Catherine The Great

Dame Helen Mirren reigns supreme as the Russian empress amid tremendous scandal and conflict in new HBO/Sky drama.

Project Category

TV

Client

Sky / HBO

Director

Philip Martin

Outpost VFX Producer

Gez Hixson

Outpost VFX Supervisor

Cale Pugh, Ian Fellows

Overview


She overthrew her husband, Peter III, in a coup d'état' to become Russia's longest ruling female leader and transformed the country into one of the great powers of Europe.

Now, Catherine the Great is the subject of a new four-part HBO and Sky drama starring Dame Helen Mirren as the empress, and Jason Clarke as General Grigory Potemkin.

For the series, we created incredible set extensions, DMPs, crowd simulations, CG soldiers, all with the aim to be as accurate to the locale and history as possible.

"We were very lucky that Sean [Farrow, VFX Supervisor on the show] had taken lots of great photos from the Moscow shoot that we could use for texturing and reference for our set extension," says Cale Pugh, Outpost's Head of 2D.

On one of the big challenges of the show, Cale explains how we created a church interior set extension:

"We used a mixture of CG and traditional DMP techniques to achieve a believable result. We tried to use the best parts of both approaches so we created a DMP in Photoshop, which we then projected onto the church geo and used Maya for the final lighting and rendering."

This process gave us a great result and allowed us the flexibility to do quick changes and alterations when needed.

For the crowds in an execution sequence we used crowd repetition, filming multiple plates of extras and stitching the plates together to make 50 extras look like a crowd of 500. Some of the other soldier repetition shots, on the other hand were completed using a different approach, "We created a variety of CG soldier assets using a CG crowd sim. This approach gave more flexibility when creating the soldier actions, and we were also then able to add a huge amount of variation in everything from different faces to slight variation in uniform configuration and colour."

We added a smorgasbord of animation variety for every soldier action, "For example, a simple action like a soldier shouldering his rifle would need to be animated multiple times, with slight variation in arm angles and speed to remove the feeling of duplication and to make the soldier blocks feel natural," said Cale.

Outpost VFX is delighted to work on another production with Sky and HBO, having recently delivered shots for Sky series Curfew earlier this year as well as working on the much-anticipated Watchmen adaptation for HBO.

Catherine the Great aired on 3 October on Sky.

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