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Vine FX is the Perfect Match for AMC’s ‘Soulmates’

After expanding their existing remote production capabilities in the face of COVID-19, the Cambridge-based VFX studio delivers 500 shots on the futuristic sci-fi anthology series.

For the team at Cambridge based VFX studio, Vine FX, adjusting to production challenges brought about by the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020 thankfully meant expanding remote capabilities they already in place, which included increasing their staffing by one third. The studio quickly adapted without geographical restrictions, which enabled them to deliver 500 VFX shots on AMC’s sci-fi anthology series, Soulmates. The series is available to watch now in the UK, via Amazon Prime Video.

Written by Emmy award-winning producer William Bridges (Black Mirror, Stranger Things) and co-produced alongside writer/actor, Brett Goldstein (SuperBob and Ted Lasso), Soulmates is set 15 years into the future, when science has made a discovery that changes the lives of everyone on the planet: by taking a simple test, you can be unquestionably matched with your “soulmate.” Each of Soulmates six one-hour installments explores various characters choosing to discover (or avoid) the results and complexities this test imparts on their lives.

The show is set in 2035, so subtle futuristic technology was required throughout. Studio founder and VFX Supervisor Michael Illingworth and his team worked closely alongside the show's co-producers to craft the look and feel of the technology based on their creative vision. With the help of MGFX collaborators Revolver, Momoco, and Andy Bottomley, Vine FX met the brief of “modern day futuristic,” clean, understated, and authentic with visual effects that integrated naturally into the story without distracting from the unfolding narratives.

Much of the VFX involved screen replacements for a host of devices, including mobile phones, refrigerators, tablets, and monitors with transparent displays. Illingworth’s team also created firework and gore enhancements as well as digital matte paintings. One of their main tasks was to integrate on-set movement with devices for believability, which required complex tracking and fine rotoscoping to properly incorporate the future technologies.

Numerous scenes across the series involve automobile satellite navigation screens; the technological nuances, and authenticity of the design, had to uniquely reflect the make and model of each car. One scene features a futuristic interactive projected wall display, which went through dozens of design iterations to sell the idea of a premium device’s technology: elegant and clean looking while purposefully functional.           

The team at Vine FX faced various technical and pipeline challenges, many of which only became apparent during or after filming. One instance involved the enhancement of a character vomiting, which required a lot of fine detail; artists worked remotely in synchronization for head/mouth-tracking, and the simulation fluid being ejected from the mouth.

Not only was the final project shot count substantial, but it was the largest number of motion graphic shots the team has ever produced. When discussing the 6K resolution plates, CG supervisor Pedrom Dadgostar remarked, “This is the biggest job, in terms of raw storage, we have ever done. The sheer volume put a lot of stress on our servers. Many upgrades were implemented to cope with the vast amounts of data being used. To get such a large quantity of work through the door in time, we onboarded additional staff and streamlined our pipeline, while working very closely with our outsourced MGFX vendors.”

Illingworth went on to say, “The joy of a project like Soulmates is the subtlety of the VFX, and how they are used to enhance the story without the viewer necessarily noticing. It’s always rewarding to pull that off. We had a large shot count, technical challenges, and lockdown to contend with, but my whole team from runner to the top, all worked tirelessly, I’m proud of both their dedication and the work they produced.”

Vine FX is currently working on War of the Worlds Season 2 (Fox), Viewpoint (BBC), supporting pre-production for Extinction (Sky), and is due to start soon on Baptiste Season 2 (BBC).

Source: Vine FX

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

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