Jean-Luc Picard faces his ultimate test in Q’s alternate reality for season 2 of Star Trek: Picard
Picard finds himself trapped in an alternate timeline in the year 2401 by his nemesis, Q, who has created one final trial for the captain. Enlisting the former Starfleet crew to help him, Picard finds himself in a race against time to save the galaxy.
Outpost were excited to support the second season of Picard with our LA studio working on some complex sequences, including multifaceted FX simulations, challenging day-to-night shots and a full CG asset of Chateau Picard.
Outpost’s VFX Producer on the show, Melissa DeLong, says: “We took on more and more elaborate work throughout the season, building on the assets and environments we had developed initially just for episode 3.
“As the client saw our shots with Chateau Picard and the La Sirena, they wanted to stage more sequences around those locations in subsequent episodes. It culminates in some big stuff late in the season that I won’t give away here."
"It was a really unique relationship with the client, to be able to inform their own creative decisions based on the quality of work we were delivering,” DeLong continues.
The team worked on 5 of the 9 episodes, including the La Sirena ship crash in episode 3. Together our FX, 3D and compositing team created an impressive sequence in which the La Sirena loses control and crash-lands in the Chateau’s derelict vineyards. This included an internal shot of the ship where our artists utilised 2D and 3D elements to create plasma fire and sparks across the ship’s windscreen as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
We were also tasked with the FX simulation of the ship coming into contact with the Earth’s surface, wiping out trees and disturbing the ground with the weight of the ship itself. Outpost FX artist Mike Zhou led this sequence. Speaking on the challenge of creating believable scale for the ship, Zhou says: “Before starting, we looked at some real-world references of explosions or impacts and started to focus on what elements sold largescale collisions.
“One thing that leapt out to us was the speed at which things travel and we found when creating the sim that if we felt it didn’t look right, we needed to slow it down to make the ship look bigger.”
Our environment team created the surrounding layout which encompassed the neglected vineyards and the Chateau in the distance. Our Environment Artist, Daniel Kumiega, led the sequence. “We needed to keep a lot of reference in the sequence to carry the scale of the ship, and so it was important for us to get the height and weight of the trees right in their reaction to the ship’s movement,” he recalls.
Another challenge Kumiega faced with the environment was the fact that the sequence was during the night: “I had to think about night for screens in this shot, because in cinema you have many different types of nights. So, I wanted to come up with something that was believable, interesting, but not too cartoon-like.
“The colours, brightness and how much you can see in the shadows evolved in tandem with the 3D team, especially when we were working on the trees and the elements on the windshield.”
Outpost VFX Supervisor, Jeremy Fernsler, says: “The most challenging aspect of our work on Picard season 2 was the size and scope of Chateau Picard and the surrounding vineyard. The LA studio was still in its early days and the way the team really hit the ground running and built this asset so effectively was really impressive.”
Outpost’s CG Supervisor on the show, Rommel Calderon, oversaw a lot of the asset creation process. “It was late in the season when production presented us with drone footage of the actual vineyard they used to film exteriors and establishing shots. We were tasked with creating a version of this pristine 2021 chateau located in Southern California that looked like a rundown 2024 version of a French vineyard,” he recalls.
“Using a variety of matchmove geometry, we were able to attach CG overgrowth, vines, and weeds throughout the exterior, as well as adding additional structures, such as the solarium, which was a very important plot point in the series, in addition to random detritus and overgrowth throughout the grounds. We then mixed this in with our existing CG asset of the surrounding grounds and vines.
“In the final shot of the season, we were challenged with taking some footage of Jean-Luc Picard and his Romulan partner Laris, flipping their positions, then placing them in a fully digital interior of the solarium, as the camera pulls away from them, goes through the glass, and then flies up to reveal a pristine version of Chateau Picard in the 25th century.”
The team needed to utilise both the CG asset, as well as the plate footage, blending elements of the two two together in some cases. Calderon says: “Creating the fully digital asset of the chateau was a challenge in itself. However, had we been able to use just the digital asset, much of our work would have been much simpler. The added challenge of using drone footage of a real building, then making it look old and rundown, all while mixing it in with our existing asset proved a challenge, but we were up for it.”
“Our Mumbai team supplied us with great matchmove cameras and geometry and our lighting team in LA did some wonderful work to our assets. Our compositors brought it all home to give us footage that most viewers would be hard-pressed to notice what is real and what isn't,” Calderon continues.
Fernsler concludes: “Once we landed on the final look and atmospherics in comp, everything just started to fall into place. Working on this project was a great reminder of how an amazing team can make a show like this a really rewarding experience to be a part of.”
Watch Outpost’s work on Star Trek: Picard season 2 from March 3 2022 on Paramount+.