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MPC Episodic Delivers During the Pandemic for Sky/HBO’s ‘The Third Day’

VFX team provided creatures, CG crowds, FX simulations, environment extensions, and seamless digital shot stitching for the miniseries; 100 artists delivered shots while working and collaborating from home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

MPC Episodic has delivered its first show since its early 2020 launch, completing 157 shots for episodes 2-6 of the Sky/HBO miniseries The Third Day. The MPC team, led by VFX supervisor Oliver Winwood and VFX producers Patrick Dean and Matthew Marshall, worked closely with directors Marc Munden and Philippa Lowthorpe, production VFX supervisor Ivor Middleton and VFX producer Rob Delicata. The team’s work included a range of effects, such as creatures, CG crowds, FX simulations, environment extensions, and seamless digital shot stitching.

The studio’s visual effects work was undertaken and delivered entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Close to 100 artists based in London and Bangalore were equipped to deliver shots while working from home, where they were able to connect to the company’s software tools and studio servers. Internal reviews were conducted through shared virtual spaces, review tools and video conferencing systems allowing real time feedback with directors, showrunners, VFX production crew and artists.

“We had to very quickly find new ways of working, particularly with the way our teams communicate and collaborate,” recalled executive VFX supervisor Pete Jopling. “We also adopted a broader generalist approach to shot work. Each of these things combined not only made the successful deliver of the show possible, but also make it a hugely rewarding and enjoyable experience.”

The most challenging sequence MPC artists faced was for Episode 3, “Sunday - The Ghost,” in which 50 million locusts swarm over Osea covering the entire Island and beyond. Bringing the scene to life was a big undertaking, requiring work across each discipline in MPC’s pipeline, from animation, crowd, and FX through to lighting and final composting. Simulation artists used a variety of reference footage and in-house proprietary software to ensure that the CG locusts not only looked photoreal but also behaved in a realistic way. To add an additional layer of complexity, the scene required a complex stitch to seamlessly blend two very different environment plates together. The first plate was shot using a handheld camera at ground level, while the second was a shot using a drone. MPC 2D supervisor Izet Buco oversaw the digital stitching work, drawing from his experience as 2D Supervisor on the Oscar- winning “one shot” war epic, 1917.

Other shots completed for Episodes 2 and 3 included surreal sequences in which Jude Law’s character Sam takes LSD and finds himself in a forested area of the Island. In order to understand the director’s vision for these sequences, the MPC team worked closely with the VFX supervisor to creatively explore ideas; generate concepts to visualize the creative brief; and then decide on the best VFX methodology. VFX artists crafted CG animated corals growing from the trees as well as moving tree top extensions depicting ‘sedura’ masks. The unsettling scene was shot in the day but later made to appear as if it were late at night to enhance the other worldly nature of the scene.

Episodes 4-6 required invisible and augmented effects to help tell the story. MPC Episodic’s in-house concept artists were able to draw up environment designs to illustrate director Lowthorpe’s vision. MPC’s VFX artists then got to work, creating effects including digital blood FX, burning houses, and DMP environments to replace the greenscreens used on set.

Source: MPC Film