Case Study: How the Netflix Series 1899 went from localization to virtual production

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CASE STUDY: 1899 Series

This is part of our full virtual production report, sponsored by virtual studio leader LEDunit

1899 is a multilingual series about a group of migrants who leave London on a steamer to start a new life in New York, but when they encounter another migrant ship adrift in the sea, their journey turns into a nightmare .

Produced by: Dark Ways for Netflix

In the works since 2018, the Netflix period mystery thriller series 1899 was to shoot on location in Spain, Poland and Scotland. When the pandemic hit, the show basically switched to virtual production.

The only problem was that there was no VP stage large enough to house a project of this magnitude.

Showrunners Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, creators of supernatural dramas Darkset up their period mystery on a migrant boat sailing from Europe to the United States.

“We started as a pan-European show in several countries, a big traveling circus, before Covid hit,” explains Philipp Klausing, executive producer of 1899 and managing director of the Berlin production company Dark Ways. “Volume technology was just emerging. We ended up shooting 90% of the series in a studio environment for nine months. »

Netflix co-funded the construction of the new VP facility Dark Bay at Studio Bablesberg under the direction of bo Odar and Friese’s production company Dark Ways.

The showrunners sought advice from Barry Idoine, the DP who had shot episodes of The Mandalorian. They hired Framestore, Oscar winners for vfx virtual production on Gravityto become the show’s VFX and VP producers.

“The main challenge was the fact that the volume didn’t exist before we started shooting,” says James Whitlam, MD, Episodic, Framestore. “That meant a huge amount of testing. We had a test volume in London, but it was nowhere near the same size, so we couldn’t tell if it would work on screen. When we wanted to test on actual volume, they were still pouring the concrete floor for the stage. This squeezed our R&D into an incredibly uncomfortable place.

The set should convincingly show life at sea. Large physical sets of the ship have been built and background plates have been shot on the ocean for rendering in Unreal. The scene included rain and water atmospheres designed to not damage the set. The alternative would have been to shoot in a tank with water cannons and a green screen.

“The actors said they felt the environment was authentic and they even got a little seasick at first,” Klausing explains. “At some point they said they didn’t notice the projection anymore.”

The 4,500 square foot filming space surrounded by an LED wall contained a 360-degree motorized turntable that allows real sets to be filmed from different angles with no conversion time.

“The original idea was to give us quicker access to the stage to build large sets for the engine room or 20m wide bridges, but it also allowed us to shoot very efficiently,” says Klausing. . “You can have your camera facing the same direction, but rotate the scene and set up the reverse shot very quickly with the same basic lights.”

According to Whitlam, they achieved their goal of recording more than half of the entire production in camera without needing a lot of additional post-processing.

Klausing adds, “Not all showrunners are capable of doing [a show in VP]. It’s very technical. You must understand how to work in a volume.

Friese told Deadline the experience will help filmmakers think about stories differently. “Once you start working with it, it makes you write scenes differently. It allows you to explore things that you might not be able to explore on a natural setting.

1899. Credit: Rasmus Voss

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