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Framestore Shares ‘Kaleidoscope’ Breakdown Reel

Studio serves as lead VFX vendor on Eric Garcia’s new nonlinear, eight-part Netflix crime series inspired by the true story of a $70 billion Manhattan bank heist during Hurricane Sandy; challenging effects-heavy shots included creating a swarm of digital bees to camouflage a character’s movements through a super-secure bank vault.

Award-winning VFX studio Framestore recently served as lead VFX vendor on Eric Garcia’s new nonlinear, eight-part Netflix crime series Kaleidoscope, inspired by a true story about the largest heist ever attempted. The show spans 24 years leading up to the event during Hurricane Sandy and the year following. The studio’s VFX supervisor John Kilshaw was the show’s overall VFX supervisor, leading the visual effects production from project inception through to completion.

“Whilst a straightforward show in many ways, the nonlinear nature of the story added a level of complexity that we have not seen before, which raised some challenges,” shared Kilshaw. “With the support of the directors, Eric Garcia, and the incredible team at Netflix, a lot of those challenges became so much easier to deal with.”

Take a look at some of their great work, then read more about the project:

As the lead VFX vendor, Framestore, led by their New York-based CG and 2D teams, tackled many artistic requests and effects-heavy shots. One of the most challenging scenes was creating a realistic swarm of bees that seamlessly traveled down a corridor - confusing motion sensors in the process of masking the movements of one of the characters. For several practical reasons, Netflix opted to represent the bees digitally, leaving the VFX team to create a physically believable impression. The team sourced reference footage of bees to understand their overall movement individually and as a swarm. They also looked at how bees react to the queen bee and how they functioned as a colony.

Another challenge for the creative team was the environmental work required to recreate a Manhattan skyline during a hurricane. Without permission to fly over the city to film during COVID, the team broke down existing stock footage enough to make it feel bespoke. They used Houdini for the FX, Maya for asset generation and complicated 3D work, and standard Nuke tools. The team leveraged lighting models to remove city lights, transformed the time of day into a night scene, removed traffic, and built-in dynamic clouds and weather patterns to reimagine each shot.

For scenes in a tunnel, the team at Netflix supported a more straightforward post process, avoiding the trap of creating something over-complicated for its own sake, so set extensions, water FX, and 3D smoke were paired with broody sound effects, creating a dark and realistic point of view for the audience.

Another tough sequence featured characters trapped in a fiery blaze. By incorporating accurate, practical references, digital matte paintings, and 3D flames into the scene, the team created a sequence that included digital heat waves, ripple effects, and flying debris. In addition, they enhanced the reality level and highlighted the peril faced by the characters faced, all with the help of Houdini, Maya, and Nuke. Finally, using the set LiDAR, the effects were applied to the accurate 3D space, creating a hyperreal series of shots that even included a body set alight.

“The highlight for our team was helping to add extra drama to Episode 107, creating fire and smoke effects to bring together an already intense sequence,” noted Framestore’s CG Supervisor, John Montefusco. “Taking cues from the practical fires in the plates, our FX team was able to create a large library of flames, as well as bespoke infernos.”

Finally, a key scene set inside a sauna room called for Nuke FX to create a steam element that circled one of the characters, giving the feeling that he was in the metaphorical eye of a storm, ultimately marrying a number of plot elements into one point of interest.

“The variety of work made this show a pleasure to be on as things never once felt repetitive or boring,” added Montefusco. “On a job like this, communication is key – having a direct line to John Kilshaw on the client side, and Steve Sanchez as our internal VFX Supervisor made the project seamless.”

Kaleidoscope is now streaming on Netflix.

Source: Framestore

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.