environments featuring magical CG dragons and creatures, and fi ghting dark magic from sourc- es inside and outside the castle walls, it came time for the young king, his queen, and his faithful magician-companion Merlin to say farewell. So a er fi ve sea- sons, the BBC series turned its last page at the end of last year. But, not before Merlin revealed his magical powers to Arthur, just as The Mill and, later, Vine had been doing throughout each episode. Merlin relied on subtle visual eff ects magic to tell the story of this powerful magician who managed to hide his capabilities from Arthur and those around him until the fi nal episode. As such, the crew dealt with an average of 50 to 60 shots per episode, many of which are fi re- balls and enchantment-related VFX. However, as Merlin began to grow up and learn more magic, the eff ects had to pro- gress as well, so during the last season, the work became more complex. And, Vine's Michael Illingworth, VFX supervisor for the series, was ready to perform his magic, alongside Merlin. Illingworth founded Vine in 2007, and a group of fi ve there produced matte paintings for Season 4. Most of the exterior castle shots were of an actual castle in Wales, with CG back- drops and extensions to make it more Arthurian. Also, a castle in France was o en used for larger on-set shots, requiring the team to digitally replace modern fi xtures for medieval ones. "We did mattes of the French castle and made nighttime Camelot matte paintings while populating the grounds around the castle with medieval houses, churches, and such to give the impression the castle was the center of the city," Illingworth explains. By Season 5, the artists – numbering close to 15 – were making full-CG, matte-painted environments. Illingworth esti- mates that the group handled up to 10 matte-painted shots per episode. While many believe that K Chapter 3 A THE TV SERIES MERLIN CONTAINED A RANGE OF VISUAL EFFECTS, INCLUDING (AT RIGHT, FROM TOP TO BOTTOM) CG-AUGMENTED SETS, A BABY DIGITAL DRAGON WITH PRACTICAL FIRE, AND THE ELDERLY COMPUTER-GENERATED DRAGON THAT APPEARED IN EPISODES FROM THE START OF THE SERIES. Merlin P R I M E - T I M E E F F E C T S Images ©BBC/Merlin

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