Post-production discovery: Goodbye Kansas on The Irregulars (Netflix) | News


Based on the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and developed by Drama Republic, The Irregulars is a crime drama series that follows the adventures of the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of young people working for Dr Watson saving London from the supernatural elements. As the primary visual effects supplier for all eight episodes of the production, the London and Stockholm offices of Goodbye Kansas Studios worked together to contribute over 229 plans and 20 assets. The team was led by VFX Supervisors Joel Lindman (Stockholm) and Jim Parsons (London) in conjunction with General VFX Supervisor, Richard Briscoe.

The majority of the work for the Stockholm branch of Goodbye Kansas Studios focused on creating a large flock of about 100 birds that were supernaturally controlled by the antagonist from the first episode. Not only did the team have to design and create the birds themselves, but they also had to iterate a multitude of animations for them, placing each bird in specific locations in each image, as well as having the birds complete tasks. and specific actions in those moments.

“Creating a flock of birds was usually an animation task, but since there was sometimes a call for hundreds or even thousands of birds, we had to use FX,” said Filip Orrby, FX manager at Goodbye. Kansas Studios. “Much of the animation on this show was done by FX artists controlling the flight models of birds, but the close-ups of individual birds in action were done by hosts. It was definitely an interesting challenge. for the team.

To make this a reality, the team needed to invent an automated rigging system that would allow birds to move in any way they wanted, while still looking natural. To achieve this, the team had to engage with a high level of detail in the design of the appearance of the birds and the wording of their actions. The effects and animation teams worked in tandem to design a selection of seven types of birds and provide these creations with individual animation cycles for different speeds and angles of attack. In order to sell the animation and story to the public, the FX team also did some high-level preview and blocking work.

“This is a fairly common technique for creating the animation cycles where the birds move around the center of the stage,” says Joel Lindman, VFX supervisor at GBK Stockholm. “They don’t cross the stage, they just do their animation on the spot. Then we had to copy that animation, in this case the beating of the birds, onto a moving dots simulation that we could use to control the scene. Each point gets a bird with specific animation to make it look like a flock, and we’ve added flocking behaviors to these points so that they don’t get too close to each other and instead follow other birds to get the crowd moving dynamically.

GBK The Irregulars (2)

One of the more difficult scenes involved the birds chasing a group of people down a street. The characters were forced into hiding in a dilapidated corrugated iron shed, which was filmed on set, but the visual effects team at Goodbye Kansas were tasked with simulating the birds attacking and attempting to peck through the thin ones. metal walls. “We had to replace and match the walls of the CG shed and create the effect that intense destruction had occurred on the metal planks as a result of the bird attack. This sort of thing is always the hardest to perform, especially in real life, so we ended up using CG.

In the show, and initially unbeknownst to The Irregulars, the birds are under the control of a character called Bird Master – whom they soon discover capable of creating these birds from scratch. “The Bird Master’s vest is made of a material that resembles the glow of swallows,” says Lindman. “We started by animating swallows taking off and flying from the actual coat, then we 3D transformed the waist coat based on this animation to gradually reveal the swallows.”

For another sequence, the team had to build a series of set extensions in order to transform the real-world filming location of the Palm House Conservatory in Sefton Park, Liverpool, into the lair of the Bird Master. The top of the glass building – where in the story the Bird Master kept babies stolen by his loyal birds – does not exist above the real veranda, so the interiors were shot in a studio while the Goodbye Kansas’ team added shots of the surrounding location to make it appear as if it was set in its version of Old London and replacing the top of the real-world location to include the Heart of the Den.

GBK The Irregulars 3

While the Stockholm team was concerned about this flock of avenging birds, the London office was more focused on the more human elements of VFX. Spread over a number of episodes, the majority of Team London’s duties were to touch up various visual elements, including the prominent tattoos that The Baker Street Irregulars are branded with. The art department researched historically accurate tattoos from the period in order to come up with a number of designs that fit the brief and the production ultimately selected the tattoo that appears in the series. Goodbye Kansas was then able to add the selected new designs.

“We have a small art department that has done a lot of research on old tattoos from the time the show is set,” said Jim Parsons, VFX supervisor at Goodbye Kansas London. “Back then, tattoos were all done with knives, so we wanted our design to have a more amateurish but still polished feel. We wanted the public to believe they could have been made by one of these street vendors. “

Another key item in the delivery was a supernatural healing fluid made from “Snowdonia Hawkweed” that one of the characters uses to replenish bodies. Although a replacement substance was used during filming, the effect of its application and absorption into the skin was still supposed to be done in post-production. The London and Stockholm offices have come together to provide this particular aspect of production, with London helping to cleanse the skin for the effect and Stockholm managing the look and feel of the healing fluid.

GBK The Irregulars 4

“The task of creating the healing fluid came late in production, so we had to figure out for ourselves what it would look like,” said Desiree Ryden, VFX producer at Goodbye Kansas London. “It was a very specific brief, but not specific at the same time. The director didn’t want it to feel supernatural – not to smoke or sparkle – it had to look real. And it was all done on two levels; one where this greenish healing liquid was applied to the skin and another where it was absorbed. It must have cleared up in the next shot as we weren’t spinning after that point so it was a bit difficult to find the right timing, but we got there.

As with many productions over the past year, the pandemic has forced production to stop and has forced everyone involved to work remotely from their homes. Goodbye Kansas Studios had to quickly review and restructure the way it worked, not only with its client, but also between its London and Stockholm offices so that lines of communication were not lost.

“From a production standpoint, we wanted to make sure our offices were in sync when we were delivering content to the customer – that everything came from Goodbye Kansas in one package,” Ryden said. “As with any customer in this pandemic, you have the feeling that we are all in the same boat, which is reassuring. There have been overall delays due to the pandemic, but we have a great team at Goodbye Kansas, both internally and on the customer side, so for us the delivery went fairly smoothly given the unusual circumstances. . “


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