Thus, when chaos threatens to engulf Britain, Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) installs the young and impetuous Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower), the unknown heir to the throne raised from birth as a commoner. But half-sister Morgan (Eva Green) desires the crown as well and is willing to summon unnatural forces to grab it.
In conjunction with an overall naturalistic look, the vfx achieves a National Geographic quality. Arc Prods. (formerly Starz Animation Toronto) has created about 300 vfx shots throughout the 10-episodes for season one, under the leadership of Bret Culp, the visual effects producer, Patrik Witzman, the CG supervisor and Maria Gordon, the compositing supervisor.
Julian Parry (House of Wax ), the overall visual effects supervisor, says Camelot is the perfect blend of practical and CG, and that the bulk of the CG work is divided into four main areas: Camelot Castle, Pendragon Castle, historic period landscapes and Merlin's Magic. Maya , boujou, Nuke and Photoshop were the primary tools.
"We wanted to make the castles look as authentic as possible. There was no twist or hyper styling it: we wanted to keep it real. In some ways, when you stylize something like Lord of the Rings, you've actually got a bit of latitude. But we found that we had to work hard at making sure the construction details were correct, making sure the textures were correct. The build of Camelot and Pendragon, if you were to break it down, you could actually build these castles for real."
In terms of Merlin's magic, most of which has not been viewed yet, Parry says that it's best described as "malevolent" in that it is true sorcery. "We were being asked to do very subtle, almost implied magic, which brought its own nuances," Parry continues.
The rest of the vfx involves set extensions, blood and guts, split screen work, rig removal and morphs. "This show was, like most, working to a schedule and a budget and, as such, there was no time or the luxury for tests or rehearsals. Save the Waterfall sequence, the visual effects were shot along with the production shooting schedule. These are filmic, National Geographic-type shoots: real-looking, in all kinds of weather, moving at the production's fast pace; this was a mean feat.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.