Exploring The Subterranean Environments of Silo: Part II


Exploring The Subterranean Environments of Silo: Part II

15 February 2024

Outpost VFX Supervisor Ian Fellows takes us through more of the VFX behind the oppressive environments of Season 1 of Silo

The oppressive, industrialised environments of sci-fi thriller, Silo, each have a huge part to play in the narrative across all ten episodes. Recently, we spoke to Outpost VFX Supervisor Ian Fellows, about two of these key environments which he and his team undertook: the void, and the generator room. This second part of a two-part series explores the team’s work on the generator room, including the generator asset itself.

You can read about the team’s work on the void in Part I here.

The Generator Room: The heart of the silo

The titular silo is roughly 5,760 feet tall, with the upper class and the authorities living on the upper floors, closer to the Earth’s surface, while the lower class are deeper underground. The generator room, situated at the bottom of the 144 storeys but above the void, generates all of the power necessary for civilisation’s survival in the underground city.

When we first meet Juliette, we find her here as the lead engineer, fighting to keep the generator in working order.

The plates for this environment captured more in camera than the void: production had built a segment of the set, giving the Outpost team the ability to build upon this with the same look and feel that was already developed by the client. “We had LIDAR scans for individual pieces of the set which were, broadly speaking, lined up in the space and so we imported this geometry and started from there,” Fellows explains.

Once again, Outpost Art Director Steve Molloy began creating some concept imagery of the generator, looking at the scale, texture, and how it would work from a practical point of view with the hooks removing the large panels. Different iterations of these concepts were then shown to the client, allowing them to shape it the way they wanted to. “We were told that the interior of the turbine was almost like a jet engine with the spinning blades,” Fellows recalls, “and the client had built a part of the turbine at the bottom with a spinning blade for the talent to interact with, so we took this design and added to it.”

As for the rest of the environment, the team had to extend the practical set to include the internal walls of the generator room, additional lighting and pipes. “The practical set was probably only six-to-eight feet off of the floor which meant it was very close to camera,” Fellows explains, “so we had to position everything so that it would work with what was shot practically, while still creating the right perspective for that environment.

“When they’re fixing the turbine in the generator, there’s a whole section of action that takes place higher up in the room which hadn’t been practically built. We had to stage that part of the environment digitally and take over some camera moves and force perspective to sell it as a higher space, for example when Juliette and Cooper are hoisted into the air. This was shot initially on a bluescreen stage and so we had to tile it onto the environment and adapt the perspective so it worked.”

 Similar to the void environment, the team had to ensure the generator room worked from all vantage points. “As Juliette and Cooper are in the air, there’s one point where we’re looking down to the floor below, so there was quite a bit of work in this environment to ensure that the level of detail was present throughout the entire sequence,” says Fellows.

“On top of that, there were some hidden surprises that we encountered, such as the shot where they’re hoisting the tools up. Once again this was shot on bluescreen, with the tools hanging on a cable. We had to animate them going up with the associated movements with something being pulled upward, and then in order to sell the illusion of something rising up in space, you need to pan the background down. So it became a creative challenge to get the camera working in a way that made it feel organic, getting the right sense of weight and movement.”

Of the whole experience, Fellows concludes: “At the time when Silo came to us, it was certainly one of the biggest and most complex CG environments we had done that needed to be replicated over many shots. It really pushed the boundaries of what we’ve done before at Outpost on that scale, and the team that we had were just fantastic. They really put a lot of love into the work on the show and I think that can be seen in the final result.”

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