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Goodbye Kansas delivers fairytale VFX for Carnival Row S2

Apr 13, 2023

Goodbye Kansas Studios has delivered 123 shots and over 50 character and environment assets for the second season of Amazon Prime Video’s Carnival Row.

Carnival Row, which premiered in 2019, is an American neo-noir fantasy series. The show stars Cara Delevigne as Vignette and Orlando Bloom as Philo, the main characters in a world where mystical creatures are refugees in human society.

Goodbye Kansas joined as a visual effects provider for season two, working during the pandemic with a combined team of over 100 VFX artists and technicians. The visual effects production at Goodbye Kansas Studios was supervised by Joel Lindman as VFX Supervisor and Staffan Linder as Animation Lead. When discussing the brief and scope of their work on Carnival Row season two, the Goodbye Kansas team describes it as a “mixed bag”, ranging from fairytale digital characters and monstrous transformation sequences to crowd simulations and entire CG environments.

With the show incorporating such a strong element of fantasy into the Steampunk-style world, digitally transforming Carnival Row characters into their fairytale counterparts played a big part in Goodbye Kansas’s repertoire of project work. Perfecting the process of combining the performances of real actors and digital characters through motion capture was key. The Goodbye Kansas team had to ensure that the digital characters both seamlessly fitted in with the visual look of the scene, and didn’t miss a beat against the acting performances of the human characters.

“What was pretty interesting on this show is that we received the plates where they had filmed the human characters, and then roto-animated the digital character towards those original shots. We made a model that moves in the same way as the actor in a 3D space,” said Joel. Next, they tracked the camera to see how it behaved, which fed into the monitor in the motion capture studio. “In the mocap studio, we could see everything on the monitor, while watching the mo-cap actor walking around in real-time. We could direct the digital character to act against the opposing ‘real-life’ character from the original shooting, all in real-time.”

This process was instrumental in a sequence where Philo faces a nine-foot troll. Staffan adds, “That was challenging as we had to consider Orlando [Bloom]’s acting. It all had to fit as closely as possible, especially the timing, which is tricky in motion capture as  the actor needs to work alongside something that they can only see on the monitor.” The team brought in other actors to replicate Bloom’s placement and movements, which involved plenty of trial and error. “Of course, we then needed to make the connection between the digital and the real by tweaking positions, as we didn’t have an exact map of the space to work towards.”

With so many moving parts to the digital characters, the team explored the boundaries of their imagination within the confines of real world physics. “We had one shot with fairies that flew around with wings, which was filmed on the client’s side with real people in the studio. When they shot it, they were hanging on wires and acting like they were flying,” Joel explains.

“But the physics of that would actually be different: hanging on a wire is not the same as having the wings on your back, which would pull you up as you fly.” Goodbye Kansas brought in a new form of mocap rig to create more realism in the flying movements. “The rig was forked, meaning the mocap actors could attach it to their hips and be moveable on all axes as they flew around.”

The second season of Carnival Row is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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