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Vikings – Season 3 (TV)



Release Date

February 19, 2015


Michael Hirst


Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects In A Photoreal Category

2017 Visual Effects Society Award

Best Visual Effects

2016 Canadian Screen Awards

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects - Photoreal Episode

2016 Visual Effects Society Awards

Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Episode

2016 Visual Effects Society Awards

Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

2016 Visual Effects Society Awards

Outstanding Visual Effects

2015 Emmys

The mandate for Visual Effects on the History Channel series ‘Vikings’, was to create photo-real, natural, and seamlessly integrated imagery to support the storytelling. In Episode 308 ‘To The Gates’, Visual Effects, as never before so depended upon, allowed the creators to transform modest locations such as a small airfield and a range of partially built sets into the towering medieval city of Paris. This episode offers a prime example of how Visual Effects was used to not only strengthen visual storytelling but convey the epic scale the infamous 9th Century battle.

To demonstrate the scope of Paris and the surrounding environment, various full CG shots were designed. One of these takes us from the heart of the battle and pulls out past the siege towers to a bird’s eye view. The shot contained not only a CG Paris, but the mainland coastline, 100 ships, forty siege towers, water, splash and wake simulations, environment fog, chimney smoke, and 700 digital characters.

A lake with four practical boats is transformed into menacing fleet of 100 boats, forty siege towers and a full complement of digital crew preparing for the departure to Paris.

The enormous Viking fleet approaches Paris, rowing their way up the Seine river. The existing land was replaced with lower river banks leading to a digital Paris. Ships and siege towers were animated to include accurate sway and motion. The FX department used the motion to generate ship wakes, oar splashes, rope, and flag simulations.

Like the Vikings, our Tools department prepared for the upcoming battle. File management was one of the biggest challenges when shots included hundreds of ships, digital characters, and the vast city of Paris.

To create a realistic city, many unique buildings were built with interchangeable parts and multiple texture and shader sets, to ensure the populated city looked diverse and distinct. The final city contained over 205,000 objects, which lived in any given scene.

With shots totalling 700 digital characters running on planks, fighting, dying, climbing, and burning, it was important for us to get the correct range of motion. For these sequences we captured a total of 29,000 character-seconds in a Toronto-based motion capture facility. Our Animation Lead combed through the footage and developed an additional range of cycles that could be used as fillers throughout the fighting scenes to help enhance the believability of the Massive crowd simulation.

The French soldiers pour boiling oil on the unsuspecting Vikings, and ignite it. Due to safety concerns the wooden siege towers couldn’t be fully burned and required specifically placed flame bars. VFX was tasked with filling out the fire and seamlessly integrating it into the scene. Each stunt actor was match-moved and set on fire by the FX artists. The end result shows the slow and painful defeat creeping up on the Vikings.

A full CG shot was conceived for the finale of the battle, where the Director and Producers wanted to show how poorly the Vikings fared in the siege. It begins looking like a picturesque view of Paris and slowly cranes down to show the incredible defeat the Vikings have suffered.

Hundreds of bodies are floating in the water; siege towers collapsing under fire; boats capsizing and the remaining fleet retreating: the Vikings did not fare well with this time.