Framestore’s work on 1899, the latest enthralling puzzle-box thriller from Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, showcases the breadth of the Oscar, Emmy and BAFTA-winning company’s beginning-to-end creative offer.
The Oscar, Emmy and BAFTA-winning creative studio was involved at every stage of the creative process, encompassing concept art, virtual production, title credits and final VFX, courtesy of the studio’s teams in London, Montreal, Vancouver and Mumbai.
Led by Overall VFX Supervisor Christian Kaestner, Framestore’s team of creatives was involved at script stage. The studio’s in-house art department provided early concepts as Friese, Odar and their creative team mapped out the show, which follows passengers aboard a transatlantic steamship as their journey takes a mysterious turn.
Pre-production and ICVFX
From this point on, Framestore was immersed in the world of 1899, with Kaestner leading the company’s integrated visualisation, virtual production and VFX teams.
The episodic project was the first to make use of Dark Bay, a cutting-edge new LED volume based at Babelsberg Studios. Framestore Pre-production Services (FPS) played an active role in designing and setting up the new volume and its ‘brain bar’ control centre, ensuring the facility was creatively and technologically equipped to deliver the showrunners’ incredible vision.
Framestore deployed a best-in-the-business team of 19 artists, technicians and producers who were embedded on-site in Babelsberg, with their collective experience spanning film, TV, gaming, immersive entertainment and live event production. The team worked closely with showrunners Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, DOP Nik Summerer and Production Designer Udo Kramer to lock the show’s creative decision and overall ‘look and feel’, with these decisions guiding Framestore’s Virtual Art Department, whose role it was to build, test and calibrate what was ultimately shown on the LED wall.
1899’s dynamic LED backdrops were rendered in a video game engine in real-time, replicating the physical camera moves to simulate a realistic background and environment. Ultimately, nearly half of the show’s shots did not require post-production work because the set blended so seamlessly with the virtual backdrop.
From VP to VFX
The benefits of having Framestore as a pre- to post-production collaborator quickly became apparent as 1899 shifted from volume shoot and into post, where the Framestore VFX teams in Montreal and Vancouver, led by VFX Supervisors Christian Emond, João Sita and Sean Schur, worked on everything from stunning storm sequences with complex water simulations to mind-blowing disintegration shots.
This was perhaps most notable with the show’s exterior ocean shots, where the VFX teams were able to keep the set and the sky while focusing on creating perfect ocean replacements, all thanks to the level of planning that went into the ICVX shots. This meant the team could focus on developing new techniques to realise 1899’s vast, daunting and hyper-realistic oceans, creating demanding simulation solutions in order to deliver photoreal motion, speed and foam detail, along with breathtakingly imposing waves.
Framestore’s London-based Integrated Advertising team led on 1899’s strikingly distinctive title sequences. Conceived and designed by Framestore’s Jules Janaud and led by VFX Supervisor Johannes Sambs, the team were charged with delivering something unique, dynamic, dark and mesmerising for the tentpole series that would hook viewers without giving too much away.
Using the show’s Kerberos cruise vessel as their disembarkation point, the team then worked up surreal representations of the sea intermingled with a stylised language that sought to evoke the intermingling of dream and reality.
This work served to as the final creative flourish for Framestore’s work on 1899 - a singular and exciting feat of modern storytelling that drew on a global team of supremely talented artists, designers, producers and technologists, and serves to showcase the company’s capacity for collaboration at every single stage of the creative process.