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Freefolk Has a Blast with ‘Pennyworth’ Season 2 VFX

Studio delivers 300 shots, including bullet hits, explosion enhancements, and driving comp interiors, on Warner Horizon’s episodic crime drama from the writers of ‘Gotham.’

Freefolk Film & Episodic has just shared some of their VFX work on Season 2 of Pennyworth, a 10-part episodic crime drama produced by Warner Horizon for Starzplay and Epix.

On the show, a year after the explosive events of Season 1, 1960's England is now embroiled in a devastating civil war. Alfred Pennyworth (played by Jack Bannon), who previously started working for Bruce Wayne's father (played by Ben Aldridge), is now fighting against a neo-fascist Raven Union threatening to control the entire country. Created by Gotham writers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon, the series is directed by Rob Bailey, Danny Cannon, Jon East, and Catherine Morshead.

Steve Murgatroyd, VFX supervisor, and Meg Guidon, VFX executive producer, led the Freefolk team, delivering 300 visual effects shots for overall VFX Supervisor Rob Delicata. Work mainly took place during post-production, between October 2020 and March 2021; the team primarily used Nuke, Flame, PFTrack for match moves, Maya, Affinity Photo (for digital matte painting) and Houdini.

According to Delicata, “As usual, Steve, Meg and the whole team at Freefolk pulled out all the stops and produced impressive VFX work.  I have an ongoing relationship with the guys at Freefolk and know I can rely on them to produce quality VFX from all disciplines.  I’m looking forward to working with them again soon.”

Due to the difficulty of working remotely because of the pandemic, Freefolk’s first challenge was understanding the Pennyworth world. “It was our first experience on this show,” Murgatroyd explained. “Therefore, getting in step with this look required very good communication.”

Key sequences involving driving comp interiors, one of Freefolk’s main areas of work, were particularly challenging due both to number of shots and degree of difficulty. “The lack of camera movement made working on the fine hair detail particularly tricky as there was nowhere to hide," revealed Murgatroyd. “We also simulated light flicker as the cars passed through trees as this helped to sell shots where the brightness of the green screen presented a challenge.”

“Continuity was also a challenge in the driving comp’s,” he continued. “We worked to extend, disguise, and reuse footage to maximize available backgrounds and solve continuity issues that arose with the background footage selected."

Other important sequences for the team were the digital matte painting shots of the 1960's Pennyworth London cityscape on the skyline.  One key aspect was balancing recognizable landmarks, such as St Paul’s and the Post Office Tower, with the more industrialized, war-ravaged Pennyworth world.

“There were also a number of difficult clean-up shots,” Murgatroyd added, “ranging from the removal of light reflection in spectacles and crew reflection in cars, to the removal of set lights from a dark and atmospheric forest scene.” According to the team, the trickiest part was to maintain a balance between reduction/removal of the unwanted light source, while keeping the location looking natural and moonlit.

Other shot types included set extensions, greenscreen comps, SFX blood, smoke and explosion enhancement, muzzle flashes and bullet hits, screen replacements and TV pullout/raven alliance graphics.

Source: Freefolk Film & Episodic