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September 06
2023

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

MILK VFX GIVES NEW WINGS TO GOOD OMENS TO CAPTURE THE EMOTIONS

By OLIVER WEBB

Images courtesy of Milk VFX and Amazon Prime.

Aziraphale’s wings were originally created for Season 1, but had to be recreated for Season 2 to allow for more complex motion requirements.

Aziraphale’s wings were originally created for Season 1, but had to be recreated for Season 2 to allow for more complex motion requirements.

Aziraphale’s wings were originally created for Season 1, but had to be recreated for Season 2 to allow for more complex motion requirements.

Created by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and adapted for the screen by Gaiman for Amazon Prime, British fantasy comedy series Good Omens follows the antics and adventures of angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant) after they are exiled from Heaven and Hell and team  up to form an unlikely duo on Earth. Milk VFX Supervisor/Co-Founder Jean-Claude Deguara served as VFX Supervisor on Good Omens Season 1 before sliding into the client-side VFX Supervisor seat for Season 2. Matias Derkacz served as Visual Effects Supervisor for Milk on the second season.

“Before the ‘let it be light’ moment, we used one of the environments to create white flashes of energy that revolved around Crowley and Aziraphale. This approach provided the right amount of light, as this part of the sequence required it to be darker. But for the creation of the nebulas, we needed the opposite effect. We used a simplified version of the nebulas on the LED screens, which allowed us to achieve complex light changes. Having access to the LED screens allowed us to archive the correct light interaction on Crowley and Aziraphale, helping us achieve the desired impact.”

—Matias Derkacz, Visual Effects Supervisor, Milk VFX

“I first got involved with Good Omens on Season 1 when I was Compositing Supervisor,” Derkacz says. “Working with Jean-Claude Deguara as a client-side VFX supervisor was brilliant. Working with him so closely on Season 1, I knew what he was after. I was part of all the discussions about how to creatively push forward the show and was involved with those conversations from the very beginning. Jean-Claude had some great ideas.”

The wings were animated to follow Crowley’s body movements in order to enhance their emotions.

The wings were animated to follow Crowley’s body movements in order to enhance their emotions.

The wings were animated to follow Crowley’s body movements in order to enhance their emotions.

Discussing his initial conversations about the look of the second season, Derkacz explains that he was brought on set for the opening sequence. “I was brought in to help with virtual production for the opening sequence. Before the ‘let it be light’ moment, we used one of the environments to create white flashes of energy that revolved around Crowley and Aziraphale. This approach provided the right amount of light, as this part of the sequence required it to be darker. But for the creation of the nebulas, we needed the opposite effect. We used a simplified version of the nebulas on the LED screens, which allowed us to achieve complex light changes. Having access to the LED screens allowed us to archive the correct light interaction on Crowley and Aziraphale, helping us achieve the desired impact. So, we created material which was not meant to be on camera, but to get the light interaction.”

“It required a lot of conversations back and forth with Douglas [director Douglas Mackinnon] and Neil,” Derkacz continues. “We had a great way of working where we could regularly check in on how things were going. We used real NASA pictures of nebulas as reference. We adapted the color palettes and shapes to make it more appealing to the eye, more interesting and different. That was the way that we approached that sequence. It was 100-plus shots that we had to actually deal with.”

One of the most pressing conversations for Visual Effects Supervisor Matias Derkacz and his team revolved around the look of the Land of Uz in Episode 2.

One of the most pressing conversations for Visual Effects Supervisor Matias Derkacz and his team revolved around the look of the Land of Uz in Episode 2.

One of the most pressing conversations for Visual Effects Supervisor Matias Derkacz and his team revolved around the look of the Land of Uz in Episode 2.

“[Aziraphale’s and Crowley’s wings] were created for Season 1, but we redid them as they needed more complex behavior. The wings were animated to follow Crowley’s and Aziraphale’s body movements to enhance their emotions. So, there was a bit more animation work involved with this. It was more complex in the way that feathers behaved since we had to have proper feather interactions. That was the biggest sequence for sure in terms of volume and complexity. It was a fun and challenging sequence.”

