The Netflix drama The Crown won two awards at the Golden Globes: best performance by an actress in a television drama for Claire Foy and as Variety dubbed it “the crown jewel award“: best television series drama.
The first season of the show beat out strong contenders: HBO’s Game of Thrones and Netflix’s other very strong new series, Stranger Things.
One of Us studios was responsible for their visual effects on The Crown. The show is an original historical ten part series from Netflix and Left Bank Pictures.
Directed by Stephen Daldry, Philip Martin, Julian Jarrold and Benjamin Caron, written by Peter Morgan. The Crown is inspired by true events, with the first series focusing on a pivotal moment in British history as Queen Elizabeth II is crowned and begins her reign as Sovereign.
The period piece drama required large set extension and environment work. The first series is set in Post-war Britain which is in turmoil. King George VI has died and his daughter Elizabeth, young and vulnerable, ascends to the throne. The series is more than just an historical biopic, as it attempts to dramatise what might have happened behind closed door at the heart of this very intense and personal family story.
One of Us mastered all their work at 4k for all of the 428 visual effects shots in this project. Ben Turner was the VFX Supervisor and Standish Millennas and Kim Phelan were the VFX Producers. One of Us provided on set supervision for all the visual effects.
Given the nature of this series, the effects were hidden and seamless, in order to provide detail and scale and truly complement the narrative. Filmed at Elstree Studios and on location in South East England, North East Scotland and South Africa, Turner provided on-set supervision for all the VFX shots in the UK.
Ben Turner, VFX Supervisor, commented: “These events may have taken place 60 years ago, but they still feel very current because of the iconic locations and imagery involved, and so attention to detail was central to our approach in each and every shot. We were there to enhance the locations and sets with scale and authenticity, ensuring the VFX sat comfortably on screen. We produced a variety of work for a number of different scenes, but I would say recreating key sequences for the Royal Wedding, the funeral of King George VI and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II were real highlights on this project for me”.
The team worked on the project for 18 months. HDRs were gathered at each location and the sets were all rendered with Arnold with the 2D and 3D farms managed with Qube. The work required for extensive compositing and crowd replication. The crowd scenes ranged from a handful of extra background characters, to large crowds of thousands. The size and quality requirements of the crowd also varied from a couple of pixels high to almost full screen, “so whatever assets we used had to hold up in all situations at 4K” commented Turner. “VFX work of this nature can sometimes be more challenging than big blockbuster effects. Working in 4k for around an 18 month period also creates its own unique set of demands and we invested considerably in infrastructure to support this. Script changes, shifting schedules and budgets inevitably place pressure on a team, but it really was a joy to work on a project of this ambition and scale and we all worked tirelessly to ensure The Crown was the very best it could possibly be.!” One of Us developed a tool within Nuke to populate a large areas with specifically shot crowd elements, helping to fill out big expansive shots with people.
The team used Enwaii photogrammetry software and Maya to create Buckingham Palace as well as a perfect CG replica of the Douglas DC4 BOAC plane used on location in South Africa.
The work included photo real digital set extensions, environments and crowd replication across many different scenes including numerous political and royal coming and goings from Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and London Airport.
Series creator Peter Morgan stated at the Golden Globes’ press event that Season 2 will take the story through 1964. “We leave behind a certain kind of Britain and we enter a new Britain,” he said, going on to say that as the show goes through the years, the actors will have to be re-cast to accurately reflect the appearances of the characters as they grow older. “At the end of Season 2, we will have to start thinking about a new cast because our cast will reach a limit about what they can play.”
One of Us is now currently in production on the visual effects for Series 2 which picks up from the end of series 1. It has also recently completed work on Assassin’s Creed (New Regency) and is working on King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword (Warner Bros.).