I got to speak with Andy Scrase, The Wheel Of Time VFX Producer. at the New York Comic Con 2023. In this interview, Andy talks about how he approached the challenge of bringing such fantastical elements to life. It’s clear that Andy paid great attention to making the magic visually stunning. The fact that they build physical sets or elements where possible and then enhance them with CGI to maintain a sense of realism is a smart approach. It’s also exciting to hear that they’re looking to evolve the channeling throughout the series, and I’m sure fans are eager to see how the visual effects will continue to play a significant role in shaping the world of “The Wheel of Time” into season 3.
Andy Scrase New York Comic Con Video Interview:
Andy Scrase New York Comic Con Interview Highlights:
So, coming into this season, did you have a particular favorite scene throughout this season?
Andy Scrase: Favorite scene, yeah. It’s actually… I think just as a general season. Egwene’s storyline has been quite intriguing for a lot of people. And one of my favorite scenes, if not the favorite scene, is actually quite a new contained one in episode seven, which is Egwene in the Domane Training Grounds, where she almost has this kind of, I want to say like a watershed moment where you see her channeling actually goes from ice to ice, sort of organic flow around, it goes through some more rigid light formation.
In the books, Rand revealing himself as the dragon in the wire is a huge turning point. And obviously, it has the same effect in the show. What kind of challenges went into doing that scene and making sure that you both captured, you know, the spectacle of it from the source material and then translate that into visual.
Andy Scrase: Yeah. Well, we’ve obviously gone quite literal again to be the dragon bowed across the sky. I’ve been a representation channel by Moraine. And the design for the dragon itself is very strongly based on the description of the books of the dragon banner. So if you look closely, it’s very strongly based on a Chinese dragon design with a lot of being body, but the white size and then also you’ll notice I was interested about the mane of Thion. I felt I couldn’t really introduce it when he was swirling around the tower and comes up the land.
So with a lot of dragons, obviously when they roar, they breathe out fire. And for me, that felt they’ll give you audio but then a fire dragon and it’s breathing fire as well. I took the decision that when it roars, you have this mane of fire appear around the dragon itself. So every time you watch, every time it roars, it kind of puffs out with flame.
So in most circumstances, when I’m given a creative challenge on the show, I’ll always go to the books. And from there, I evaluate whether that’s visually interesting enough or whether there’s something we maybe need to tweak and develop.
How do you approach balancing practical effects with CGI to maintain a sense of the real world in the fantasy world?
Andy Scrase: It all comes down to conversations we have quite early on in the process. When we go through the scripts and we’ve got the other bits of department there and our department, just don’t miss hair and makeup, special effects. And from there, you kind of work out who’s going to do what. I think we’ve raised a very similar outlook to me where you want to try and get a practical, physical representation of something in the shot. In most cases, you know, this might be the set. So like with Kyrene, we had the four gate area built and four gate wall and then beyond that, we’re then putting in the towers. The families would expand out on there and it was the same with Falm as well, you know.
We’re always trying to find something unphysical that exists as a set or a location or something that gets built to an extent off of that. And for me, that’s where Visual Effects is at its most successful where we’re working with other departments, we’re working with things that are being played because it allows us to do a more kind of seamless approach to it. And I think there’s lots of occasions during the show, people might know things are CG because we’ve had all this other kind of departments we’ve been able to work with. One example being the seals that will be cold open in the start of episode one, all of those are CG.
And I think one of my favorite parts of your job is if I actually get to collaborate or build with other departments and it certainly pays off in the final image for me of every do that.
It seems like season three is heading into a darker and more dangerous field, rather than all of the dark friends being released. What can we expect with those visuals, knowing that their horror levels are much bigger and much more powerful than what we’ve seen from the ice and iso art?
Andy Scrase: Are you fishing for season three? …