The second series of Sky TV’s much-loved A Discovery of Witches takes us time-spinning between our contemporary world to period Elizabethan London; blending a mystical narrative between the two. Starring Matthew Goode (Matthew Clairmont) and Teresa Palmer (Diana Bishop), REALTIME provided on-set support, pre-vis and an array of VFX magic to help the show’s creators translate Deborah Harkness’ novel to the small screen.
Working closely alongside Production VFX Supervisor Stephen Coren and VFX Producer Antony Bluff, the team crafted Emily’s ‘scrying magic,’ Corra the fire drake and a host of supernatural elements for the series.
Emily’s ‘scrying magic’ is a blend of 2D and 3D FX work which sees a ghostly apparition of Rebecca appear from beyond the grave. Described in the script as a swirling ‘cone of smoke,’ it’s a performative ritual which Emily attempts four separate times throughout the series, becoming more confident and successful each time.
REALTIME created a pre-vis of the sequence, complete with pentagon layout, little candles and an animated character manipulating the smoke. The team used mood boards and insight from Coren and movement coach Sarah Perry to guide the look of the magic, while the final FX design was inspired from the brief of a potter’s wheel, a spinning form that Emily drives with her hands to conjure Rebecca. The look development of the smoke started at the previs stage and was pushed through postvis and final VFX, with Rebecca sitting at its centre.
Corra, Diana’s fiery familiar, is based on a creature from ancient English folklore. Corra materialises as an ethereal fire drake made of magical smoke and flame, showcasing a combination of creature and technical development.
There was a lot of interactive lighting on set and photorealism was the key. It was a balance between this, the exposure of the plate and lighting in VFX. We wanted to avoid that ‘CG feeling’ that can happen when you don’t have a true lighting source.
The full-CG, hand-animated Corra, was rendered in Max and V-Ray, while her teleportation, smoke FX, and fire drake flames were all simulated using Houdini. We took LIDAR scans of the environments on set to help artists align their shots and have accurate measurements of the sets, including the cave environment in the final episode.
Head of Production
Daniel Lloyd Wood
Model & Texture
V-Ray, Houdini, Maya, Mari, Nuke, 3DsMax