Locke and Key VFX by Goodbye Kansas Studios

Mirrors, Machines, and Magic: Goodbye Kansas Studios deliver VFX for Netflix’s Locke & Key S3

Goodbye Kansas Studios has delivered 65 shots across 3 episodes for the third and final season of the Netflix series Locke & Key. Having worked on the second season of the show, Goodbye Kansas Studios was brought back to support VFX for the third season, with Jason M. Halverson as VFX Supervisor and Nehir Glean and Paula Pope as VFX Producers. 

Locke & Key, based on the comic book series of the same name, was first released in 2020. In the final season, the Locke family uncovers more magic within Keyhouse, while a new threat — the most dangerous one yet — looms in Matheson with plans of his own for the keys. From Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) and Meredith Averill (The Haunting of Hill House), Locke & Key is a coming-of-age mystery about love, loss, and the unshakable bonds that define family. Locke & Key on Netflix is the television adaptation of the best-selling comic book series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez for IDW Entertainment. The series was nominated for a People’s Choice Award for ‘Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show’ in 2020.

The final season of Locke & Key brought about fresh challenges for the team at Goodbye Kansas London. VFX Supervisor Jason M. Halverson notes, “For our work on the third season, we had a scope of work which included three key sequences to tackle. We used pretty much everything in the toolbox for this series: Maya, Houdini, Nuke, 3DEqualiser, and more. The project was extensive, from modelling, texturing, lighting, and rendering, to rigging and compositing.” 

One of the main sequences delivered by Goodbye Kansas involved effects for a ‘Creation Key’, one of the many magical keys that are hidden within Keyhouse Manor. The Creation Key is a newly-created key unique to the Netflix adaptation which does not appear in the original comics, and has its first appearance in the final season. Halverson explains, “The Creation Key is used by the Locke siblings to draw items that they need onto a surface. This key’s power allows any surface to magically transform into whatever is drawn onto it.” 

“In terms of our VFX work, the Creation Key sequences involved two phases. Firstly, we had to recreate these real-world objects (i.e., the desired items) in 3D. We had a few objects to create: there was a motorcycle, a door which is used to escape into a pub, and also the latch to lock that door after they go through it. Then we had to develop the effects in which the original surface transitions into a new object. For the motorcycle, this was a massive transformation, because the effect transitioned from being a surface made of asphalt into an object made of chrome, painted metal, and leather.” 

Keyhouse Manor is set within large grounds, comprised of exterior buildings and garden areas. Within the property is a wellhouse, located above one of the magical doors, as well as a section of flooded underground catacombs. In series three, the wellhouse becomes the scene of a battle between one of the Locke siblings, Gideon, and an excavator arm controlled by puppeteers. 

“For this battle, our aim was to really sell the struggle between man and machine. The initial task was to design a mechanical arm for the excavator. The concept art was delivered by our art department at Goodbye Kansas. It had to look believable, as if it was genuinely able to push Gideon inside the wellhouse.” The design was based on bucket-style excavators, but it had to have a claw at the end that would grip Gideon and try to force him inside the wellhouse. Jason explains, “This doesn’t really exist in the real world, so although the design and animation of it had to seem real, we had no real-world reference to work from.” 

Aside from the concept art for the mechanical arm, the team also had to paint out the on-set puppeteers that held the practical claw around Gideon’s body. To round off the sequence, Goodbye Kansas had to model, paint, animate, and composite the arm to sit realistically within the scene. 

Locke & Key S3 is now available on Netflix.


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