Framestore works with Dark Bay to deliver 1899, the new project from Dark creators

July 6, 2021

Framestore has announced they are behind the LED technology used in 1899, the upcoming mystery-drama from the creative powerhouse behind the award-winning Dark.

Production on the eight-part series started at the beginning of May, and is helmed by Dark creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar. Produced by Dark Ways, the drama is making use of a new, cutting-edge LED volume based at Babelsberg Studios. Established by Dark Bay (a dedicated company set up by Dark Ways and Studio Babelsberg) the volume offers creators the chance to capture complex visual effects shots in-camera through virtual sets and locations created with game engine technology.

1899 is the first project to make use of the new facility, and Framestore played an active role in designing and setting up the new volume alongside Dark Ways, Studio Babelsberg, ARRI Solutions Group and Faber AV. The 55-meters-circumference and seven-meters-high LED wall comprises 1470 state-of-the- art ROE LED panels. It also features an industry-first revolving stage – a motor-driven 360-degree turntable which allows filming of real sets from different angles without conversion times, while the virtual studio is controlled via the ‘Brain Bar’, which provides 13 high-performance workstations.

Framestore’s work on this major episodic project is led by VFX supervisor Christian Kaestner (Captain Marvel; The Aeronauts; Gravity), who oversees the company’s integrated visualisation, virtual production and VFX teams. This includes a team of 19 artists, technicians and producers embedded in Babelsberg, their collective experience spanning film, TV, gaming, immersive entertainment and the music industry. The team working alongside Kaestner includes On-set Supervisor Andrew Scrase; virtual production supervisor Alyssa Mello; volume supervisor Jack Banks and Freddy Salazar as Head of Virtual Art Department. The show’s virtual production producer is Manon Hartzuiker, and VAD / VFX producer is Martina Chakarova.

Framestore is working across the entirety of the show’s visual effects. This includes delivering concept art and previs; providing on-set VP supervision using a unique real-time workflow and toolset; creating photoreal, in-engine content (notably complex, real-time environments) and, of course, core VFX.

VFX supervisor Christian Kaestner said: “1899 is a brilliantly complex and contemporary piece of storytelling and the technology supporting it is equally ambitious. Being involved this early in the project planning and realisation required us to draw from our extensive pool of knowledge and expertise to assemble a team that could accommodate every facet of production. State of the art technology and our diversely skilled team gave us the flexibility to work hand-in-glove with the showrunners and production designers; bringing their vision to life whilst complementing the practical set-builds with the virtual production technology. It’s a huge yet exciting undertaking and I am thrilled to be pioneering this way of film-making alongside a strong creative team – putting technology and artists through their paces.”

Fiona Walkinshaw, Framestore’s global managing director, film, said: “There’s a tremendous buzz about 1899 here at Framestore thanks to a rich vein of Dark fandom and the knowledge that this is a prestige title by storytellers with a distinct and utterly unique take on their craft. As a company we pride ourselves on our appetite for new approaches, new technology and finding the right solutions to help creators bring their ideas to life. This mindset is clearly shared by Jantje and Bo at Dark Ways – establishing one of Europe’s largest permanently installed LED studios for virtual production-filmmaking is no small feat, and being part of this story while we work on 1899 is a source of personal and professional pride for all of us.”

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