Angela Barson didn’t plan on becoming a visual effects supervisor when she first started. After getting a job at a software development company that worked with the film industry, she decided to work on the vendor side with the software she helped create. “I got a job working for the BBC as a flame operator,” she says. “The BBC was really good, it was a hotbed of people that were so creative and cutting-edge. It was such a good place to learn and be able to try new techniques and new bits of software out.”
After working in the industry for some time, her previous collaborations with producer Mark Huffam led to a meeting with director Robert Eggers. “When Robert was looking for somebody to come do the visual effects, [Huffman] put my name forward,” says Barson. “I flew out to Ireland and met up with Robert and had an intense meeting.”
The Northman follows Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), a young viking prince who embarks on a quest to avenge his father. The story has a basis in norse mythology, which led to a combination of practical and visual effects to capture some of that mysticality. “A lot of our ideas and approaches lined up,” she says. “Everything from Robert and Jarin [Blaschke], the DP, for visual effects was all about photo-real. That was their driving force. The whole approach, the whole ethos was, ‘What can we get in camera and if that’s not possible, then VFX takes over.’”
While some scenes had some heavy visual effects, Barson says that it always had to be based on something real. “If every shot has some grounding in reality… getting there in the final product is much easier than if you’re starting from a clean slate in CG,” she says.
Certain scenes presented challenges for Barson and her team, as Eggers prefers long continuous shots which can cause a backup in the time for rendering. “A lot of the shots in The Northman are very long and the final volcano fight was no exception to that,” she says. “We had to shoot it in sections and stitch it together… We had to, obviously, add in the lava, which we shot with LED interactive lighting. There was some smoke, but we added more smoke, more lighting, and the lava.”
“We were doing exploding volcanoes, we were doing molten lava, we were doing full CG stormy seas and ships, and environment work and all the blood and gore, and then this mystical stuff, like the body dissolving in the blood tree,” says Barson. But those challenges only reminded her of what she loves about being a VFX supervisor. “It’s the combination of artistic and technical and it’s the problem solving, and I like problem solving.”
Monica has a BA in Journalism and English from the University of Massachusetts and an MS in Journalism and Communications from Quinnipiac University. Monica has worked as a journalist for over 20 years covering all things entertainment. She has covered everything from San Diego Comic-Con, The SAG Awards, Academy Awards, and more. Monica has been published in Variety, Swagger Magazine, Emmy Magazine, CNN, AP, Hidden Remote, and more. For the past 10 years, she has added PR and marketing to her list of talents as the president of Prime Entertainment Publicity, LLC. Monica is ready for anything and is proudly obsessed with pop culture.