The Wheel of Time season 2 VFX supervisor Andy Scrase talks changing the look of the One Power and bringing iconic fantasy locations to life.
- The Wheel of Time season 2 has improved in its visual effects, bringing the One Power and iconic locations to life.
- VFX supervisor Andy Scrase prioritized addressing fan interests and adding new elements, such as introducing colors to communicate the intricacies of channeling.
- Scrase collaborated with the actors to make the use of the One Power unique to each character, reflecting their personalities, and differentiated the channeling styles of different groups like Aes Sedai and damane.
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Warning: Some SPOILERS for The Wheel of Time season 2, episode 6Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time season 2 continues to adapt the epic story first introduced in 1990 with the release of Robert Jordan’s book The Eye of the World. The TV adaptation of the 14-book fantasy epic had an arguably rocky start when the first season aired in 2021 as it found the balance between honoring the source material and standing on its own as a series. Perhaps it’s a by-product of building off the first season, but The Wheel of Time season 2 feels like a more confident outing both in how it honors and departs from Jordan’s original work.
One area in which The Wheel of Time season 2 has excelled is that of visual effects. The One Power has a new look, and some of The Wheel of Time’s most iconic locations have been brought to life in part thanks to seamless digital set extensions. For this, viewers have season 2’s new VFX supervisor Andy Scrase to thank. Scrase has a long history in VFX, working on films like Ex Machina and Aladdin, and brought a book-first sensibility to The Wheel of Time that has not gone unappreciated–though he does point out that creative liberties are often beneficial.
Related: The Wheel Of Time: The Show’s 10 Most Powerful Characters, Ranked
Andy Scrase spoke with Screen Rant about VFX changes in The Wheel of Time season 2, working with the actors on the look of the One Power, and more. This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and words in brackets are interpreted from distorted Zoom audio. Note: This interview was conducted during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, and the show covered here would not exist without the labor of the writers and actors in both unions. This interview has also been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Andy Scrase On The Wheel Of Time Season 2
Screen Rant: This won’t come out until after the sixth episode, so we can talk about it. I watched it last night; it’s so good. It’s my favorite one yet.
Andy Scrase: Mentally scarred by what happened to Egwene?
Seriously. I know the story already, but the way it’s depicted is perfect. But the first thing I wanted to ask was, what was the biggest difference in how the VFX was approached in season two as opposed to season one?
Andy Scrase: Obviously, I was new to the show, so there were certain things that I wanted to bring to it. A lot of that was based off of recognizing the fan base and things that matter to them, so one of my main priorities was working on the channeling. [I wanted to] address some of the things [they were] interested in, [the big stuff being] the colors we’ve introduced. For me, that’s a really clear, concise way of communicating what goes into a weave, which is obviously part of channeling; channeling being a very unique magic system that’s specific and special to Wheel of Time.
But I think it was just [about imagining] what I can do, and how I interpret certain ideas and concepts from the stories themselves. Obviously, a big part of that comes from discussions with Rafe and what was written in the scripts. I actually joined the shoot later on during the process—about three quarters of the way through the shoot—so there were obviously certain [things] already established by that point. I went from there to speaking with other heads of departments about what they’ve been working on and then seeing whatever it was I could bring to it, whether it be the channeling, or bringing realism to environments with digital extensions, like we did to things like Falme, Cairhien, and Tar Valon.
I love seeing the ways in which the different characters utilize the One Power in their own way. There are some really cool instances of that in this latest episode. What does it take to make it unique in that way? Is there a lot of collaboration with the actors?
Andy Scrase: When I came onto the show, I thought it might be a good idea to speak with cast members who could channel. For our main channeling cast, I’d just speak to them about their feelings on channeling, and what they felt when they were channeling. I also asked them their own interpretation of their character. Not the fans’; just their own interpretation. That led to me thinking, “Well, is there a way that I can differentiate a channel that reflects a personality more?”
I think we’ve been successful in that, definitely, [with] someone like Liandrin. If you notice some of her threads, everything’s quite tight and taut around her. She’s holding her power back. She’s sort of rigid; like a viper ready to strike, essentially. So, yeah, I think it’s something I tried to do; I tried to carry on a characteristic from a person into the way they channel.
Then, on top of that, we also have different styles for the different groups of people who can channel. We have our Aes Sedai, we have our damane, we have our male channelers, and then we have our Forsaken. I wanted to put a geometric, futuristic feel to it, so you’ll find there are tauter, tighter threads, and the shapes they form are a little cleaner.
