Freefolk has delivered of a significant number of visual effects shots for the Netflix series Cursed. Based on the young-adult novel by Frank Miller and Thomas Wheeler, Cursed tells the story of Nimue, a young sorceress whom scholars believe is destined to become the formidable and mysterious Lady of the Lake. The series’ cast includes Katherine Langford (Nimue), Devon Terrell (Arthur) and Gustaf Skarsgård (Merlin). Set in the Arthurian legendarium, the show is a gritty fantasy series that required vast and varied VFX to create a believable re-imagination of the mythical world.
The Freefolk team - led by VFX supervisor Steve Murgatroyd, head of CG Harin Hirani and VFX executive producer Meg Guidon - were tasked with creating large scale environments for the Fey Camp, the Weeping Monk and the Convent of Yvoire, along with a fully-CG, photoreal fawn, CG set extensions, storm atmospherics, elements and intricate design work for the Fingers of Airimid. In total, the studio delivered more than 200 shots for the series.
“The Fingers of Airimid appear on the face of Nimue, her mother Lenore as well as other Fey elders,” explains Murgatroyd. “The Fingers take two forms: an angry, spiky look and also a magical design that is more leaf-like. The effect is activated when the Fey people are overtaken by the powers of the Hidden. It took a lot of design work to get the final look locked down but was very worth it. Not only were Netflix delighted, but it’s already distinctly Cursed.”
Another stand-out sequence created by the Freefolk team is :40 seconds worth of woodland engulfed in flames and burning Moonwing creatures. This inferno takes place when the Weeping Monk sets a Fey Village ablaze. The environment is designed and modeled entirely in CG. The burning forest behind the blue screen live action of the Weeping Monk character sees Moonwings falling in flames from the trees and another pleading Moonwing executed on the ground. The fire, smoke, and embers were all created using SIdeFX Houdini simulations.
“Cursed is an ambitious fantasy adventure series produced for Netflix, so we were looking for partners who had the capacity to realize our vision and we had a great experience working with Freefolk,” states Cursed producer Alex Boden. “We really appreciated the close collaboration with the whole creative team that delivered some of the key VFX on Cursed, as well as their work on the teaser trailer for the show.”
With lockdown taking hold three weeks before Cursed was due to deliver, the entire VFX crew had to relocate to secure working from home set-ups, and despite the global pandemic, still delivered all the shots without delay.
VFX executive producer, Meg Guidon notes, “from a technical perspective, we’d been preparing for the inevitable for about a month before we were locked down and our brilliant technical team worked hard to set up secure remote working for everyone. It also required remote wrangling and efficient line production skills to ensure the workflow didn’t falter - with a strict routine put in place for dailies and turnaround of notes. We already had a bespoke pipeline to serve the Netflix delivery specifications, but soon had a solid remote pipeline in place so we were able to carry on smoothly. This working practice is now set up for whatever the future holds.”
Cursed was released on Netflix on July 17.