In our exclusive Q&A with Visual Effects Director Alexis Haggar, of London-based VFX house Lexhag, he talks about his work regarding the main title sequence for “Riviera,” Sky Atlantic’s new 10 part drama series starring Julia Stiles as the wife of a billionaire who uncovers the dark truth behind her opulent lifestyle.
Led by Alexis, the Lexhag team was tasked with delivering the winning pitch for the sequence by capturing the show’s glitz and glamor through a vibrant, kaleidoscopic effect. Using Fusion Studio, the team generated and animated the kaleidoscope using imagery from the show as a source, ensuring hints to the storyline were woven in to allow audiences to understand more as the drama evolved.
ProductionHUB:How did you approach this project initially?
Alexis Haggar: We were approached by the main title design team on the show, The Morrison Studio, who we already had a long-standing relationship with, to create the sequence. We started by mocking up stills based on offline footage and created a pipeline to fit with Morrison's vision. We trialed a selection of tools and workflows to see which would give us the control and creative flexibility we’d need for the 4K HDR deliverable.
PH: What types of pre-production were involved?
Alexis Haggar: Collection of references, styles and imagery from the show as they were shooting. We planned the sequence timing with an offline of different ideas based around the kaleidoscope.
PH: Describe your production team a bit and what everyone's rolls are.
Alexis Haggar: The team consists of our client Richard and Dean at The Morrison Studio supplying the creative, reference and art directed boards. Sequence side at Lexhag, we have Alexis Haggar, supervising the sequence, Annie Gordon who line produced with coordination by Toby Matthews. David Fisher, Dan Newlands and Alexis all provided image creation, David also provided all the finishing touches and polish.
PH: Can you talk a little about the kaleidoscope effect and how you make that come to life on screen?
We settled on using Fusion Studio and the Krokodove plugin for speed and flexibility. Fusion Studio munched through the 4K material, leaving us to be creative. The Morrison Studio had already worked extensively on the establishment of a set of style frames for each section of the sequence. We used those style frames as a base to build the shot directly within Fusion Studio and applied the kaleidoscopic effect and animation with Fusion plug in Krokodove, all at 4K UHD 16bit float. This definitely provided a challenge when finding the right plate from the show to use for the kaleidoscope, especially with elements such as the actors’ faces, which could look a little odd. Fusion Studio enabled us to produce our animated plates very quickly, allowing us to modify them with the client in our suite almost interactively, which saved a lot of time.
We spent many hours experimenting with different looks within the plugin. Trial and error with footage was also paramount to achieving what we delivered as certain images just didn’t work very well. If we weren’t careful we’d create some very strange looking people as the Kaleidoscope effect makes one eyed aliens without effort.
PH: What was your favorite part of the project and why?
The design stage. Getting it to work, figuring out what tools to use, what techniques.
PH: What equipment did you go with?
This particular job, we built an HP z820, with fast local cache card, 980ti GFX card and an Ezio CG227 and large 50 inch playback screen via a standard DeckLink SDI 4K which is inside the machine supplying the SDI signal. This then fed into a DeckLink 4K Pro and that’s turning the SDI into HDMI.
PH: Can you talk a little about why you chose it?
Because of its ease, power, reliability and price.
About Alexis Haggar
BIO: Graduating from Bournemouth Film school, heading straight into the industry, Alexis pursued a career in Special Effects. Gaining a broad range of skills in floor effects, prop and model making, prosthetics and miniatures. As the Special Effects industry transitioned into digital effects, so did Alexis. He established Lexhag in 2009.