NOS4A2: Building The "Shorter Way Bridge"

 
One of the fantastical elements in the AMC TV series NOS4A2 and the book that inspired it is the "Shorter Way Bridge," a portal that can take the main character Vic (Ashleigh Cummings) to lost things.
 
CoSA's NOS4A2 VFX supervisor Michael Adkisson shared a bit with us about how that was created:
 
Bringing the "Shorter Way Bridge" to life required treating the bridge as a supporting character role in the show. Vic conjures up the bridge which takes her to missing objects, but each time she has to pay a toll for making the bridge appear.
 
On set the production had 2 different pieces of bridge. The production built a mobile bridge entrance, which could be dressed either at the Pittman Woods end or the destination end, and a bridge interior section, which was used to shoot the scenes of Vic riding over the bridge.
 
Our initial challenge was to use all photo reference from set and the 3S scan of the bridge interior section to build and texure a modular 3d model which could be used to extend the bridge in both exterior and interior shots. The bridge was built in modular sections to allow us to extend the length of the bridge as needed for each lens used and Vic's relative position while crossing the bridge as seen in the edit. We used HDR lighting to render the bridge in Redshift with some additional volumetric lighting in the interior for continuity from exterior to interior shots and CG bats. This was all led by our CG Supervisor, Ron Herbst.
 
After the bridge was rendered, it was handed over to our environments team to add additional aging and vegetation growth as needed in each shot. Led by Mark Nazal, the environment artists were able to quickly give us the feel and look of an very old and crumbling covered bridge. By working this way, we were able to the need for rendering additional iterations in CG and turn around the quantity of shots needed.
 
From there, our compositing team, led by Brian Fisher and Linus Burghardt, were able to readily integrate the bridge into the shots, however there was one more additional challenge that required a sizeable amount of attention in compositing. In the book, Joe Hill describes a "Static Blizzard" outside of the bridge as Vic crosses the bridge. Utilizing volumetric lighting passes and some additional 2.5D volumetrics, we created an effect that builds as Vic crosses the bridge that helps to illustrate the pain Vic suffers for crossing the bridge.
 
Ultimately, the goal was to create a living element to help tell the story of Vic's special powers. I'm very happy with how the "Shorter Way Bridge" turned out and appreciate all the efforts the team put in to making it happen.
 
You can see the "Shorter Way" bridge and learn more about the production of NOS4A2 below. A new episode of NOS4A2 airs Sunday night (July 16) on AMC as we are introduced to Christmastown!