—Matias Derkacz, Visual Effects Supervisor, Milk VFX

One of the main assets of the show, which played a role in the Before the Beginning sequence was Aziraphale’s and Crowley’s wings, which had to be recreated for Season 2. “The wings were created for Season 1, but we redid them as they needed more complex behavior,” Derkacz explains. “The wings were animated to follow Crowley’s and Aziraphale’s body movements to enhance their emotions. So, there was a bit more animation work involved with this. It was more complex the way that feathers behaved since we had to have proper feather interactions. That was the biggest sequence for sure in terms of volume and complexity. It was a fun and challenging sequence.”

Derkacz and his team were involved with only one shot on the Soho street, a shot where the camera starts high on a crane and then goes underneath a car.

Derkacz and his team were involved with only one shot on the Soho street, a shot where the camera starts high on a crane and then goes underneath a car.

Derkacz and his team were involved with only one shot on the Soho street, a shot where the camera starts high on a crane and then goes underneath a car.

Production Designer Michael Ralph was responsible for creating the numerous time periods and their look throughout the show. One of the most pressing conversations for Derkacz and his team revolved around the look of the Land of Uz in Episode 2. “That asset needed to be done in a specific way. There were always conversations about making sure what we had created didn’t look like the Grand Canyon or like any other part of the United States,” he says. “We had an early discussion with Jean-Claude to try and get the look set for that sequence, especially when Aziraphale comes out the portal. That environment was one we discussed thoroughly, and we ended up doing everything digitally. It was based on a mix of real photos, but some of the references we had were really similar to the Grand Canyon, so we had to get something similar like that but different enough for people not to comment on it.”

Production Designer Michael Ralph was responsible for creating the numerous time periods throughout the show. The environment for the Land of Uz was completely CG, based on a mix of real photos and references to the Grand Canyon.

Production Designer Michael Ralph was responsible for creating the numerous time periods throughout the show. The environment for the Land of Uz was completely CG, based on a mix of real photos and references to the Grand Canyon.

Production Designer Michael Ralph was responsible for creating the numerous time periods throughout the show. The environment for the Land of Uz was completely CG, based on a mix of real photos and references to the Grand Canyon.

Around 100 people from different departments were involved with the production of the second season. “We had a big team,” Derkacz adds. “We had to be quite smart in the way that we scheduled the work because it’s a TV series and there is loads of work. Scenes like the opening sequence and the first six minutes of the second season were really important. It hasn’t really been done before, is really abstract and took a lot of time to achieve. The way that we managed the workload was working on the amount of volume that we had and in the order of episodes that we were discussing at the time. Some assets might require weeks of work.”

Characters were shot standing on greenscreen and then seamlessly added to a fully CG cemetery.

Characters were shot standing on greenscreen and then seamlessly added to a fully CG cemetery.

The actors were shot standing on greenscreen and then seamlessly added to a fully CG cemetery.

“The only shot we were involved with on the Soho street was for a shot where the camera starts quite high and then goes underneath the car. That is a really cool shot. It’s a blend between two plates because you have the main plate of the crane, and when you go underneath the car it’s full CGI, and then you go around the car and you have a mix between a CG car and a real car, and then Crawley gets out of the car. All of that has to be done as a single camera move. That’s sort of Douglas’s [director Douglas Mackinnon] signature as he loves doing these transitions, and I think they were great and really helped the flow of the episode,”

—Matias Derkacz, Visual Effects Supervisor, Milk VFX

When it came to creating the set extensions, the Soho street had been completed for Season 1 and was already an established asset. “The only shot we were involved with on the Soho street was for a shot where the camera starts quite high and then goes underneath the car. That is a really cool shot. It’s a blend between two plates because you have the main plate of the crane, and when you go underneath the car it’s full CGI, and then you go around the car and you have a mix between a CG car and a real car, and then Crawley gets out of the car. All of that has to be done as a single camera move. That’s sort of Douglas’s signature as he loves doing these transitions, and I think they were great and really helped the flow of the episode,” Derkacz details.

Fire was shot as an element and done in 2D, and integrated on the set due to safety protocols.

Fire was shot as an element and done in 2D, and integrated on the set due to safety protocols.

