Viridian FX is a visual effects studio located in York, England. We had a chat with Head of Studio, Ben Louden, about the studio and their recent projects including House of the Dragon.
Can you tell us a little about your background and current position?
My career in visual effects started when a couple of film Producers approached the University of York with the ambitious idea of shooting an entirely green screen movie, the intention of which was to create an aesthetic using abstract / hand drawn backgrounds, on an Indie film budget. This was back in 2010 when the only real examples of this were the likes of Sin City, and 300 – both of which were made with significant resources.
Hired as VFX Artists, we were tasked with conceptualizing the film, figuring out how to shoot it efficiently, and running everything right through to the DCP delivery to Universal. We spent 4 months building our own cyc green screen, and doing test shoots using the (then brand new) RED Epic. Four of the six artists that made that film went on to form the team that has now grown into Viridian FX.
What is Viridian FX?
Viridian FX is a visual effects company based in York, in the north of England. We specialize in everything from invisible effects for film and high-end TV, to conceptualizing and creating worlds using full CG. We recently launched our R&D arm Viridian LAB, and we have a sister post company – motionpost.co.uk
Can you shortly describe the history of Viridian FX?
Born out of the experimental green screen movies (we actually made two in the end), Viridian went on to work on over 30 Indie films as sole VFX vendor. Having cut our teeth on our own entirely VFX-based projects, we built on the skills and philosophies we’d learnt in order to deliver ambitious VFX for a range of projects, from 800-shot sci-fi features, to invisible effects for features such as World War Two drama Waiting for Anya. Our invisible effects work has more recently led us to working on high profile shows such as House of the Dragon for HBO.
We pride ourselves on giving opportunities to our staff to get involved in the filmmaking side in the films we work on. On set experience, script breakdowns, Director review sessions are all things you can find our juniors getting the chance to be involved in. The same goes for our pipeline – we’re fundamentally an artist led company, and everyone gets a say no matter how long you’ve been with us. Efficiency has always been at the heart of our core values – Indie film budgets demand detailed creative problem solving especially when it comes to the expensive world of visual effects. Most of our core team are long standing members, and that has grown into an understanding, and ultimately efficient way of working. We feel this is imperative to our ability to deliver projects reliably.
Viridian’s offices in York:
You are located in York. Why did you choose this location and what are the pros and cons of working from this specific location?
York is our home. We grew out of a partnership with the University of York back in 2010, and beyond that we worked on a lot of Yorkshire based productions. York has a thriving creative community, and it’s very rewarding to be a part of a city with such a rich history. Our artists love working here too, we don’t tend to lose many staff members, and the 10-minute walking commute to the center of a buzzing city that has plenty to offer is certainly a part of that. From a business perspective, our costs are much lower than they might be if we were located in a capital city – this makes us really competitive too.
What are the projects you have worked on? And which are you most proud of?
It’s no secret that House of the Dragon was a huge turning point in the history of Viridian, and I think I speak on behalf of the team when I say that we’re immensely proud to have been part of building the world of Westeros for such a hugely successful show. It’s a vindication of all the hard work we’ve put into building the team over the last 12 years.
Another project I would pick out would be Deus – Viridian played a key role in all aspects of the film. Deus is an Indie sci-fi feature we made almost entirely in-house. We worked with the Director developing the script, created all of the concept art, worked with the Art Department on designing the sets to integrate with our CG work, and completed over 700 shots, many of which were fully CG space exteriors, including a full FX simulated explosion sequence. The budget was relatively very small for this film and I’m immensely proud of what the team achieved given the limited resources.
Film Stills From Deus:
Touchscreen UI design from Deus:
Viridian’s Art Department worked extensively with production to create sets based on our 3D models:
You recently worked on HOUSE OF THE DRAGON. What kind of work did you do on this show and do you have any VFX breakdowns to show?
We completed approximately 250 shots across 8 episodes. Episode 4 was mostly us except for the big CG set pieces (boats, dragons etc).
We started off doing a lot of set extension work, mostly blue screen compositing of plate photography to begin with. Once we had built a good relationship and understanding with Angus and Adam (Angus Bickerton, VFX Supervisor, Adam McInnes), the work became more and more varied. We ended up reworking some major CG assets, building new set extensions on the Red Keep, doing FX simulated blood work, and a few full CG shots amongst other things !
You can check out our House of the Dragon Season One showreel here
Befores and Afters of some of Viridian’s HOTD work:
What is next for Viridian FX?
We’re currently working with Netflix on Heart of Stone – It’s an action thriller starring Gal Gadot. We’re hugely excited about this one as it’s a Netflix in house film and there’s a lot of buzz around it. Working with VFX Supervisor Mark Breakspear and in-house Supervisor John Cairns has been an absolute pleasure, they’ve been very welcoming and have trusted us with a lot of shots !
Beyond that we have some of our biggest projects to date lined up later this year, I can’t say too much more unfortunately !
How do you see Viridian FX developing in the future?
We’re looking to build on the success we’ve had over the past year, we’re growing the team and hoping to work towards playing a bigger part in the studio productions. We’re building some great relationships and we hope to continue these as well as staying in touch with our roots in the Indie film market. We have long standing relationships with some up and coming Directors who we’re really excited to work with again soon, and we’re looking to utilize our in house Art Department and concept team to help develop projects from the ground up.
Keeping up with emerging technologies is also a focus for us. ViridianLAB was set up to make sure we keep abreast of these changes – advancements in Ai, realtime rendering and virtual production are all changing the face of our industry, and being nimble enough to adapt will be crucial moving forwards.