Shadow and Bone
Picture Shop and Ghost VFX help filmmakers bring epic world of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone to life.
Shadow and Bone, based on Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling fantasy novels, follows mapmaker and orphan Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), who discovers she has extraordinary powers that could greatly impact her war-torn country. As she struggles to perfect her power, she finds that nothing is what it seems and dangerous forces are at play, including a group of charismatic criminals. A Netflix production from 21 Laps Entertainment, Shadow and Bone is currently streaming.
Showrunner Eric Heisserer tapped director Lee Toland Krieger and cinematographer David Lanzenberg to create the series look over the first two episodes. Picture Shop Senior Colorist Shane Harris, who first collaborated with Krieger and Lanzenberg on Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012), was also brought on board.
“Shane has a great eye for palette,” notes Krieger. “He usually knows what David and I want without even having a conversation. Shane also doesn’t like anything that looks too clean or sterile. He’s great at protecting our look.”
Principal photography took place at the Mafilm Studio complex in Fót outside of Budapest, Hungary. Before filming began, Harris worked to create LUTs based on film references from Lanzenberg and Krieger. They handled the color finishing out of Picture Shop’s facility in Burbank, with Harris completing SDR and HDR grades in the Resolve. Picture Shop’s Zac Dych handled editorial on the show.
“I’ve been lucky enough to work with Lee and David on several projects over the past decade,” says Harris. “Between Lee’s meticulous, clear vision for the look and David’s framing, they’re able to capture so much in-camera that it always makes my job that much easier.”
Harris also worked closely with Shadow and Bone’s award-winning VFX Supervisor Ted Rae to go through every VFX shot and make them seamless using mattes, diffusing to give it an organic feel. For a show of this epic size and scale, numerous vendors delivered 1700 visual effects shots. Leading the team for Ghost VFX were VFX Supervisors Matt Von Brock in Los Angeles and Martin Gardeler in Copenhagen. “We reviewed shots every morning together while each location did their own shots,” explains Von Brock. “The Shadow Fold is a key visual and critical story element in Shadow and Bone. Ghost VFX created the exterior surface of the Shadow Fold, which has been described in many ways, but the one that sticks most is thinking of the surface of it like the sun. There are millions of constant nuclear reactions keeping it together, but in the case of the Shadow Fold, it is dark energy, not light energy. It’s full of terrors, and the surface consists of a dark penetrable membrane that organically lives while emitting a thick smoke-like particulate. It keeps the evil from within it from escaping.”
IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS
In addition to the Shadow Fold imagery, Ghost VFX was also instrumental in creating a train explosion. “Our team here really enjoyed the creative freedom we had making the explosion,” says Gardeler. “We studied reference images of different kinds of wrecks and exploded vehicles. We then looked at how the physical train set prop was constructed and tried to imagine what pieces would break, bend and break off. Our Houdini artist then implemented this in the RBD (Rigid body dynamics) setup so that you would see the metal pieces deform, wood splinter and so on. We also simulated smoke, fire and dust for the explosion. For the Shadow Fold we did some custom simulations that reacted to the explosion, distorting the Fold, sending a shockwave along it. In comp, we also added additional explosion elements to further enhance the look. Ghost VFX producers on Shadow and Bone included David Brown, Cilie Kragegaard, Monique van Buitenen, and Rikke Hovgaard Jørgensen.
“Ghost VFX did a lot of work on the Shadow Fold,” describes Krieger, who worked closely with Rae and reviewed the show’s visual effects shots. “Even their first round of something is really exceptional.”