With our damane, they can channel, but we really wanted to have a different feel to them when they channel. So without [changing] the look of the threads, because that’s our way of communicating the physical, visual form of using the One Power, that was a case of the layout and how it moves around the person. With the damane, it’s very much a metaphor; the channeling kind of forms a cage around them. Pulling a cage around their arms felt like an interesting visual to execute and to show to the audience. I’ve seen a few people pick up on that, and the cages that appear around the damane when they channel, so I’m glad that’s been noticed. Then, obviously, with the male channeling, we have the black corruption that slowly builds up as they channel.
That was the next thing I was going to mention—seeing Rand channel saidin. It looks wild; it looks exactly as you’d expect, and I love that you did put that touch on it to make it look out of control.
Andy Scrase: Yeah, very much so. Rand doesn’t have control over what he’s doing. That’s actually something I picked up on when I spoke to Josha when we were filming in Morocco. I asked him about his input, and he said, “It’s there and then it’s gone. He’s just got no control over it.” Especially with his channeling earlier on in the season, you’ll notice the channeling is kind of broken up around him; it kind of comes in waves around him. That’s really to communicate how he’s not fully connected and in control of the One Power. It comes in and fits and starts around him. So, again, it’s just another way of us trying to use the One Power to show the relationship between the channeling and the One Power itself.
There are some things in the books that haven’t made it into the show that would be probably in the realm of VFX. For example, the Seanchan have these creatures in the books that are wild-looking. Are things like that kind of on the table at first and then cut for budget reasons? Or do they not even make it into the scripts, generally?
Andy Scrase: I mean, a whole range of things is discussed, especially when it comes to script time. With the Seanchan, they’re particularly menacing in themselves. With the way they look and with the helmets they have on, they’re pretty intimidating. If you’ve got that scary element already, sometimes it’s nice just to let that speak for itself. With the damane in this season, we got to make things scarier as well. From an early stage, it was about capturing the essence of a character or a group of people, as with the Seanchan who are a pretty formidable, scary, dominating force in themselves.
Was there a particular set or set extension that was the most challenging to do?
Andy Scrase: Probably all of them because of the expectation from fans. They’re all very different. Cairhien has its towers, which are a very unique factor to it. With Tar Valon, there are loads of different cultures mixed in there, and there’s this whole idea of stone masonry and the influence of the Ogier on creating it. Then you’ve got Falme as well, which is kind of our beachside town.
I think they all have their own challenges; they’re all very different, and very unique looking. I wanted to bring my skills to that by making the extensions as seamless as we could, to make it feel like they were really there, [and] as if we were filming them with a camera. I think we were successful in doing that.
I don’t know if you can answer this, but in theory, if you were going to have to design resurrected heroes of Wheel of Time past, how would you want them to look?
Andy Scrase: I can kind of answer that. Or can I answer that? I don’t know if I can answer that, actually. How would I design them to look? Without question with this kind of thing, for my part, based off of the script and discussing with Rafe, I will always then go back to the books. I will make use of our book expert on the show, Sarah Nakamura, who’s really useful. For any sort of design on the show for me, doesn’t matter what it is, the books are my starting point. From there, I might feel like it would look a little bit more interesting if we tweaked something here or there, but if I’m going to design something, it always goes straight back to the books. It always goes back to Robert Jordan’s original material.
Obviously, so much is made of the channeling in this in the show, but there are so many other cool ways that VFX steps in, like with Min’s visions and the Ogier treesinging in episode 6. Do you have a favorite non-channeling thing that you’ve been able to work on?
Andy Scrase: There are probably a few. Some of my favorite ones to work on are ones where [something is] VFX, and people might not know that that’s visual effects. That’s sort of fun; when you make [the audience] believe [something] was there all the time. One instance is the seals that start the cold open in 201. They’re actually fully digital; they weren’t really there.
There are some other fun areas. The flies might seem quite simple to do, but the flies that Perrin experiences at the end of his vision [were fun]. That was quite fun to work on because we related back to the books. But yeah, especially when we’re putting things in that I think a lot of the audience won’t realize were visual effects, those are the things I think I enjoy the most.
About The Wheel Of Time
In Season Two, threats new and very old seek out the young friends from the Two Rivers, now scattered over the world. The woman who found and guided them is now powerless to help, and so they must find other sources of strength. In each other, or themselves. In the Light … or the Dark.
Check out our other Wheel of Time season 2 interviews here:
- Sharon Gilham
- Jan Petrina
- Davina Lamont
- Ondrej Nekvasil & Ondrej Nierostek
- Sanaa Hamri & Thomas Napper
- Josha Stradowski
- Madeleine Madden & Daniel Henney
- Marcus Rutherford, Donal Finn & Ceara Coveney
- Zoë Robins
New episodes of The Wheel of Time release on Fridays on Prime Video.