Cambridge based VFX studio, Vine FX announced today their involvement as sole VFX vendor on War Of The Worlds, the eight-part drama based on the H.G.Wells classic, for Fox and Canal+.

Set in present-day Europe, War Of The Worlds was written and created by the BAFTA award winner Howard Overman, with Executive Producers, Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps. Vine FX have a long history of working with this trio, following on from their work on Merlin, Atlantis
and Crazyhead.

Staring Gabriel Byrne and Elizabeth McGovern, War of the Worlds, is the story of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, a story we can, in many ways, relate to, during the strange time we are all currently experiencing.

Vine FX provided all the VFX across the series, a staggering 500 shots, 200 of them CG. The work itself was varied and complex, and included a fully CG character that interacts with humans and environments, CG environments, numerous matte paintings involving dead body additions and meteor damage and various green screen replacements.

The Vine FX team worked with concept designer, Ulrich Zeidler, on the look of the CG alien and went through several iterations before the final design was agreed upon. The industrial looking and unnamed creature was affectionately called ‘Fluffy’ by the Vine team, an ironic alias that
was later adopted by the entire crew and directors.

‘Fluffy’ first appears in episode 3 and had to look impressive for the big reveal, CG Supervisor, Pedrom Dadgostar explains how the creature came to life.

“We spent the most time, out of all the sequences, on the point when the alien first bursts through a door inside a bunker. It’s damaged, war-beaten, and gets into a tussle with one of the human characters. There is a lot of physical interaction between the two and we had to make sure our CG character did not come across as being lightweight or weak, ensuring it moved with purpose and ferocity.

We developed scripts in Maya to automate, importing and applying the variations of shaders and textures to the alien. We often used the same model for each alien creature, but in scenes with multiple characters in, we needed an efficient method of applying the alternate textures to help each creature look unique. To fulfill this task our texture artist created hundreds of textures by hand.”

VFX Supervisor and Vine FX Founder, Michael Illingworth explains how working on a project this size is no mean feat, “we had a monstrous shot count with a very small team of artists and an ambitious time limit. With the standard of VFX in television rapidly rising, we were hugely proud to have delivered such a vast number of shots to the high levels of quality expected today, while on a fraction of a bigger production’s budget.

To achieve this, we had to make sure we worked as streamlined as possible, with tight collaboration between departments. Most of our artists are in-house, but we also have remote artists all over the world. We use Slack to communicate between all artists, regardless of their location, so no one is left out of the loop on what’s going on.

The set up at Vine FX already involves managing remote artists, as well at their core in-house team, this has proven to be invaluable in the current climate, Michael explains how he unintentionally prepared for the Covid-19 crisis.

“We invested heavily before we started work on this project, we moved to a new office here in Cambridge and upgraded the storage, render and infrastructure. We also invested heavily in Teradici PCoIP which allowed us to place all of our artist workstations in our Data centre. This made for a pleasant and quiet working environment but it also allowed us to hire artists in Bulgaria, Greece, London and Australia.

The artists all have direct connection to our systems so there’s no need to upload/download material for them to work on. It’s a smooth working set up and a stroke of luck really that we had it up and running well before the Coronavirus crisis.”

War of the Worlds is currently on Fox UK at 9pm BST on Thursdays and is also available to watch on Sky, Virgin, Now TV as well as on Epix in the US.

Vine FX are currently working on Soulmates (AMC), The Serpent (Mammoth Screen/BBC/Netflix) and The One (Urban Myth Films/Netflix).

Allan Torp Jensen
Author: Allan Torp Jensen

Allan has worked on visual effects for feature films and television for 20 years. He has experience of the full VFX pipeline but has focused on compositing for the past 15 years and has been a Lead Compositor and Compositing Supervisor on various shows. He has worked with the talented people at Cinesite, Bluebolt VFX, Automatik VFX in London, and Weta Digital in New Zealand. For the past five years, he has worked remotely at his own Torper Studio on various high-end TV and feature film projects.