The Lord of Dreams (Tom Sturridge) must have a resplendent throne room befitting his station in the world of The Sandman on Netflix. So what was real, and what was visual effects in the jaw-dropping throne room where Dream holds court?
Distractify spoke exclusively with Rodeo FX's Raphaël Letertre, a CG supervisor for The Sandman. He broke down how his team created the incredible throne room look, and revealed another project close to his heart that played a pivotal role in The Sandman.
Details on how the throne room was created in 'The Sandman'.
It turns out that the throne room was a combination of a real church in England and layers upon layers of VFX, diligently applied by Raphaël's team.
"The base layer is pretty much the same, like the dimension of the floor and where the main columns are. As soon as you go up, [Rodeo FX] enhances [the real church] with a longer ceiling," Raphaël explained. "Also, there's a big hole [in the ceiling]. where you see stars and galaxies, which obviously doesn't exist in the real church."
He continued: "So we use the [real-life] place where they shoot, and we enhance it." His team also created the look of the vibrant stained glass windows, given that the actual church's stained glass windows were too dull for the look Netflix needed for The Sandman.
"The idea behind that was to add a lot more colors and small details on the stainless when he explored the throne room," he said. "There's a lot of different blends of color and appearing everywhere."
How long did it take to complete the throne's room's final look?
Raphaël explained that creating the intact throne room wasn't the challenge. It was building the intact version in anticipation for the scene where Dream destroys the throne room on his own accord.
So how long did it take to create the intact/destroyed throne room looks?
The intact throne room by itself took at least, "two months, minimum, just to build it, put the texture on it, and make sure that the lighting looks good." The stained glass alone? At least a week.
Raphaël told Distractify that it was important for his team to nail every detail, down to ensuring that every brick had edges and ensuring said bricks were put together in a way where "they could collapse on themselves in a realistic way."
Raphaël explained that when they started to work on The Sandman, the production team wasn't sure, "exactly [when the throne room would] collapse or break. So just to back us up, we built it in a way [where] we can do anything," in order to anticipate production's needs in a timely, efficient manner.
Gregory the dragon was Raphaël's favorite project on 'The Sandman'.
It's safe to say that the completed throne room is a masterpiece in itself. However, Raphaël was particularly fond of another project that Rodeo FX completed for The Sandman.
Gregory, the adorable dragon.
Gregory inspired an entire online #justiceforgregorycampaign after Dream, weakened from his captivity, had to absorb the gargoyle for strength. Raphaël knew it was important to get Gregory's eyes just right, to give him a personality so the audience would care about his fate.
An actor did film scenes onset as a Gregory stand-in, so Rodeo FX could see, "how the lighting [would] look like," on Gregory and to ensure the actor matched Gregory's eye-line properly, so it was believable to viewers.
Not only that, but great care was taken to get Gregory's muscle system just right.
"You don't really see it, but there's actually a lot of bone structure and muscle under the skin," he said. "So when you put [Gregory's] arm up like this, you have some skin holding stuff [like it would for a real animal]."
However, Raphaël was proudest of the fact that they were able to give Gregory, "a nice gentle soul."
Raphaël revealed that it took 400 artists in total to work on the throne room and Gregory the dragon (all in different departments, nonetheless!)
After a career in VFX artistry spanning twelve years and counting, Raphaël was grateful to the production team of The Sandman for giving Rodeo FX creative input on the series. "It reflects on the final product because the artists were able to [focus on] making good final images [for the show]."
You can now stream The Sandman on Netflix.