Scene from The Faceless Lady with a woman examining an object in a dark candle lit room

DaVinci Resolve Studio and Blackmagic Cloud Power Collaborative VFX for Meta’s The Faceless Lady VR Series

Blackmagic Design today announced that Light Sail VR used DaVinci Resolve Studio for visual effects (VFX) and online editing on Meta’s first live action VR television series, “The Faceless Lady.” Blackmagic Cloud was used to host the collaborative post production workflow, which included remote VFX artists from all over the US using DaVinci Resolve Studio’s Fusion page for advanced VFX and cleanup work.

Produced by Eli Roth and CryptTV, the six episode horror series airing in Meta Horizon Worlds brings viewers into the Kilolc Castle in the Irish countryside, the home of the infamous Faceless Lady. Three couples come to the castle to compete in the historic Games, hoping to inherit the castle as their prize, but little do they know, the Faceless Lady comes along with it.

Light Sail VR is a Los Angeles based boutique production studio specializing in immersive content across XR platforms. As its Creative Director Matt Celia noted, “We had to deliver six 22 minute episodes of immersive 180 degree stereoscopic television for this project; no small feat. The show contains more than 360 VFX shots, of which 318 were done in house by Light Sail VR, all at 8192 x 4096 resolution and at 59.94fps. Every shot in the show needed to be denoised, stitched together, conformed, colored, and sharpened. It’s an enormous amount of content that we had only a few months to turn around.”

“To accomplish such a huge amount of work in a short amount of time, I knew that we needed to stay within a single app and optimize the workflow. You lose time conforming between applications, and spotting mistakes with fisheye lenses is tremendously difficult. Since VR plates are 8K and 60fps, it’s a lot of data. Exporting and importing plates also generate a lot of data and time spent, so finding shortcuts was critical. DaVinci Resolve Studio came to the rescue in a big way for us,” he added.

“Having Fusion built into Resolve allowed our team to collaboratively work on VFX shots as the project was being put together. I built a master timeline of each episode, overlaying any plates or additional elements that a shot needed, and lined them up exactly as we needed them to be composited together,” explained VFX Supervisor Scott Lynch. “Using Blackmagic Cloud, our VFX artists then worked from a copy of that timeline and built Fusion comps easily from the stack of plates they needed. The artists didn’t need to manually line up the plates on timecode lists or worry about setting the correct in and out points. This process enabled us to be efficient with our time, as we spent less time managing the process and more time focusing on completing the hundreds of shots for the show.”

“Since our entire VFX team was working remotely in Blackmagic Cloud, the ability to quickly hop into an artist’s timeline and see exactly what they were working on allowed us to iterate quicker and solve problems faster,” Lynch added.

According to Celia, working with VR media is always challenging because most of the tools and workflows are built for a standard 2D world. “Luckily, Resolve’s deep integration with Fusion allowed us to provide those effects right in the edit page. This was very helpful for checking anaglyph stereo, adjusting convergence, and placing stereoscopic titles,” he said.

“One of the things that I really like about Fusion is being able to build node groups and save those as .settings files. This project was 180 degree VR, which means that we had two fisheye lenses that were formatted into equirectangular and also a stereoscopic pair. It’s kind of a weird format that isn’t as widely supported with plugins as much as stereoscopic 360 video is,” commented Lynch. “During prep I made several custom node groups that the artists could use to help them quickly convert 180 degree VR into a more common over/under 360 format and then back again.

“Little things like this helped reduce the amount of extra work for the artists and gave them a good starting point. We had tools for converting the footage into different formats, a template to help us stabilize footage, and an anaglyph viewer. We even used Fusion’s 3D toolset to build an animatable feathered mask that allowed us to precisely control where our feather was being placed. The flexibility and speed that Fusion provided helped the VFX team stay in a creative mode throughout the project.”

Celia noted that one of the most common VFX practices in VR work is the painting out of lights and other elements, such as lenses. “We had to do this on a handful of shots where we wanted the audience’s eyeline to land on a specific spot but rotating the 180 degree shot a little to the left caused the other lens to show. We created a template that allowed the artist to use one eye to paint over the other eye and align it stereoscopically. We tackled several of these shots very quickly with the .setting file since most of the comp setup was already done, and it would only take a few small fixes by the artist to align it for that particular scene.”

The opening of the first episode transports the viewer to 1685 during the siege of Kilolc Castle. “This is a nighttime fight scene, and production had big lighting sources on cranes to light up the castle and the action happening on the ground. In the Fusion page, we painted out these sources in stereo. We built clean plates and tracked them using Fusion’s built in 2D tracker,” explained Lynch.

Lynch continued, “We also needed to composite in custom muzzle flash plates that were captured by production to add authentic flintlock gunfire in stereoscopic into the scenes. For detailed work like this in VR, Fusion’s VR Headsets preferences allow you to see your work directly in a VR headset as you work inside the composition. The 8K resolution was very unforgiving, and we had to be extremely precise in how we placed plates, as a minor placement issue would be noticeable by the viewer. Often, we were moving and warping our plates at a sub pixel level until placed just perfectly. And to be able to do that in DaVinci Resolve before you’ve rendered the shot is invaluable on a project like this.”

Additionally, “The Faceless Lady” had several motion control shots where the team needed to composite several plates together. “These shots are the cold open for most of the episodes where we learn the backstories of the characters as they interview to become contestants in the ‘game’ to win the castle,” explained Lynch. “These shots were long, often 7,000+ frames, and required a lot of intricate stabilization, grid warping, screen replacement, relighting and just a whole host of challenges, plus it’s all in stereoscopic 3D, 8192 x 4096, it has an equirectangular projection, and we have to make it as perfect as possible with a single artist needing to get that shot completed in about a week.

“Big shoutout to one of our senior VFX artists, Keith Kolod, as the comps for these shots were complex. We could split the flow of the work into a right eye and left eye path, and by utilizing the additional organizational tools in Fusion, such as Underlays and Sticky Notes, it became possible to keep the work organized and legible. We also rendered certain parts of the comp into an EXR sequence using a Saver node, and bringing that back in with a Loader node helped us reduce overall rendering times when we were iterating. These kinds of workflows would have been impossible to keep organized in a layer based compositing program.”

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