Actors Fares Fares (The Dark One), Josha Stradowski (Rand al’Thor) and Rosamund Pike (Moiraine Damodred) in The Wheel of Time.
Out to sea in The Wheel of Time episode "The Eye of the World."
When you're adapting an epic fantasy like Robert Jordan's popular The Wheel of Time book, you need a heavy dose of visual effects to bring it to life. That's why Rafe Judkins, showrunner and creator of Prime Video's new series The Wheel of Time, reached out to Julian Parry.
I had literally just finished work on The Witcher when they asked me to come and do some more magic," says Parry, a visual effects supervisor whose work on Vikings was nominated for an Emmy three years in a row. "My previous work also dealt with sophisticated magic, and I'm comfortable with creatures, monsters and fantastical physics."
Set in a sprawling universe where only certain women are allowed access to magic, the show follows Moiraine (Rosamunde Pike) as she leads the search for an enigmatic character known as the Dragon Reborn.
Parry worked closely with ten VFX houses — MPC, Cinesite, Outpost, Automatik, Union, Rise, DNEG, Framestore, Scanline and Orbrium — to deliver the visual sorcery for the show's six-hour first season. "We worked with a very small crew, and Covid hindered our production of course, but I'm very proud of the 3,500 VFX shots we created," he says.
Among Parry's favorite digital effects are those in which Moiraine and others draw upon their special powers. "It's called 'channeling' and it's similar to the Force, although Jordan wrote the books years before Star Wars," he explains. "I knew that we couldn't go willy-nilly about it, because it's quite complex, as it also has a dark side. We had to dissect the five different elements — fire, air, water, earth and spirit — and each had to have a different look."
He also liked working on scenes featuring Trollocs, evil half-human, half animal creatures. "We had lots of stuntmen wearing Trolloc suits, but they had to move very quickly, so we had to marry their stunts with CG," Parry says. "Nick Dudman and his team [the Harry Potter movies, Penny Dreadful] did some amazing prosthetics work, so we had about a dozen to twenty of these characters on the set. The rest of them were created digitally by MPC to make up crowds of about 5,000!"
Parry believes fans will be happy with the series' attention to detail and loyalty to Jordan's books. "There were pages and pages of description to draw upon for our designs," he notes. "Visual effects artists are always drawing from the great fantasy and science fiction shows of the past, but I know when not to repeat something. I always try to find something new. Readers of the books are going to discover that we have recreated the world that they know and love."
This story originally appeared in Issue #12, 2021, of emmy magazine under the title "Magic Hours."