The second season of the drama series The Mosquito Coast brings a whole new level of danger and intrigue as the Fox family continues their attempts to fly under the radar of those out for their capture.
Working alongside the show’s VFX Producer & Supervisor, Joshua Spivack, Framestore’s VFX team was tasked with creating a series of dramatic, fully CG shots of a boat losing control in a dark and stormy river at night, eventually colliding with a rock and river bank, all featured in Episode 202.
“Working with Framestore was a dream; from the start I knew I was supported in all aspects and that I had a creative team ready to problem solve on my behalf,” said Spivack. “Framestore was not shy about bringing their creative and technical solutions to the table, collaborating alongside myself and our showrunner. In doing so, we were able to create breathtaking sequences that kept you on the edge of your seat. Their attention to detail and quality was astounding and a sequence as big and complicated as this could not have been easier and more enjoyable to produce.
To begin, a detailed boat model was designed to precisely match the practical boat that features heavily throughout the season, populating its interior with characters who were shot practically on a large gimbaled boat set.
“It was a demanding job for our FX teams, who created water simulations, heavy rain effects and simulated boat rigging, ropes, nets and buoys to show the effects of the storm on the fragile craft,” said Framestore VFX Supervisor, Nick Tanner. “Our animators studied reference footage to understand how to convey the sense of such a weighty vessel struggling against water currents. It was quite a challenge to deconstruct the motion in order to hit the critical story points, transitioning from a boat struggling against the current to one succumbing to the flow of water and crashing first into a boulder and then scraping along the river bank.”
The river in the sequence was nestled between high cliffs – an environment created with a series of digital matte paintings. A number of paintings were created to account for the wide variety of angles used in the sequence but in effect they covered a full 360 degrees of cliffs and distant foliage.
For the climax of the sequence a portion of the river bank was built digitally with densely populated trees, bushes and shrubs, to further help simulate the effects of the stormy weather, with the use of procedural compositing techniques that gave lifelike motion to the trees and branches.
“A CG boat in a CG storm can be full of pitfalls,” explained Spivack. “But it was the little details: the mist, the movement in our environment, and the blooming of the boat's lights against the hard rain that grounded this sequence and kept you entranced.”
“The Framestore team enjoyed a creative and productive relationship with Joshua Spivack, whose editorial team constructed an edit using storyboard frames and green screen footage of the boat set,'' explained Tanner. “We were allowed to explore and adapt this template in an extensive post-visualization process. The wide variety of compositional and animation options we created made for a rapid and collaborative creative process.”
Framestore’s work can be experienced in the tense, climactic storm sequence within Episode 202.