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WATCH: Pixomondo’s ‘Goliath’ Season 3 VFX Breakdown Reel

Led by overall VFX supervisor Michael Shelton, teams at the studio’s Los Angeles and Toronto facilities handled 546 shots over a 4-month period.

Leading design company, Pixomondo, has just shared with AWN a breakdown reel highlighting their high-end VFX work on Season 3 of Amazon Prime Video’s hit series, Goliath. The series, created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro, stars Billy Bob Thornton as a down-and-out attorney seeking redemption. Their successful work as the show’s sole Season 3 VFX vendor has meant they’ll return once again as the only VFX vendor for the series’ fourth and final season.   

The studio’s global team was led by overall VFX supervisor Michael Shelton in Los Angeles, who worked closely with Pixomondo VFX supervisor Bojan Zoric and VFX producer Celine Zoleta in Toronto. For Season 3, Pixomondo handled 546 shots over a 4-month period; a large part of the work involved sequence-wide set extensions which included a mix of full CG builds and matte paintings.

One of the bigger sequences from the season involved creation of a massive sinkhole at a vineyard. According to Zoric, “One of the more challenging examples of our Season 3 work was the vineyard sinkhole showcased in the first episode. The challenge of adding a massive sinkhole surrounded by hundreds of grape vines involved a careful blend of detailed CG vine assets with a matte painting enhanced CG sinkhole in the center. Detailed onset photogrammetry allowed for an accurate terrain base which was used for our matchmove, as well as for an accurate environment layout and matte painting projections. Details such as collapsed vines and wire supports, and a stratified cross section of soil staged inside the sinkhole, formed the finishing touches for the build. Since all of our 3D camera solutions used the environment layout as a base, we were able to quickly render a series of shots while tweaks to lighting and matte painting touch-ups ensured integration with the plate. This allowed us to cover a large number of shots in a short amount of time.”

Another large and complicated sequence involved a flood inside a stretch of irrigation tunnels that would trap the main character, Billy McBride, played by Thornton. “We wanted our solution to allow the director the freedom to capture the performance he needed and for the audience to clearly see it was Billy,” Shelton explains. “For this to happen, we needed a safe and believable solution. For logistical and safety reasons, we ruled out water tanks pretty early on and instead moved forward building a water simulation that would achieve our goals.”

“Pixomondo excels in believable dynamic effects,” the VFX supervisor notes. “The previs team was the first group to tackle the challenge. We were able to show some tests early on before photography commenced for that sequence which gave production confidence in the methodology.” 

Commenting on the finished sequence, Shelton shares, “Our success was made possible by both the talents of our artists and the great performance we got from Billy. The final shots incorporated rendered water inside a photoreal set extension of the tunnel. Photographic elements were layered in where possible to give added depth and interaction with Billy when he was pinned against the grate. In the end the team at Pixomondo produced a dynamic and thrilling sequence under an incredibly tight deadline.”

Dan Sarto's picture

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