Josh Brolin stars in Amazon's Western Sci-fi crossover
Channelling the kind of unpredictable, off the wall ideas that haven’t particularly been in fashion since the days of Lost, Outer Range landed on Amazon in April 2022 with a similar crossover conceit; although this time, rather than island survival crossed with polar bears and time travel, it’s the American West meets black holes and buffalo.
Outer Range follows Royal Abbott (Josh Brolin) a rancher fighting for his land whilst he and his family deal with the disappearance of his daughter-in-law. In the midst of this, a mysterious woman named Autumn (Imogen Poots) arrives at the ranch and Abbott discovers a supernatural black hole at the edge of Wyoming’s wilderness.
“Outer Range was such a great project for Outpost and Amazon put a lot of trust in us to deliver some hugely technical sequences,” explains VFX Producer Jordan Pettersen. “Our team worked hard on this bewildering Buffalo stampede which represents several storylines coming to a head in Season 1.”
“There were a lot of technical challenges for this heavy crowd sequence, but from day one our supervision team led by Mathieu Assemat, and supported by Geoff Wigmore and Himanshu Khatri, worked incredibly hard laying the groundwork to make sure everything was ready for when the artists joined the show. They also had assistance with fleshing out the CG pipeline from our Head of CG, Joan Panis, who was indispensable to us.
“The artist team was wonderful to work with; they approached each day eager to learn, ready to rise to any challenges, and helped keep the overall mood light. Artistically, I believe the end results speak for themselves”
Himanshu Khatri, CG Supervisor, dives into more detail on the FX work that went into this sequence: “The Buffalo stampede sequence had it all – hundreds of furry beasts kicking up a dust storm as they charged through the scenery. Right off the bat, we knew we’d be dealing with crowd sims, dust volumes, kicked-up dirt, and debris.”
“Our animators put together a library of animation cycles which would feed into the crowd simulation to create more of a realistic flow. Featuring several walk and run cycles with a variety of movement options such as jumping, avoiding, skidding, climbing etc.
“The crowd simulation team had the additional challenge of making sure the Buffalos avoid trampling Autumn, a character who is caught up in the midst of this stampede. We also had a couple of shots where the buffalo had to interact with a car, pushing it away in the process.”
Our team had to overcome technical challenges to deliver this sequence, as VFX Supervisor Matthieu Assemat explains: “The team had to design a flexible system to be able to iterate quickly on the crowd for the Buffalo stampede. Not only for the crowd but FX was also an integral part of the sequence, like a character on its own.
“Integrating all of the action into live-action footage was a challenge. We had to replace some of the grass and original elements in order to add some much-needed interaction which was a combined effort between our ENV/DMP and Compositing department.”