The most horrifying monsters are born within ourselves… With the famous Geralt of Rivia coming to Netflix, the fans of Andrzej Sapkowski’s stories finally get an adaptation they’ve been waiting for.
The eight episode-long The Witcher is the biggest Netflix production to date. One of the people who made a significant impact on the show was Executive Producer Tomek Bagiński, who worked closely with The Witcher’s showrunner Lauren Hissrich and Andrzej Sapkowski himself. The visual effects for this epic fantasy saga have been created by the artists at Platige Image. 150 members of our team were involved in the production, including VFX specialists, animators, modelers, and producers.
THE WITCHER PHENOMENON
The Witcher, with more than 40 million books sold around the world, became a pop-culture icon and one of the most popular fantasy characters in history. It all started back in 1985, with a short story written as an entry to a contest announced by the “Fantastyka” magazine. It was Andrzej Sapkowski’s son who talked the author into joining the competition. The story, titled simply “The Witcher”, took the 3rd place and was published in the magazine in December 1986.
More stories about Geralt of Rivia soon followed, published in the early 90s in two collections: “Sword of Destiny” and “The Last Wish.” The universe created by Sapkowski gathered a large following, which resulted in the author writing “Blood of Elves” in 1994. The novel started the five book-long fantasy saga starring Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer of Vengerberg, and Ciri, their adopted daughter.
Around this time, the world of magic and monsters was expanded and popularized by a series of comic books by Bogusław Polch and Maciej Parowski. Soon, The Witcher went abroad. Sapkowski’s stories and novels were translated to Russian, Lithuanian and Czech, among other languages, and became a success. The Witcher was a hit in the Eastern Europe, which is attributed partly to the series being inspired by the Slavic myths, common to the whole region. However, another decade passed before The Witcher went global. Today, Andrzej Sapkowski’s books are available in 19 language versions.
The first attempt to bring The Witcher to the screen was made in 2001. The movie, directed by Marek Brodzki and starring Michał Żebrowski, was met with negative reception from the fans; however, it is slowly gaining something of a cult following.
The new show by Netflix lets new generations discover the universe created by Andrzej Sapkowski. This long-awaited action-packed series has become so popular even before the premiere, that the second season has already been announced. Henry Cavill, known for his portrayal of Superman, is the titular Witcher. Yennefer is portrayed by Anya Chalotra, and Freya Allana plays Ciri. The show was directed by Alik Sakharov, Charlotte Brändström, Alex Garcia Lopez and Marc Jobst, and executively produced by Tomek Bagiński. Visual effects were created by Platige Image.
THE STORIES BY PLATIGE ARTISTS
Tomek Bagiński (Executive Producer) in Nowa Fantastyka 12/2019
“At first, it was supposed to be a feature film. There were a couple of versions of the screenplay, developed with various writers. With every draft it was getting better and better, and together with Platige Image, which has been long-involved in movie production, we were going to the United States to pitch the scripts to producers. (…) Then Netflix entered the picture. (…) And when Netflix shows up, it’s: “We’re doing it.” (…) So it’s two years later and we have the show.”
Rafał Sadowy (Art Director)
“Visualizing various kinds of magic in a subtle way was one of the most interesting parts for us as creators. It was creative and exciting work with numerous tests and multiple versions in order to make the final shape as precise as possible. All those experiments allowed us to achieve the visual harmony. I can’t wait to see the effects of our work on the screen. To be honest – curiosity is killing me.”
Mateusz Tokarz (VFX Supervisor)
“It’s been a busy period. The pace of work was really fast, but we’ve managed, and we delivered everything on time. Netflix appreciated what we’ve done. I’m glad that the many hours we’ve put into the project resulted in something that was liked by both the client and ourselves. It’s definitely the best thing you’re going to see this year.”
