LONDON — Having been the lead vendor on all previous seasons, BlueBolt (https://www.blue-bolt.com) recently completed the fifth and final season of Netflix’s The Last Kingdom, delivering an 782 VFX shots for the hit show, which is produced by Carnival Films. The period series follows Alfred the Great, who defends his kingdom from Norse invaders.
The VFX requirements for the series ranged from elaborate environment extensions, to sprawling CG armies and historically accurate CG ships. A substantial amount of motion capture was used in Season 5, making a change from the previous seasons. As such, BlueBolt purchased two motion-capture suits, allowing them to body track stunt performers and apply these actions to their CG characters.
“When working on the large battle scenes, we would sometimes require our CG warriors to make very specific motions, and this would often involve one of the VFX team at the office putting on the suit and performing that bespoke motion,” explains BlueBolt VFX supervisor, Richard Frazer. “This allowed for much more natural-looking movement in our characters and the ability to show them more prominently in frame than in previous seasons.”
BlueBolt also spent time developing fur and hair simulations for characters, which again increased the ability to show them significantly larger in frame while still looking photorealistic.
In Season 5, which concludes the TV series, years have passed since the events of the last season, and King Edward is still forging ahead with his ambitions to unite the Saxon Kingdoms to fulfill his late father’s dream. Although a long-standing peace between Danes and Saxons now exists, that harmony is under threat, not only by a new Danish invasion, but a Saxon rebellion. Uhtred has been entrusted with protecting Edward’s illegitimate son, the future King of England, Aethelstan. But the treacherous Lord Aethelhelm has ambitions for his grandson Aelfweard, Edward’s other son, to rule.
BlueBolt played a pivotal role in the creative process from start to finish, beginning their involvement in the pre-production stage. Most of the scenes were filmed just outside Budapest, Hungary, with a handful shot in the UK. BlueBolt was heavily involved with the team during prep, the shoot and throughout post production. Around 95 percent of the VFX shots in the show were delivered by BlueBolt.
“We could not have wished for better collaborators on The Last Kingdom than Blue-Bolt, who were fundamental from the very beginning in bringing the show to life,” states executive producer, Nigel Marchant. “They consistently delivered first class visual effects whilst working within a budget, and were truly creative whilst always ensuring the visual effects felt organic and true to the show, allowing us to create a realistic and fully-formed world, without drawing the audience’s attention to the use of CGI.”
The VFX heavy series opens with a group of warriors involved in a sacrificial ceremony amongst erupting volcanoes in Iceland. They then take to their boats and depart for the shores of England. This was all shot in a quarry and lakeside in Hungary, with BlueBolt creating the volcanic land of Iceland and its ocean through matte painting and compositing work.
In Episode 6, the night-time Dane attack on the Saxon camp relied on VFX to increase the sizes of both armies and digitally extend the environment. BlueBolt also helped to enhance the moments when fleeing Danes fell through the lake ice.
The climax of the series in Episodes 9 and 10 involves Uhtred and his followers climbing along cliffs to gain entry to the coastal fortress of Bebbanburg, as well as a large-scale battle outside the fortress that features soldiers being driven to the cliff and pushed over the edge. All of this was shot in the land-locked country of Hungary.
BlueBolt found several coastal locations in north Wales to shoot plates of cliffs and sea, which were used to help create the illusion of the Hungarian sets actually being atop a cliff in northern England. The team shot plates of stunt performers jumping from the top of a building into airbags to create the elements of falling soldiers.
All five seasons of The Last Kingdom are currently streaming on Netflix.