Al­tered Car­bon

Be­hind the scenes of Net­flix’s sci-fi hit

3D Artist - - CONTENTS -

VFX su­per­vi­sor Ev­erett Bur­rell talks to Trevor Hogg about cre­at­ing CG for high-end TV

“If you stayed at ground level and looked back and forth on our Bay city street set, it was all in cam­era,” re­marks Bur­rell. “We used fire-light ink that re­sponds to ul­tra­vi­o­let light so if we had head­lights or neon signs in the gi­gan­tic photo back­ing, they were able to light up like a real light.” the av­er­age build­ing in the city stands a cou­ple of thou­sand feet tall. “Bay city was [dig­i­tally] built up for medium shots and if we got close to a spe­cific build­ing or struc­ture, then it would be de­tailed just for those shots. Dneg would in­stance 30 build­ings into a crowd of 3,000, keep­ing the poly­gon count down. We had to ren­der at 4K and we were an HDR pipe­line so not only was the pixel res­o­lu­tion mas­sive, but the colour def­i­ni­tion was re­ally scru­ti­nised.”

An ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence sys­tem re­ferred to as poe, played by chris con­ner, op­er­ates in­side the city’s raven Ho­tel. “You don’t know that poe is AI un­til he does what we call a ‘poe pop’,” ex­plains Bur­rell. “that was a neat r&d de­vel­op­ment thing with Dneg. poe is made up of these tes­laphore­sis par­ti­cles, which is some­thing that does ac­tu­ally ex­ist in our real world – they are like nanopar­ti­cles that form based on how much elec­tric­ity you pump through them. When poe pops around a room he dis­in­te­grates for a mo­ment and re­forms. the en­tire ho­tel is made of these tes­laphore­sis par­ti­cles and poe ar­ranges them to suit your needs.”

In the show, some char­ac­ters are en­voys – su­per­hu­man sol­diers with height­ened senses. “the en­voy in­tu­ition shots were heavy r&d to create a pipe­line and a way of look­ing at them,” re­veals Bur­rell. “It’s a strange power or abil­ity that we wanted to try to il­lus­trate in a filmic way.” the team man­aged to pho­to­graph all of the el­e­ments on­set. “that was a good de­ci­sion be­cause we al­ways had the real plate to go back to.” Hours and hours worth of cus­tom blood el­e­ments were shot. “our blood is much thicker and darker than in other films.”

“We went through some r&d as to how stat­icky holo­grams should be,” re­marks Bur­rell. “Down at the ground level in the seedy part of town, they have a low-res­o­lu­tion qual­ity as their pro­jec­tors might not be quite up to date. If a prod­uct has a lot of money be­hind it then the ad­ver­tise­ment is in­cred­i­bly pho­to­real.” All of the fly­ing ve­hi­cles also had a cg el­e­ment. “A real Ban­croft limo was made. It was so clean and per­fect that when we did the same in cg it didn’t look right! We added more dirt, scratches and weather marks to make sure that the limo sank into the scene.”

“call­ing Al­tered Car­bon a tele­vi­sion show is not cor­rect,” notes Bur­rell. “It’s higher-end than any tv se­ries that I’ve ever been in­volved with. A lot of work, ef­fort, blood, sweat and tears went into mak­ing this show as amaz­ing as it pos­si­bly could. David el­li­son [ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer] has high ex­pec­ta­tions be­cause he has done so many fea­tures.

When I first started, David said, ‘It has to be amaz­ing. I won’t set­tle for sec­ond best. I want fea­ture qual­ity vis­ual ef­fects.’ He got it.”

call­ing Al­tered car­bon a tele­vi­sion show is not cor­rect. It’s higher-end than any tv se­ries that I’ve ever been in­volved with Ev­erett Bur­rell, Al­tered Car­bon VFX Su­per­vi­sor

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