Dominic Remane interview: ‘Halo’ visual effects supervisor
After languishing in development for years, the immensely popular “Halo” gaming franchise made the giant leap to streaming television earlier this year, exceeding expectations by shattering records and satiating millions of fans worldwide, who were eager to revisit their beloved characters and storylines.
“As a fan of the series, and having played the games for the last 20 years, it’s an incredibly daunting task to be put into the position of visual effects supervisor,” admits Dominic Remane, who was tasked with creating the expansive galaxy inhabited by the warring factions at the center of the “Halo” story with his army of visual artisans and technicians. For our recent discussion, he adds, “Working on the creative design of the characters and creatures and trying to stay faithful to what the audience is expecting to see, but still have a slight twist and create our own canon to a degree, gives us liberty and freedom to explore the characters and explore the world in a different way than what’s been locked in by the games.”
To celebrate the show’s successful first season, and in anticipation for its second season (which is currently in pre-production), watch our special 30-minute Spotlight Q&A with the Emmy-winning visual effects maestro (“Vikings”), who is joined by Gold Derby founder Tom O’Neil for an exclusive conversation, presented by Paramount+.
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“Halo” was developed by Kyle Killen (“Lone Star,” “Awake”) and Steven Kane (“The Closer,” “The Last Ship”), who adapted the series from the blockbuster Xbox franchise that is among the most popular video game series of all time. The space opera takes place as a standalone story in its own timeline, inspired by but separate from the decades-long canon and lore developed from the interactive game series, set during a 26th-century war between the United Nations Space Command and the Covenant, a theocratic-military alliance of advanced alien races determined to eradicate the human race.
The sci-fi epic stars Emmy nominee Pablo Schreiber (“Orange is the New Black”) as Master Chief, a genetically enhanced supersoldier fighting villainous aliens and his own past demons. Jen Taylor reprises her role as Cortana from the game series, alongside co-stars Shabana Azmi, Natasha Culzac, Olive Gray, Yerin Ha, Bentley Kalu, Kate Kennedy, Charlie Murphy, Danny Sapani, Bokeem Woodbine and Natascha McElhone.
SEE Exclusive Video Interview: Sean Callery (‘Halo’ composer’)
“Halo” premiered this spring on Paramount+ to strong reviews and word of mouth, becoming the streaming platform’s most-watched original series ever, within 24 hours after its premiere. Epic and ambitious in scope, it aims to elevate the source material into a thrilling action-adventure saga about humanity’s fate in a distant interstellar future. For Remane, that meant adapting the source material as a base, but taking it to the next level, matching the games’ militaristic and other-worldly aesthetic, while immersing the audience in the intricate look and feel of the numerous alien species and their breathtaking homeworlds, military bases and fleets.
“The biggest thing as visual effects that we’re proud of, I would definitely say is the Prophets,” admits Remane about the enormous, gangly amphibian-like aliens who sit perched on hovering throne-like chairs, controlling a large swathe of the galaxy from within the nefarious Covenant, who wage their genocidal war against humanity from the colossal mobile planet-like city of High Charity. “It was one of the things that we started off early to help design and create and we decided instead of just going the traditional route of being entirely CG, we thought it was better to approach it as a hybrid, in a way,” he explains. “We worked closely with prosthetics, special effects, costumes and stunts to be able to create as much of the Prophets and their chairs as we could on the day, with the intention that we would be replacing their neck and head,” he says, adding that, “what that gave everybody is the ability to understand the scope and scale of these characters, which are massive with their chairs, their height; it’s daunting when you see them personally, and then be able to also help camera and lighting and everybody else to understand how big they are and how to frame them properly.”