Visual effects are a crucial component of the show Altered Carbon. The series exists hundreds of years in the future, necessitating futuristic cityscapes, alien lifeforms and new kinds of vehicles and technology. It is a world where technology has enabled human bodies to be interchangeable, meaning that death is no longer permanent, again opening up even more requirements for VFX.
In season two of Altered Carbon, we now largely follow the action on the planet Harlan’s World. This is the home planet of central character and former interstellar warrior Takeshi Kovacs. He has been ‘re-sleeved’ (and is now played by Anthony Mackie) and is on a mission to solve a new murder while also pursuing his long lost love Quellcrist Falconer (played by Renée Elise Goldsberry).
Leading the charge on season two’s VFX was DNEG. Here, with visual effects supervisor Jay Worth (who was part of production) and DNEG visual effects supervisor Dan Charbit, 3D World reveals how the VFX studio crafted strange new areas, intriguing inhabitants and a host of the technology prevalent in this new world.
For Harlan’s World, DNEG was called on to deliver wide shots of the central city, sweeping camera moves showcasing the planet, outer-space shots exhibiting the satellite-like orbitals (aka ‘angels’), as well as ground-level shots.
“What DNEG was able to build with this world was something that needed to feel extra-terrestrial, but that felt a little different,” explains Worth. “It had to feel not just like a combination of ‘Blade Runner-meets-the-next-sci-fi-thing’. I’m just really proud of the work that they did. It still feels unique.”
DNEG started the process by referencing some concept art from production. “The brief was that the client wanted to see the city from many angles because the action happens all around the city and on the surrounding of the city as well,” says Charbit.
This work mostly involved a complete CG build, with DMP used for mountains and distant elements. Some elements also involved two-and-a-half paintovers. DNEG relied on Maya and Houdini for the build, with lighting and rendering done in Clarisse. Houdini aided in the procedural creation of parts of the city. “The markets are procedurally populated into the cracks,” explains Charbit. “We built some pieces of the market and we used the procedural approach to populate the streets.”
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