Special Effects by Ryan Carter

While not always as exciting as being on set with the cast and crew, creating effects for a show like "Children of Dune" is still a fun challenge for everyone involved. Having worked of the first Dune miniseries, I was thrilled to return for CoD and looked forward to bringing these new images to the screen. It was obvious from day one that this show was going to be different from "Frank Herbert's Dune". First off, it was being shot in hi-def instead of film, which meant sharper, clearer images. Our computer-generated images would have to be of equal quality. There was also going to be a style change. The first mini had very saturated colors and exaggerated, stylized lighting. The team doing the digital deserts in FHD actually had to redo them because they looked "too real". This time around we were going for more muted colors and a grittier reality, a decision welcomed by the entire effects team. With other additions including some all-digital characters and complicated fire and water shots, we all knew this was a chance to break new ground.

At Area 51, our effects house, our first task was to improve all of the digital models from FHD using an off-the-shelf program, Lightwave 3D. A new thopter was created, the worms were improved, and the highliner was given richer detail. Then we set out to create our new models. Based on concept drawings, we created new Sietchs, the planets of Caladan and Salusa Secundus, a host of new vehicles, a digital tiger, the Guild Ambassador, and a spectacularly detailed model of Arrakeen. At times we followed the art line for line. Other times we changed it a little, changed it a lot, or threw out the concept art all together. What works on paper doesn't always work on screen. I had modeled the planet Salusa Secundus and hated the palace design I was given. I did everything I could to make it cool, but it just wasn't working. After I had left the production, another artist was finally given the OK to change the design, and he did a fabulous job. I was afraid that if the model had remained unchanged, the shot would have been an embarrassment.

Once we had our models ready, we set out to create shots for the show. Working in a closed space with so many talented people meant that there was never a shortage of good ideas. Each day we would gather and watch everyone else's work, then discuss what was working and what wasn't. There was never any competition among the artists and suggestions were always given in a very positive tone. Of course there were times where a shot we loved got cut out of the show and a shot we hated was to be doubled in length, but when you see the whole show put together, these seemingly bad decisions suddenly seem to make a lot more sense.

This is exactly what happened on March 12th when the Writer's Guild held a private hi-def screening of night 1. Along with Alec Newman, Daniela Amavia, and other cast members the producers, director, and much of the crew sat and watched the completed show on a large theater screen. It was a fairly laid back event with a reception afterwards. Everyone had food and drink and the cast was great about signing autographs. Best of all, everyone left feeling great about what they'd help create.

We all had tough challenges to face. The digital fire created for the stoneburner turned out great. The city of Arrakeen was given an insane amount of detail (we'd often joke that the digital buildings had working plumbing).

The worm capture involved a massive flash flood that I had to digitally create since no suitable footage of real water could be obtained. We also had less-noticeable problems like Alice Krige's hair, which was frizzy and made blue-screen shots difficult. But probably our biggest challenge is still to come. satisfying the hard-core Dune fans. No amount of visual effects magic can match the canvas of the human mind and with fans having such vivid images of what they expect to see, we all hope that what we created does justice to their imaginations as well as the imagination of Frank Herbert.

-Ryan Carter

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