Creating CG sorcery on Netflix’s The Witcher

How Framestore used Nuke to navigate rapid production schedules on episodic TV shows like The Witcher

Fantasy: as an audience, we’re fascinated with it. From whole new worlds built on myth and legend to roguish tales and mighty quests, we can’t get enough of storytelling that transports us beyond our own reality.

Enter The Witcher: the latest, if not newest, franchise that’s arrived on our screens and streams, just in time to sate our appetite for the other-worldy. Stoic, solitary Geralt of Rivia leads the charge in this epic tale, slaying monsters with might and magic, amidst a backdrop of political turmoil and moral ambiguity. It’s fantasy at its finest.

Despite having a provenance that spans back over thirty years—first with a best-selling book series from Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, then with a hugely successful trilogy of video games from AAA juggernaut CD Projekt Red—The Witcher owes its emergence in the global zeitgeist to the success of Netflix’s recent adaption of the franchise.

Of course, bringing a whole new world to life—in this case, The Continent, with all its characters, creatures and oddities—requires no amount of first-class CG to make it stand up to the big screen. As one of several visual effects houses to work on The Witcher series, Framestore can attest to the sheer amount of shots needed to do justice to a franchise beloved by fans for years. 

Happily, Foundry’s compositing tool Nuke was on hand to help. As a member of the Netflix Post Technology Alliance, Nuke is proven to meet the technical and workflow requirements needed in the post production and delivery of Netflix Originals.

We caught up with Pedro Sabrosa and Owen Braekke-Carroll, Framestore’s VFX Supervisor and Compositing Supervisor, to explore how the team used Nuke to quell the chaos that often comes with episodic productions such as The Witcher.

A monster project…

The Witcher had a huge range of VFX needs; from large environment builds, creepy monsters and creatures to magical effects,” Pedro tells us. “Framestore did all the large environments and a lot of magical and environment effects.”

Working across all eight episodes, Framestore delivered on the show within a year. “[This] seems like quite a lot,” Pedro comments, “but there was a huge variety of work for the 300+ shots and long lead times for large asset builds and FX development.”

Such variety often comes with the territory for episodic productions such as The Witcher, and presents its own unique challenges, as Framestore was quick to find out. “Expectations for TV work has gotten really high,” Pedro tells us. “That means on a project like this you have to work in an agile way to get through the workload in the timeframe needed but still maintain a high quality of work.”

To support their efforts in adjusting to this rapid way of working, Foundry’s compositing tool Nuke has been a constant for Framestore in helping the team realise their awesome creative vision amidst tight deadlines and increasing quality demands.

“Framestore has been using Nuke in our Integrated Advertising/TV pipeline for around a decade,” Pedro comments. “[It] plays a key role in all our projects.”

…deserves mighty tools

As the show’s Compositing Supervisor at Framestore, Owen Braekke-Carroll is well placed to provide further insight into how

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