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Twin Pines Has a Blast at Sea with ‘La Fortuna’ VFX

The Madrid-based studio delivered around 1,000 shots, including underwater scenes and an epic naval battle, on Alejandro Amenábar’s new Movistar+ series.

Madrid-based digital post-production company Twin Pines shared with AWN some of their recent VFX work on Alejandro Amenábar’s new Movistar+ series, La Fortuna. The studio spent a year on the project, eventually delivering around 1,000 shots, including underwater scenes, an epic naval battle, and a road trip through the U.S. The series recently debuted in the U.S. on AMC+.

After working together for the first time on the movie While At War - for which Twin Pines was nominated for Best Special Effects at the Goya Awards - the director and studio teamed up again, this time to adapt the graphic novel “The Treasure of the Black Swan” by Paco Roca and Guillermo Corral for television.

The story of this passionate journey in time and its many different scenarios presented many unique production challenges.

Check out the project’s VFX reel to see some of the studio’s great work:

“Without a doubt, the underwater sequences were the most complex, as we had to create them completely in CG,” noted Twin Pines founders Juanma Nogales and Ana Rubio. “We would normally integrate our effects into the look designed during shooting, but in these sequences, there was no existing footage, so we had to create everything from scratch - art, environment, lighting and physical simulations - basing it all on the storyboard and the director’s instructions.”

As one of the main narrative elements in La Fortuna, the underwater world had to be both realistic and cinematographic. To this end, Twin Pines created a series of 3D elements including sand, plants, coral, rocks, vessels, and cannons, which were then aged by computer. In addition, they also had to create two looks: one for the shots from outside a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) and other from inside the ROV, which would be seen on the screens of the American and Spanish ships.

Likewise, the impressive naval battle that took place during the series posed one of the biggest technical challenges for Twin Pines. Explosions, cannon fire, gun shots, sinking ships, and a combination of real and 3D-generated ships were all part of the meticulous and painstaking visual effects work. “We approached all the 3D elements based on the previews we did with Alejandro, and we worked until the last second on improving these shots, creating dozens of versions of each part, and working on different phases,” Nogales and Rubio explained. “It involved the greatest deployment of resources we had ever undertaken so far.”

This particular sequence required countless hours of simulations, rendering, motion capture technology, scanning of ships, places and characters, as well as animatics and chromas. “The naval battle was the first thing we started on and the last thing we finished, but it was also the most satisfying sequence for Twin Pines as a VFX studio,” the pair added.

An extended automobile journey across the U.S. was another big challenge on the production, as footage of Spanish roads was used for the exteriors and a recording with chroma on the film set for the interiors. The 3D composition included creating road signage and various elements of the landscape, including bridges, buildings, speed barriers, and the cars driving in both directions.

The studio’s digital tools included Nuke for compositing; Houdini for simulations; Maya and Clarisse for 3D scenes; and Arnold for rendering. In addition, Twin Pines employed tools developed inhouse by its engineering team based on specific needs of the show.

This project came to the studio following expansion of its headquarters that included a major pipeline infrastructure overhaul and expansion of its crew of artists; the studio’s growth also included winning a Goya Award for Best Special Effects in 2021 for its work on Akelarre, directed by Pablo Agüero. “From the VFX viewpoint, being able to bring to life the complicated scenes called for by La Fortuna was an incredible experience,” Rubio and Nogales concluded. “We successfully met challenges that were at the level of the biggest studios in the world in a project with a high international profile.”