Steiner Steiner The Innocents

The Innocents

Client
New Pictures / Netflix
Format
8 x 60 minute fantasy drama series
Release Date
24th August 2018
Brief

Over the course of eight months and with a team of 40, deliver over 150 shots, with the main body of work focusing on the character shape shifting elements within the show.

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Jellyfish Pictures worked as principle vendor on Netflix drama The Innocents. The creative approach for the shifts was pitched and curated entirely by our team. The brief was to present two (and sometimes up to six) identities colliding together, till eventually one has taken over the other in the most realistic way possible.

The Jellyfish team, led by Creative Director Tom Brass and Director of VFX and Animation, Luke Dodd, conceptualised a solution that uses turbulence in the characters’ faces to suggest the internal struggle as the body switches from one identity to another. Working closely with the client and the director to gather a deep understanding of all the characters, Jellyfish carved out the four stages of a shift; eye flickers, skin ripples, actual shift and finally the sudden change. Each character's reaction, both physically and emotionally, was unique and as with any good CG, it was crucial for the audience to never realise it was there. This resulted in an effect which was subtle, grounded and emotional whilst fitting perfectly within the context of the show.

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In order to achieve this Jellyfish travelled with the cast up to Ten24 in Sheffield to 3D scan all of the actors’ heads. One actor had since started shooting for another project in South Africa, so was scanned by a separate company in situ. These scans acted as the basis for all shifts used throughout the series. The team directed the actors to capture both neutral and extreme facial expressions, including facial grimaces, eye clenches and extensive mouth and teeth movement, so to capture a broad range of emotions and reactions exclusive to each character. The team went into minute detail on all aspects of the face, creating completely CG teeth, also generating accurate pore and wrinkle replication of the actors.

Once Jellyfish received the scans the lighting team, headed up by VFX supervisor Matt McKinney and head of 3D Dave Cook, took the ambient photography of each facial texture and applied it to the scanned facial models to shade. The team then used Jellyfish’s skin shading toolset to bring the faces to life. The ambient textures allowed the artists to match shadowing and lighting to integrate the faces into the plates.

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Camera and object tracking were crucial to the success of the shot and the final result. The match move of the actors’ head, neck and shoulders were painstakingly copied, allowing the live-action actor to be completely replaced with their digital double. A bespoke facial rig was then animated to enhance the performance and help the transformation from one person to another. Jellyfish’s lighting and comp team then integrated each shift into the live-action plate including extreme digital hair transformation.

This led to one of the biggest technical and artistic challenges – simulating hair. The team had to not only groom but animate the hair to match the live-action movement in the most photorealistic way. This wasn’t only true for hair on top of the head but involved more intricate details such as eyelashes, eyebrows and facial hair, including beards and stubble. These moments had to be presented as completely real so as not to break the tone and intensity of the scene.

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Another aspect of the shifts, which were integral to the performance and keeping the digital transitions alive were high velocity eye flickers. The team created highly detailed eyes and irises that would correctly catch the light and ensure they were as photoreal as possible, to integrate in to the CG head.

While the main bulk of Jellyfish’s work on The Innocents was the character shift transitions, the team also worked on shots including set extensions, water simulation and character duplication.

The Innocents is a visually captivating series, with breath-taking cinematography of Yorkshire Dale vistas, Norwegian Fjords and a variety of locations of cheap hotels and nightclubs. Adding to the visual integrity on such a show was a challenge Jellyfish relished.

The craftsmanship at Jellyfish is second to none - but what excites me is that they engage with the material on an emotional level: they have a clear understanding that the work they do is not just technical, but also an incredibly important and powerful part of the story-telling

Simon Duric, Co-Creator and Writer, The Innocents