Pennyworth — Visual Effects by Freefolk

The Illusion Almanac is pleased to share this press release from Freefolk Film & Episodic.

Pennyworth - visual effects by Freefolk

Freefolk Film & Episodic is delighted to announce its visual effects work of over 300 shots on the second series of Pennyworth, a ten-part episodic crime drama produced by Warner Horizon for Starzplay & Epix.

A year after the explosive events of last season, 1960’s England is now embroiled in a devastating civil war. Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon), who previously started working for Bruce Wayne’s father (Ben Aldridge), is now fighting against a neo-fascist Raven Union threatening to control the entire country.

Created by Gotham writers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon, the series is directed by Rob Bailey, Danny Cannon, Jon East and Catherine Morshead. Steve Murgatroyd, Freefolk visual effects supervisor and Meg Guidon, visual effects executive producer, led the team on this project, working with overall visual effects supervisor, Rob Delicata.

Delicata commented on working with Freefolk, “As usual, Steve, Meg and the whole team at Freefolk pulled out all the stops and produced impressive visual effects work. I have an ongoing relationship with the guys at Freefolk and know I can rely on them to produce quality visual effects from all disciplines. I’m looking forward to working with them again soon.”

Due to the difficulty of working remotely in a Covid world, the first challenge the team had to face was understanding the ‘Pennyworth’ world. “It was our first experience on this show,” explained Freefolk visual effects supervisor, Steve Murgatroyd. “Therefore getting in step with this look required very good communication.”

The driving comp interiors, one of the main Freefolk key sequences, came with a sheer volume of shots and difficulty. “The lack of camera movement made working on the fine hair detail particularly tricky as there was nowhere to hide,” revealed Murgatroyd. “We also simulated light flicker as the cars passed through trees as this helped to sell shots where the brightness of the green screen presented a challenge.”

Pennyworth - visual effects by Freefolk

Other important sequences the team had to work on were the digital matte painting shots of the 1960’s Pennyworth London cityscape on the skyline. The key here was to balance recognisable landmarks, such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Post Office Tower with the more industrialised, war-ravaged Pennyworth world.

“There were also a number of difficult clean-up shots,” explained Murgatroyd, “ranging from the removal of light reflection in spectacles and crew reflection in cars to the removal of set lights from a dark and atmospheric forest scene.” According to the team, the most tricky part was to maintain a balance between reduction/removal of the unwanted light source, while keeping the location looking natural and moonlit.

“Continuity was also a challenge in the driving comps,” Murgatroyd continued. “We worked to extend, disguise and reuse footage to maximise available backgrounds and solve continuity issues that arose with the background footage selected.”

Pennyworth - visual effects by Freefolk

Other shot types included set extensions, greenscreen comps, special effects blood, smoke and explosion enhancement, muzzle flashes and bullet hits, screen replacements and television pullout/Raven Union graphics. Freefolk visual effects work mainly took place during the post-production period, during October 2020 and March 2021. The team used The Foundry Nuke, Autodesk Flame, PFTrack for match moves, Autodesk Maya, Affinity Photo (for digital matte painting) and Side Effects Houdini.

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