Visionary director David Lowery tackles myth and destiny in A24's adaptation of the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
In a time where adaptations, remakes, sequels and sagas are perennially popular, The Green Knight stands out as possibly the least fashionable and least ‘obvious’ of the bunch.
Electing Sir Gawain and The Green Knight for adaptation could have, in a less ambitious pair of hands, borne all of the tropes of a straight-shooting medieval quest for honour. As it stands, director David Lowery, who impressed with A Ghost Story and Pete’s Dragon, has leant into the occult and eerie aspects of medieval folklore to create a fresh take on the genre.
Outpost came on board back in 2019 to deliver a little over 30 visual effects shots for The Green Knight ahead of its intended release in 2020. Due to the pandemic the film’s release was then pushed back until July 2021, a delay that gave David Lowery the chance to recut the film and explore some of its key themes on a deeper level, as he explained to IndieWire:
“I knew that the themes of honour and chivalry were important and vital for this movie. But somewhere in the post process, I just got too caught up in the minutiae of the movie to remember that.
“When the movie was delayed and I had the opportunity to get back into it, that was what I wanted to do – bring those themes to the surface in a more recognizable way. The movie got a few minutes longer and the pace changed. Those tweaks were all geared towards letting those themes rise more. It’s still quite obtuse, but I think those themes resonate more now.”
Outpost’s VFX work on The Green Knight largely encompassed environments and DMP integration to enhance plates shot in the wild and barren corners of Ireland that the production called home.
In addition, the team was tasked with simulating moss growth around the titular knight’s axe as it lays on the ground in King Arthur’s court, multiple sky replacements and the addition of snow to an early sequence.
Outpost VFX Supervisor, David Sadler-Coppard, recently highlighted the key creative problem solving we were tasked with in an interview for Animation Magazine.
“We embarked on quite a lot of research into different kinds of moss and lichen on a macro photography scale,” he said. “We needed to understand their growth patterns and textures so that we could create a fairly accurate FX sim to make the moss grow out of the ground in a believable way.
“Beyond the work on snow and moss, we were tasked with DMP and exterior environment extensions to add a bit more drama to what was captured on location. These included adding mountain ranges to these dreamy landscapes that David had shot, as well as burning buildings and sky replacement in a few shots to add atmosphere. It’s a really striking film.
“We had to add a large animated DMP to a shot which was well over 1,000 feet long with a moving camera, changing focus and exposure throughout and a lot of wind and snow in the plate. There were so many edges to consider and every time it was up for final we would spot another issue and then take another half day to fix and re-submit again.
“It’s subtle work but utterly necessary for the narrative. It was a relaxed, creative and collaborative show with quite a long turnaround time which is all too rare in our business. It gave us time to iterate and achieve the look that David was after with a tight-knit show team.”