Several of the most extraordinary scenes of 1899 take place at sea, aboard the liner Kerberos. Also in the middle of a slightly dreamlike version of reality that changes as its characters understand the nature of their environment.
What seemed like the ocean turns into a nightmare horizon and the characters’ memories turn into surreal scenes. Little by little, the argument transforms his point of view and suggests that the tangible and the true can have many faces in Kerberos.
To produce such a visual prodigy, the behind-the-scenes team of 1899 used various visual cutting edge techniques. Also some of the most recent advances to create an almost cinematographic section that could translate the strange plot.
Among them, several who associate it with productions such as The Mandalorian, a pioneer in the use of new ways of building visual languages. However, in the case of 1899 It was also an attempt to deepen the idea that reality could be turned upside down and be something completely new. Something that required all kinds of technical efforts to achieve.
A journey through the visual technology of 1899
During its early production, 1899 it was planned to be filmed on actual locations, which included Spain, Poland and Scotland. But due to the COVID health emergency, a large part of the series had to be filmed on a single stage. That forced his technical team to work on the possibility of building multiple versions of reality through technology. Also, having to imitate the notion of movement of a sea voyage. Between both things, 1899 it had to be realistic enough to create an immersive reality.
One of the most frequently used trailers in the Netflix series was a gigantic stage, which rested on a turntable. That allowed the constant feeling that the point of view of the characters could change. Also that the buoyancy point of the Kerberos—or the Prometheus—was slipping from side to side. As if that weren’t enough, virtual sound produced through echo layers was used on stage to mimic the feeling of open space.
Called Dark Bay, the effect creates a sensation of realistic physical volume, which allowed the cast to act under the premise of the physical consistency of the environment. The new stage, the fruit of the technical efforts of Studio Babelsberg, reached an epic level when managed to almost completely imitate a maritime experience. For the showrunners Jantje Frieser and Baran bo Odar was a major challenge based on their vision of 1899. Something that producer Philipp Klausing tried to replicate through Dark Ways.
“What makes Dark Bay and this production special is that it came from the perspective from the creators”, Klausing explained in an interview. “Our entire focus was on and influencing a showrunner who captured the image. That created a lot of firsts in the industry.”
Bigger, more ambitious, more realistic
Friese and bo Odar envisioned a set capable of reproducing the point-to-point Kerberos maritime experience. To do this, they drew on the insights of Barry Idoine, the director of photography The Mandalorian. They also hired the special effects company Framestore, Oscar winners for the virtual production of Gravity, by Alfonso Cuaron. The idea was to originate a new way of filming in which the movement and the real volume of objects and landscapes were paramount. In addition, that it could be reproduced in a millimeter exact way.
“The main challenge was that volume technology didn’t exist before we started shooting,” explains James Whitlam of the Framestore team. “It meant a huge amount of testing. We had some prototypes in London. But they weren’t even close to the same size, so we didn’t know if it would work on screen. When we wanted to test the actual span, they were still pouring the concrete floor for the stage. It was quite challenging, but our team was up to it.”
for the team 1899 it was about the possibility of convincingly and technically realistically showing life at sea. To achieve the goal, two large physical Kerberos scenarios were built. The ocean floor and sky were then rendered to create a digital version of both. Everything was then projected on a circular stage that included rain and water atmospheres designed not to cause damage to the equipment.
In the end, the effort between the different production teams managed to build an environment credible enough for the actors’ performance. Also maintain a visual path so realistic as to truly imitate the conditions of a recording at sea. One of the great visual triumphs of 1899 as production.
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life’s biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.