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WATCH: Pixomondo’s ‘Raised by Wolves’ Season 1 VFX Breakdown Reel

Studio’s VFX supervisors Ed Hawkins, Max Riess, and Mark Spindler highlight their teams’ work delivering around 520 shots on HBO Max and Ridley Scott’s hit sci-fi thriller, which has been renewed for Season 2.

Leading design company Pixomondo has just shared with AWN a VFX breakdown reel of their work on the inaugural season of HBO Max and Ridley Scott’s hit sci-fi thriller, Raised by Wolves.

The series centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet, Kepler 22-b. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.  Scott serves as an executive producer on the series and directed the first two episodes, marking his television series directorial debut for American audiences. The series was created by Aaron Guzikowski, acclaimed writer and visionary behind the highly praised Prisoners.

With work spread between five of their facilities, Pixomondo delivered around 520 shots across the 10-episode first season. The breadth of their work was extensive: environmental clean-up removing signs of 21st century life; environment enhancements and extensions, including alien trees, rocks, and the giant “Olympus Mons” mountain; extending ground holes; adding triple moons to the sky; adding ash, snow, and heat haze; DMP for the Arc ship crash site and scattered wreckage; and paint / comp removal of android sweat and body suit creases.

In addition, Pixomondo provided animation, lighting, and compositing of the alien dog / humanoid creature; digital makeup for an intense face cutting sequence, including opening cuts, dripping blood and skull prosthetic; previs for the lander craft exiting the hole in the planet surface and falling into jungle; and composting the lander sequence using and augmenting the provided DMP.

Ed Hawkins, Pixomondo’s lead VFX supervisor on the project, who is based in their Vancouver facility, says though hard to describe in simple terms, the main areas of their seven months of work were “comp and DMP, creature and 3D assets, and everything else!” He notes that their creature work included a full CG lander, robot hand, CG axe head, adding opaque glass to the prop lander, 3D particle effects, replacing a “dead” prop creature with the CG version, and digital blood and gore.

“Wrangling multiple Pixomondo studios in different time zones as well as various outsourced vendors was a big challenge,” Hawkins shares. “But the most challenging and fun work was the face cutting sequence, as it involved multiple departments, lots of problem solving, and got the best reaction from the client.”

According to Max Riess and Mark Spindler, VFX supervisors on Pixomondo’s Frankfurt team, almost 60 artists worked from July 2019 through February 2020, producing 107 of the final shots, including creature and environmental work such as the assets for the alien dog / humanoid and realistic cyborg parts for all medic shots.

“We produced the majority of the creature shots, including the sequence in which Father and Campion catch one of them, and the one where a creature attacks Mother, which she eventually kills,” the supervisors describe. “Another big chunk of our work were the medic shots, in which we replaced the actor’s arm, leg, and part of his face with CG robotic parts, and added CG fire in a few cases. In addition, we had several shots with Olympus Mons matte paintings, and enhanced a few human and robotic wounds.”

Reiss and Spindler go on to note, “The biggest challenge for us was the animation of the creatures, and to find the right balance between human and animalistic behavior in their movement. One complication was that they have extremely long legs, which made it quite difficult to develop walking and running motion that doesn’t look silly. It took us a while until we nailed it! Another challenge was the seamless integration of the medic’s robotic parts and to make them an invisible effect. And of course, simply doing justice to the extraordinary vision and legacy of Ridley Scott was something that demanded the highest quality – but also motivated everyone immensely!”

Dan Sarto's picture

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