DNEG was responsible for 389 shots across 8 episodes in the series, working on several of the show’s key sequences.
1899 tells the story of a migrant steamship travelling from London to New York, whose passengers are caught up in an epic mystery when they discover a second, long-lost, migrant ship in the open sea. Created by Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar (founders of the show’s production company, Dark Ways, and creators of Dark) and starring an ensemble cast including Emily Beecham, Ben Ashenden, Aneurin Barnard and Andreas Pietschmann, 1899 shows audiences how a mystery can affect relationships, friendships, and even bring strangers together.
To help bring the story to life, the DNEG team generated key sequences and CG assets for the production, including a fully CG Rose Chafer bug. The Rose Chafer is used throughout the story as a device to help the characters transport across locations. It moves in both natural and hyper-realistic ways, occasionally with a mechanical edge to indicate to the audience that something is not quite as it seems.
Working with the Dark Ways team to create visuals that help weave this wonderful mystery together was a real pleasure. Our crew came together from around the world to create a beautiful and haunting story that is sure to stick with audiences.Chris Nokes, VFX Supervisor at DNEG
DNEG’s artists also attempted to tame the elements by creating FX simulations of storm rain, mist, rock rubble, water bubbles and the ever-mysterious fog. ‘The Storm in the Wheelhouse’ was a particularly challenging sequence for the DNEG team, with lots of elements needing to come together – the outer deck environment, CG windows and rain, bow sprays, mist, along with lightning in the sky. Ambitious goals, continuity over the entire episode and logistical constraints meant that the team had to get creative in their problem solving to figure out the balance and work in parallel across the different teams who contributed to these sequences.
The team took the elements even further with a surreal fire that engulfs a manor house and the characters within it. The plates for the sequence were shot in a field with a large light array. The team re-built the manor house in 3D, using a series of photo references, as they knew it would need to be burnt and shown in its after state later on. The interior fires that start the blaze were created using a combination of shot elements and CG. The key aspect for the team was to get the progression of fire and smoke right in the sequence. They viewed a lot of fire footage references, with a heavy focus on the lighting and movement of the smoke, then recreated it through CG simulation work with smoke, fire and ash elements.
Time also plays an important role in 1899. When a rifle is fired at a lead character, time slows to a freeze, affecting all but the character herself. There were several components to this scene that the DNEG team worked on. For the transition from real-time to frozen-time, the team worked with their DNEG Stereo colleagues to utilise their expertise in dimensionalising footage. They used a combination of stereo and compositing techniques to bring the ‘wave’ to life in the scene. For the travel of the bullet and the muzzle flash, the team employed traditional set extension techniques for the background and used a CG bullet asset alongside FX elements to create the sparks, ejection flash and air disturbance. The actors frozen in place were all shot practically on set and supported with stands, then DNEG’s paint and compositing teams helped them stay even more still in post production. Finally, when the lead character plucks the bullet out of the air, the team took the last position of the FX elements and created a slight disturbance based on the actor’s matchmoved fingers.
The Dark Ways team had some ambitious goals for 1899 and really took some risks in the way they made the show. While there was a clear vision for how they wanted the series to look and feel, there was still room for creative ideas to be shared and explored – it was a really nice balance. We’re very excited to see how audiences react to this story and the mystery behind it.Chris Nokes, VFX Supervisor at DNEG
1899 had a two-episode premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 12 September 2022 and the series was released on Netflix on 17 November 2022.