Underground (2016-17) is a television series set in 1850’s Georgia, where America is on the brink of civil war.

As the struggle for freedom becomes more dangerous than ever, Underground tells the story of plantation slaves banding together to attempt a daring escape. The scope of work carried out by Cutting Edge supported the great story of the underground railroad – the network of safe houses and clandestine routes, from the slave states to the free states of the north and Canada.

Underground required the creation of large scale set extensions, full CG trains, and surreal creations of nightmare-like escape and capture scenes. Vast set extensions of cotton fields during both day and night scenes, as well as cotton field fires were delivered along with more subtle elements of firefly swarms, blood and scar enhancements. Due to lean delivery deadlines the approach was flexible and fluid to minimise lead time. The cotton field set extensions utilised a combination of UV card sets, then rendered at the final compositing stage, allowing for maximum time for revisions and iterations – whether it be day or night without the need to continually run new renders.

To do this, Cutting Edge choreographed the cotton field layout, choosing the extent and density of the extension. The extension was then painted, graded with textures modified in the context of the shot, for time of day and light detection. As each of the card sets where modified, it formed a larger library to be re-purposed for similar shots, saving duplication in future episodes.

“Underground is an excellent demonstration of the power that we can play in creating a world that is not questioned for it’s realism, but supports a great story. To watch Underground, I think you would be surprised to find out what is VFX, and for me, that’s the ultimate goal.”

Antony Haberl / Lead Compositor