Krzysztof Krok (VFX Producer)
“A ton of work, high intensity, and a large team. It was a bit tense, but everything went smoothly. We had daily meetings at 9 AM to watch together what our artists have done. These were my favourite moments. In the show itself, I like the photography a lot. I can’t wait for the premiere.”
Witold Płużański (Digital Compositor)
“We had tough moments, because that’s just how it is on huge projects. But we’ve made it. Now we’re waiting for something more, something even stronger and bolder. Just like Geralt, we could only count on ourselves, but we can be proud of our VFX magic. My biggest challenge was to meet the expectations of the wranglers and the supervisor, who, knowing the importance of this project, minded even the tiniest detail to satisfy the client.”
Michał Śledź (FX Artist)
“I had the opportunity to create around a dozen of effects for The Witcher, including the magic portals and the Jinn. It’s been a great and unforgettable adventure. The biggest challenge, and at the same time an interesting experience, was creating visual elements that aren’t overwhelming; that are clear, consistent and serve to enrich the story.”
Paweł Gajda (FX Team Producer)
“The opportunity to work on such a show was a lot of fun, and it also was, in a way, personal. My interest with ‘mature’ literature started with The Witcher stories. As a teenager, I couldn’t get enough of the saga. I’d love to see the face I’d have made if I had learned that in the future, I’d be supporting the designers working on The Witcher show for an American streaming platform!”
Michał Własiuk (Data Wrangler)
“I have fond memories of working on The Witcher. Everyone reacted lively to my remarks, like “I don’t like that,” or “Something flickered here.” The revisions were always superb. I hadn’t been a fan of The Witcher up to that point, but after working on the show, I’m sure I’m going to watch it all and then read all the books.”
Michał Magoń (Data Wrangler)
“Never before have I been so deeply involved in the VFX creation. Platige has proved the right place to enter this complex process. The most astonishing thing was the amount of entry and exit data that need to be processed. It was so huge that we had to expand the team. We’ve optimized the workflow and chose the right tools, and this let us survive the struggle.”
Dorota Woropaj (VFX Production Assistant)
“The biggest challenge was organizing the work. We’ve been in constant contact with the show’s producers, we had to make sure dispatches are going out and keep giving our feedback. We had to create a whole communication system to make everything fits together and that there are no hiccups. I’m glad I had a chance to be part of such a cool undertaking. I love the story that the show is telling, and I have to admit that I’m not a big fantasy fan, so that should tell you something.”
Bartosz Krasicki (Data Wrangler)
“I’ve joined the project when it was already in motion, and it was its most intense part. The work felt nearly physical, because you had to be extremely focused all the time to not make any mistakes. VFX projects usually aren’t that different, but in this case, we had to make our workflow fit Netflix’s requirements. It was a challenge.”
Błażej Andrzejewski (Animator)
“I worked on the animation of opening titles for one of the episodes. I found myself between a rock and a hard place. I was between concept artist with own vision of the scene, the rigger wanting to take advantage of animation systems, layout artist changing the framing and FX artist taking care of not causing any troubles with the simulation of particles and the other side – supervisors, show-runners and producers of the show. They had last word when it came to the final look of the animation. In the end, we managed to bring together the expectations of the team and hammer the common vision. However, to be quite honest, it wasn’t piece of cake.”
Klaudiusz Wesołowski (Modeler)
“The best thing about this project was watching the scenes you worked on before the release. It’s like you’re in on a secret. The entire internet wonders what’s the show like, and you can already see parts of it on your screen.”
Sebastian Lautsch (Lead Modeler)
“My first task was to make sure that a flower touches the table and doesn’t hover above it. It was funny, such a simple thing would get me in the show’s credits. But then more duties came–exploding head, animated logo. A lot of pressure, little time. The exploding head effect had some tough time constraints. We’ve prepared three versions, and mine was selected as the one that would be used, with some matte touches from the client. The final effect is the result of collaboration of a couple of people from various departments. There was euphoria, there were some disappointments, and then there was relief that we’ve all managed to deliver a satisfying effect.”