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Bringing a 19th century Spanish galleon to life for La Fortuna

How Madrid-based post production house Twin Pines worked on 1,000 digitally retouched shots for new drama, La Fortuna

La Fortuna, a new drama series starring Stanley Tucci and Clarke Peters, debuts around the world this week on AMC Networks.

The legal thriller, made by Movistar Plus, begins with the discovery of a 19th century Spanish galleon, sunk by the British near Gibraltar in 1804. The ship is full of a priceless cargo, and the series asks who gets to keep the treasure – the country that sunk the ship in the first place, or the people who found it 300 years later?

Overall, La Fortuna contains around 1,000 digitally retouched shots which called for a year’s work to recreate underwater scenes, an epic naval battle and a road journey in the US, among many other sequences.

The studio chose to work with Madrid-based post production company Twin Pines having previously collaborated on Goya Award-nominated film, While At War.

“Without a doubt, the underwater sequences were the most complex, as we had to create them completely by computer or what we call Full CG,” explain Juanma Nogales and Ana Rubio, the co-owners of Twin Pines. “We would normally integrate our effects into the look designed during shooting, but in these sequences there was no existing footage, so we had to create everything from scratch: art, environment, lighting and physical simulations, basing it all on the storyboard and the director’s instructions.”

The team employed Nuke for the composition; Houdini for simulations; Maya and Clarisse for 3D scenes; and Arnold for rendering, as well as specific tools developed in house by the Twin Pines engineering team.

As one of the main narrative elements in La Fortuna, the underwater world had to be both realistic and cinematographic. To this end, Twin Pines created a series of 3D elements including sand, plants, coral, rocks, vessels and cannons, which were then aged by computer to convey a convincing effect. In addition, they also had to create two looks: one for the shots from outside a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) and other from inside the ROV, which would be seen on the screens of the American and Spanish ships.

The naval battle that takes place during the series posed one of the biggest technical challenges for Twin Pines. They were tasked with creating explosions, cannon fire, gun shots, sinking ships and a combination of real and 3D-generated ships. “We approached all the 3D elements based on the previews we did with director Alejandro Amenábar and we worked until the last second on improving these shots, creating dozens of versions of each part and working on different phases. It involved the greatest deployment of resources we had ever undertaken so far,” explain Nogales and Rubio.

“The naval battle was the first thing we started on and the last thing we finished, but it was also the most satisfying sequence for Twin Pines as a VFX studio.”

They add: “From the VFX viewpoint, being able to bring to life the complicated scenes called for by La Fortuna was an incredible experience. We successfully met challenges that were at the level of the biggest studios in the world in a project with a high international profile.”