From dust particles to ruined landmarks, the decrepit cityscape of Black Knight was painstakingly recreated using the latest visual effects technology. Premiering on May 12, the Korean series will transport audiences to a Seoul where oxygen is scarce due to severe air pollution.
Written and directed by Cho Ui-seok, known for his work on Cold Eyes and Master, Black Knight is set in a future Korea reeling from the effects of a comet strike, and a brutal social hierarchy determines who has access to resources for survival.
In this harsh wasteland, deliverymen known as “knights” play an indispensable role in keeping people alive by delivering parcels of oxygen and other necessities. Former refugee 5-8, played by Kim Woo-bin, takes on this job and recruits others from the lowest rungs of society to help him overthrow the hierarchy.
Westworld, one of Korea’s leading VFX studios, was behind the depiction of a desolate Seoul, which includes decayed landmarks like the N Seoul Tower, the Hangang Bridge, and Gangnam street.
“The main road in Gangnam required the most dedication and hard work. It’ll be particularly fascinating for viewers to compare the real-life intersection with what has been recreated on screen through VFX,” says Westworld VFX Supervisor Lee Byung Ju.
Westworld’s team of about 180 artists spent over ten months during post-production to create the apocalyptic world of Black Knight in painstaking detail, down to every dust particle to portray how outdoor activities were impossible without an oxygen mask.
The team collected data on yellow dust and sandstorms in Mongolia and China to study how to visually represent these weather events, and filmed source footage of the Bayanzag cliffs and the Khongoryn Els dunes in the Gobi Desert as a textural reference for deserts made up of hard rocks or fine sand.
Netflix has partnered with Westworld since 2019, and several innovative VFX techniques pioneered by Westworld were showcased in some of Netflix’s most successful Korean series.
Sweet Home opened a new chapter of the Korean creature genre, The Silent Sea brought a powerful and realistic visual of the moon and space, All of Us Are Dead epitomized young adult zombie survival, and the world-famous Squid Game was known for its vivid colors.
“We have a win-win relationship with Westworld built on trust over the years,” says Sunny Park, Director of VFX & Virtual Production at Netflix. “With Black Knight, we continue to push the boundaries of creativity and technology as we work together to craft great Korean content that will transcend cultures and borders.”