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Artist Profile

Emmys 2023: Scanline VFX’s Magical Rotoscoping on Shadow and Bone

3 minute read

VFX Supervisor Adam Balentine and his team summon the power of Silhouette to help bring their nominated work on season 2 to light.

The team at Scanline VFX is Emmy-nominated for Outstanding Special Visual Effects In A Season Or A Movie for their work on Netflix’s Shadow and Bone. Enter the world of Ravka and the Shadow Fold with nominee Adam Balentine (VFX Supervisor, Charan Mapatuna, (Head of Roto/Paint for North America), and Rachel Ulicny (Rotopaint Lead) as the trio shares the “Small Science” of what it was like to work on the VFX-heavy series and how they relied on Boris FX Silhouette to roto and paint on long frames (500+!) and more. 

Congrats on being nominated for your work on Shadow and Bone (Season 2). How does it feel to be nominated?

Adam: Thanks! It feels amazing! So great to see the hard work and creativity of Scanline's Shadow and Bone team recognized at such a high level.

E06_002_0100_comp_beauty_v0037.1075_1.8.1photo credit: Scanline VFX/Netflix

What type of VFX did you and the team at Scanline handle during the season?

Adam: Our primary task was to develop and integrate the Fold, a dense cloud of magical fog full of monsters and lightning that was several hundred feet tall and stretched for miles across the Ravkan countryside. In Season 2, the Fold was a challenge, not only in its sheer scale but also due to its interaction with the surrounding geography as it expanded to cover new territory. We also needed to represent the destruction of the Fold by Alina in the finale, and an earlier attempt by Alina to destroy the Fold while flying through it on an airship.

These scenes were both huge undertakings by our FX team led by Yahnis Ventura. Alina's sun-summoning magical powers were also under our purview and made up a large portion of our work on the show. Development of Alina's powers was led by Art Director Cameron Thomas and really shone (literally) in Episode 2, where Alina first amplifies her powers aboard a ship on a digital ocean created by Scanline. Other work included the design, construction, and integration of several digital environment sets, including the Ravkan countryside and the First Army Fortress castle.

Shadow and Bones stillphoto credit: Scanline VFX/Netflix

You rely on Boris FX Silhouette in your workflow. What areas of Silhouette were used on the season?

Charana: As it was an FX-heavy show, we had a lot of roto work cut out for us. We used Silhouette mainly for our roto work. From simple set roto to character rotos to very long frame range practical ship roto with sailing wires. At times, wire blended it together, and it was tough to keep things consistent. There were a few shots with the practical ship with characters where we had sailing wires crossing over them. Since they were mostly hybrid shots (use of CGI and plate), we had to paint out the sailing wires (characters had to be rebuilt without the wires), which was very challenging for a few reasons. Most ship shots had long frame ranges (it was about 500+ frames), and the perspective changed. Given the complexity of the task, we heavily relied on Silhouette for both roto and paint to complete these tasks in the most efficient way.

Shadow and Bones stillphoto credit: Scanline VFX/Netflix

Which scene/shot was your favorite to work on/most proud of, and why?

Rachel: Most of the ship shots were my favorite shots. They were complex, and the final output turned out really beautiful. We also did a fair amount of roto to break up the set and Alina for the interaction/depth separation for FX. It’s really hard to choose. To be honest, I was really proud to work on that show in general.

Adam: With so many fantastical, magical effects in this season, the biggest challenge was to keep those effects grounded in reality. The magical towering Fold, arcing elements of Alina's magic, and expansive digital environments all needed to look photoreal. It was certainly a huge challenge and one that I'd like to think we successfully met.

Watch Shadow and Bones — streaming now on Netflix.
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