Spoiler alert: Bringing a new baby into a new (alien) world.
OK. Here’s where you need to stop reading if you haven’t seen the season 1 finale of Raised by Wolves.
Still here? Well, this is Part 3 of befores & afters’ coverage of the Ridley Scott series on HBO Max, and this time we’re diving into s1’s final episode. It’s here where Mother gives ‘birth’ to a serpent baby, nurses it, then attempts to destroy it—alongside Father—by entering one of the pits of the alien planet they are on in a small landing shuttle, only to fly through molten lava and emerge on the other side of the planet in a whole new environment. Oh, and the serpent baby grows up—a lot—and flies away in this new location, too.
Responsible for the visual effects for much of those sequences was MR. X, under the supervision of VFX supervisor Eric Robinson. Ray McIntyre Jr. was the production VFX supervisor, and befores & afters asked him to outline how the serpent and new environments were created, and how it went right down to the wire.
Designing a serpent baby
Ray McIntyre Jr.: In terms of the design, it had to be snake-like but not a snake, so we designed it off of a lamprey, which is an ocean sea creature. That’s where the mouth under the underside came from, is from that creature. We had gone through some more bio-mechanical versions early on and then decided against that.
Birth by mouth
Amanda Collin as Mother did a fantastic job of giving us the actions throughout all the series in acting like an android, making her movements slightly odd and different, and often acting with nothing there. When the serpent is coming out of her throat, she was doing a lot of that action. We had a scan of Amanda because of the necromancer. Then MR. X did a great job of timing the serpent’s actions to Amanda’s actions, matchmoving all the important bits so that we could have drips and flow and all those pieces that you have to simulate.
Growth of a serpent
The serpent grows at an extremely fast rate. It’s three or four feet long when Mother is nursing it and then in the lander when they’re trying to kill it, it’s seven or eight feet long. When we see it at the end of episode 10, it’s a hundred feet long. What we were trying to get across is that this thing is growing and feeding very, very quickly, and that it’s going to be the monster in season 2.
A whole new world
At the very end in Episode 10, when the camera starts up high and you see the crashed lander, and then we cut down low, and we see the snake serpent burst out of it, everything there is CGI. Everything. That ending was designed by Ridley after we were done shooting. He came up with it right when we went to South Africa for re-shoots, but we could not find a location for the ending sequence in the period of time we had.
While I was in South Africa, the only thing I could do was shoot a set of lighting references, where I put the camera in each of those locations in a forest, so we’d have some real world lighting reference, but none of the plates could be used for the final image. So that’s 100% CG done by MR. X. and literally the last thing we finished. We delivered that sequence about two weeks prior to episode 10’s debut.