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VFX Breakdown: BlueBolt Adds Futuristic Visuals to ‘The Peripheral’

The studio transforms London into a dilapidated landscape dwarfed by towering statues of Greek Gods, creating the backdrop for the sci-fi series starring Jack Reynor and Chloë Grace Moretz, now streaming on Prime Video.

Visual effects studio BlueBolt has shared a VFX breakdown reel with AWN of their recent work delivering a series of dramatic shots throughout the Prime Video sci-fi drama The Peripheral, from creators Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, and Scott B. Smith. The series was produced for Amazon Studios by Kilter Film; VFX supervisor Kyle Goodsell and VFX producers Sam Dubery and Panos Theodoropoulos led the BlueBolt team.

Starring Jack Reynor and Chloë Grace Moretz and based on the William Gibson book of the same name, the series follows a young woman as she takes a job controlling a character in a VR game—or so she thinks. However, she soon discovers that the futuristic, deserted London of the game is, in fact, the real world of the future, and the character she’s controlling is a robot, or “Peripheral.”

As the primary vendor for the futuristic London environments, BlueBolt created fly-over scenes depicting a dilapidated London adding vast statues of Greek Gods, towering over the city and dwarfing the tallest skyscrapers. Although not immediately explained, the structures serve as a compelling narrative hook from the show's start. Their purpose, eventually revealed, is that of “air scrubbers,” which remove carbon from the atmosphere and incorporate it into their own form.

Gibson tweeted, “As in the book, they’re carbon-scrubbers built by nano-assemblers, but their look as oversized classical statues is my favorite design move in the series.”

BlueBolt built the “air scrubbers” by expanding on some early designs and developing a greebling process to create the small carbon blocks that accumulate around the statues.

Goodsell explained, “The look of these structures needed to be elegant, but also have a practical function of cleaning the atmosphere of carbon over decades.”

The team provided tech viz so the directors could plan the shooting of the aerial plates, done during early morning runs from a helicopter.

Dubery added, “On the show, there was a mantra of capturing practical footage as much as you can, and it really pays off when you see the final shots.”  

The VFX team was also responsible for onset supervision and weekly running of the shoot in the U.K. and North Carolina under U.S.-based production VFX supervisor Jay Worth.

In post, the BlueBolt team was responsible for much of the environment work that transformed the London cityscape. In particular, the team added “glossy roads,” reflective road surfaces with illuminating chevrons forming part of the future self-driving car technology.

According to Goodsell, one of the most challenging sequences to produce is a scene where a swarm of bees is attracted to a building. He added, “Simulating, lighting and rendering hundreds of thousands of bees swarming onto glass, interacting and crawling over each other proved to be tricky to get the nuances right to make the bees feel photoreal in movement and look.” 

For a visceral sequence featuring the replacement of Burton’s Peripheral eye, BlueBolt’s 2D lead, Tiago Faria, combined two shots, one filmed with the actor and another with a dummy. His attention to detail and ability to retain all the gore, twitching, and other horrible touches resulted in a shot that produced an audible reaction during the dailies.

Check out the breakdown reel:

The Peripheral is now streaming on Prime Video.

Source: BlueBolt

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.