LONDON — Cinesite (cinesite.com) has been providing visual effects for The Witcher a new Netflix series that recently streamed its first season. The studio is set to work on Season 2 once it returns from hiatus due to COVID-19.
The Witcher was released on December 20th and is based on the book of the same name by Andrzej Sapkowski. The book has also been adapted into a popular role-player game.
Cinesite’s team in London completed over 250 shots for the show, spanning all eight episodes that make up Season 1. The studio’s work included creating horrifying monsters, epic battles and a fiery climax sequence. Cinesite supervisor Aleksandar Pejic worked closely with production supervisor Julian Parry to complete the show’s visual effects.
In an early episode, Geralt battles the Kikimora creature in a dark swamp. The Kikimora is a legendary creature from Eastern European folk-lore, and appears as an enormous spider with a humanoid torso and head. Research was conducted into the movement of real-life insects to create a realistic and coordinated style of movement for the eight-legged creature.
The Cinesite team carefully matched the movement of the Kikimora to the planned moves of the fight choreography in order to create realistic interactions with Geralt. The swampy water that both characters are standing in, as well as the leaf-litter and surface debris, are all computer generated, created with SideFX Houdini.
Another early battle sequence, filmed on a hillside outside Budapest, required the creation of 10,000 Nilfgaardian soldiers fighting the Cintrans. Fifteen to 20 extras were filmed as reference and captured with 360-degree photogrammetry and motion capture cycles, as infantry and on horses, with a range of armour and uniforms. This gave the studio scale, lighting, texture and movement reference. They were later replaced with Cinesite’s crowd agents and CG horses.
Cinesite’s 3D team also created the Striga creature, and the golden dragon for the series. The Striga is a thin, haggard, zombie-like creature with deadly fighting skills. It appears in Episode 3 in a fight with Geralt, situated within a Gothic castle.
The production built a prosthetic costume, which was worn by the stunt crew for most of the action shots. Cinesite’s team stepped in to augment and improve the prosthetics, but also to create the creature entirely in CG for some more physically-demanding shots, which needed to intercut seamlessly with the prosthetic version.
Another sequence at the climax of the series involved the creation of a fire, spread magically by a key character, engulfing a nearby forest. This effect was created by creating a CG forest and dividing it into sections, which were further subdivided into even smaller clusters. Burn simulations were run on each cluster incrementally, reducing the overall render time and allowing the fire to spread from cluster to cluster in a convincing and accelerated way.