The highly-anticipated second season of Netflix original series “The OA” takes the eponymous main character into a new dimension, delving deeper into old mysteries and adding new avenues of existential exploration. Though the show, co-created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, explores sci-fi themes, its visuals are firmly grounded in the real world.
Method Studios was tapped to provide story-enhancing VFX throughout season two, including the creation of Old Night, a photoreal CG octopus featured in a pivotal scene in episode four, “SYZYGY.” In the scene, Old Night uses OA (Marling) as a conduit to deliver his message to a gathered crowd, telepathically speaking to OA while its tentacles wrap around her.
Batmanglij, who directed the episode, shot Marling practically on location, with dancers in blue suits mimicking Old Night’s movements, and lighting set up to add reflected light (as though from Old Night’s glass tank) in OA’s hair. The Method team, led by VFX Supervisor Jed Smith, developed a sophisticated rigging system to allow expressive articulation of each tentacle and suction cup, enhancing the nuanced performance of the tentacles wrapping around OA’s body. Method’s FX team also built systems to add secondary motion to Old Night’s body, creating undulating muscle movement and grasping suction cups. A soft body simulation was also used to create Old Night’s sagging flesh when outside of the tank.
Compositing was particularly challenging, as each strand of Marling’s hair needed to be rotoscoped and integrated with the CG elements to keep the practical light reflections. Smith and team developed a process for delivering animation “slap comps” to the client so that they could review a more fully realized Old Night earlier in the process, for more informed creative decisions on its movements and performance. Ultimately the Old Night character appears photoreal, seamlessly blended into the practical surroundings for an unsettling sequence.
“The OA” is now streaming on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80044950