Realtime has revealed the work that went into delivering approximately 80 VFX shots for the third series of the Sky fantasy drama A Discovery Of Witches.
The show follows historian Diana Bishop, played by Teresa Palmer, as she unravels the secrets of a magical book and finds herself embroiled in a world of magic, vampires, demons, witches and forbidden love. Realtime worked with Bad Wolf and series VFX supervisor Neil Riley on the series.
Sue Land, Real-Time Visual Effects Supervisor, said of her goals for the third series, “Diana’s powers are increasing, and as a result, the magical content increases with each season. That said, the magic should still feel real and grounded in the nature of the show. This season we’re back in the modern age, so the visual effects needed to be time-appropriate and of a confident and powerful witch.
A key sequence for the VFX team saw Bishop visualize an Elizabethan London above modern architecture in episode four. Taking inspiration from the reference of buildings in the UK city of York, the team blocked out a model of the displaced camera lane, using ZBrush to add extra detail and weather the material.
At another point in the series, Bishop finds himself casting a salt spell in order to locate the final page of the Book of Life. To visualize the style of the spell, Realtime’s art department has developed a series of concepts that the creative team can work from. The red salt acts like a magical GPS, the grains moving across a map before forming the shape of a house.
This effect was created using Houdini, the particle simulations focused on target-seeking behavior to achieve the specific shapes needed. The house was built using a volume-based modeling process. The team rendered it with varying degrees of transparency to achieve the final look.
Additionally, a combination of techniques have been developed for the threads, from matchstick motion hand motions to ripple solvers and vellum curve simulations in Houdini to visualize how Bishop weaves spells from threads of magical luminescence.
Land added, “Visual effects are always best when they serve a purpose beyond beauty, and that’s especially true with magic shows.
“Our sequences had to be handled with subtlety when often the temptation is to embellish the magic too much and make it sparkle. We usually found ourselves cutting back on what we initially thought was selling the shot to better serve the story.