Love, Death & Robots
The Secret War

Creator: Tim Miller
Directed by István Zorkóczy

Production Companies:
Netflix

Work

Concept design of environments and key sets
Set dressing and VFX design
Creature design

Commissioned by DIGIC Pictures, our key task was to help the production team with providing detailed concept designs for the key sets. This included detailed environment and set designs and additional VFX design for certain areas.

Until we get permissions to share the work we’ve done, here are some screenshots from the film, that showcases certain elements, that we made concept designs for.

Hamlet was the first location, where we see the destruction and horror of the creatures. This place had to be calm, deserted and almost frozen in time. The village was attacked mid-day in bright daylight and all villagers were killed while doing their daily routine.

Our task was to design the main bodies what our heroes interact with, provide reference paintings for all the other corpses on the streets and come up with mini-stories for the 3D scanning of the poses. We also had to create detailed environment pieces to show the route from the village to the edge of the forest.

We also had to create detailed environment pieces to show the route from the village to the edge of the forest.

Village Hamlet from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots
Massacre scene from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots

The design of the forest was really important as it’s connecting all the key story elements – the transformation of the trees had to suggest that we are getting closer to the horror and further aways from humanity itself. The changing of the light, the weather and the scenery all contributed to creating a mood we wanted to suggest.

Our work was to create mood setting exploration pieces about the changing scenery, keyframe concepts to support key moments between main story elements and lighting, compositional and weather progression concepts.

We were also designing the progression of ghoul infection, including tree aberrations and the type of appearance of the ghoul’s sulfuric goo.

Weird tree formations - screenshot from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots
Yellow goo - tree infection from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots

We were creating environment mood concepts to establish the overall look and progression of the forest, keyframe concepts depicting the most important moments of the story and lighting concept overpaints to define overall color schemes.

The makeshift campsite under the wings of the crashed airplane had to be the last point of peace for our heroes. The warm and cosy interior was an opposition to the darkness and cold forest night and it represented the humanity, slowly torn apart by the forces of wilderness.

We created concepts about the overall setting and environment, suggesting how the plane got there, designed the plane and how the campsite could be integrated in it and worked on keyframe concepts for composition and lighting reference.

Crashed plane and signal flare - image from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots
Crashed plane lit by northern lights from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots

The ritual site was the only part of the story where we stepped out of our current timeline and went back to the original creation of the creatures. This had to be an ancient place, filled with dark magic.

We had to design the actual ritual site and all additional set dressing elements to provide reference for the set team. We were experimenting with various elements, from abandoned temples to ancient, sacred monoliths and created many shape variations for the different props of the location.

Ritual site - Aurora and bonfires -screenshot from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots
Dark ritual site, human sacrifice scene from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots

The nest of the creatures had to be the most unsettling location in the whole story, almost like a huge wound on a mountainside that got infected. This is also the point where we see the natural sunlight for the last time and where all the remaining hope starts to disappear.

We made environment concepts about the exterior and surroundings of the barrow and for the structure of the nest.

The surroundings of the barrow - a scene from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots
A scene from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots - getting closer to the ghoul's nest

Our work on the ghouls was creating initial concept directions and ideas for the general appearance for the creatures.

Shape exploration and variants based on concept sculpts provided by the team of DIGIC. Movement explorations and behavioural studies for animation and detailed head and final body concepts for modelling reference.

Screenshot of a ghoul from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots

Facing an army of ghouls after the implosion of the nest had to be the epic finale of the story, packed with action and drama in the same time.

We were exploring dynamic story beat compositions, create concepts about key moments of the fight and made lighting and effect concepts for the post vfx team.

Final battle scene from The Secret War / Love, Death + Robots