Fire was shot as an element and done in 2D, and integrated on the set due to safety protocols.

Derkacz and his team also worked on a significant shot for one of the wartime environments. “We did work on one crane shot where we go into London and there are some zombies and fires on the street. That was quite straightforward set extension, which we blended with the smoke that we had on set. We added fire that was shot as an element, and that was all done in 2D and integrated on the set because they couldn’t have that fire next to the people as it wasn’t safe; that was added in post. We also created an environment that was used in virtual production. We built numerous destroyed buildings and added CGI fire, which were used on set as an LED screen when Crowley is driving through,” Derkacz notes.

David Tennant as Crowley and Shelley Conn as Beelzebub experience a front-seat encounter of the devilish kind, courtesy of visual effects.

David Tennant as Crowley and Shelley Conn as Beelzebub experience a front-seat encounter of the devilish kind, courtesy of visual effects.

David Tennant as Crowley and Shelley Conn as Beelzebub experience a front-seat encounter of the devilish kind, courtesy of visual effects.

“The work that we did on the tongue of the demon was really fun. It’s a quick shot, but for that shot we had to create all the CG for the tongue and all of the saliva. It’s lots of work involved for only one shot, but the good thing about that is that you build the asset, you get the shot, and you have a part of the sequence that has been approved and you can move on. … I would say that the most challenging to create wasn’t a character, it was Aziraphale’s wings. All these minimal changes in color had to be translated to white wings, which was a really difficult and complex aspect, but the end result looked great.”

—Matias Derkacz, Visual Effects Supervisor, Milk VFX

Zombies with long-range, tentacle-like CG tongues can be found on the street in London. Milk delivered more than 500 shots for the second season of the show.

Zombies with long-range, tentacle-like CG tongues can be found on the street in London. Milk delivered more than 500 shots for the second season of the show.

Zombies with long-range, tentacle-like CG tongues can be found on the street in London. Milk delivered more than 500 shots for the second season of the show.

Derek Jakobi as Metatron, Jon Hamm as Gabriel and Liz Carr as Saraqael in a flashback scene from Heaven of Gabriel (Jon Hamm) before he's demoted from Heaven and loses his memories. (Image courtesy of Amazon Prime)

Derek Jakobi as Metatron, Jon Hamm as Gabriel and Liz Carr as Saraqael in a flashback scene from Heaven of Gabriel (Jon Hamm) before he’s demoted from Heaven and loses his memories. (Image courtesy of Amazon Prime)

There was lots of work put into the creature work and into key characters as well. “I really enjoyed all of the creature work that we did, especially the geckos,” Derkacz says. “The work that we did on the tongue of the demon was really fun. It’s a quick shot, but for that shot we had to create all the CG for the tongue and all of the saliva. It’s lots of work involved for only one shot, but the good thing about that is that you build the asset, you get the shot, and you have a part of the sequence that has been approved and you can move on. So, it’s pretty much based on deliveries and as well on the volume of work for the full team. I think I enjoyed the process most, working with a wonderful team from the beginning until the end. I would say that the most challenging to create wasn’t a character, it was Aziraphale’s wings. All these minimal changes in color had to be translated to white wings, which was a really difficult and complex aspect, but the end result looked great.”

Angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant). According to Milk VFX Visual Effects Supervisor Matias Derkacz, the biggest challenge wasn’t to create a character, it was the wings. (Image courtesy of Amazon Prime)

Angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant). According to Milk VFX Visual Effects Supervisor Matias Derkacz, the biggest challenge wasn’t to create a character, it was the wings. (Image courtesy of Amazon Prime)

Milk delivered more than 500 shots for Season 2. “What is great about Good Omens in terms of visual effects work is that it isn’t like a typical VFX TV series. Good Omens is really complex in the sense that you build an asset which is only used once. We are going back in time and we build all of this for the shot and then that’s it; we never come back to it. It’s really fun to work on a show like that because you do such much,” Derkacz concludes.

Watch Milk VFX’s development of wings, characters and creatures for Good Omens, Series 2. Click here: https://www.milk-vfx.com/our-work/good-omens-2/



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