From conjuring up CG cockroaches to remote production, recreating Victorian London and grading archive footage
PRODUCTION Snowed-In Productions
VFX Lexhag VFX
WATCH IT ITV Player
Lexhag VFX used its newly created cloud-based studio to build realistic-looking creatures and generate complex particle simulation renders for ITV’s psychological drama Too Close.
Snowed-In Productions brought in Lexhag during pre-production to pre-vis and create concept images to ensure complicated VFX sequences could be planned and captured efficiently.
VFX supervisors were also on set to advise the production team and capture all the data required to complete shots in post-production. In one scene, Connie (played by Denise Gough) experiences a swarm of bugs crawling over her legs.
During the preproduction phase, Lexhag created ‘style frames’ for the creative team to visualise the scene’s look and feel Informed by these concept shots, Snowed-In Productions opted to use a head-mounted, point-of-view camera to tell the story that this delusion was all in Connie’s mind. Combined with a wide lens, this produced a shot that conveyed that the scene was from her perspective.
Lexhag combined the camera footage with CG bugs to create the shot, referencing the original concepts it had created. To do this, the VFX company reverse-engineered the camera type, lens and movement. It then used a process called ‘rotomation’ to match the CG geometry of Connie’s body when viewed through the camera.
The CG bugs were added to the shots to line up with the real legs and arms seen in the final shots. This process involved the bugs being modelled and then handed off to the animation department to start animating the crawl movements on Connie’s legs.
While the animations were being generated, the CG bugs were also being textured and lit. Reference was taken from cockroach species native to the UK and matched with the CG bugs.
MEERKAT MANOR: RISE OF THE DYNASTY
PRODUCTION Oxford Scientific Films
WATCH IT BBC America
More than 10 years on from the last Meerkat Manor series, this follow-up was produced during the pandemic, using new technology and production techniques. Evolutions worked on the project remotely from its London base, guiding the production team on the ground in South Africa.
The post house began its work with Oxford Scientific Films ahead of production, getting involved in discussions about camera choices to ensure the different models would capture the desired high-quality images and match the specifications needed for the UHD delivery.
Evolutions designed an Avid-based workflow to be used by the production team in South Africa. It also built and tested all the kit that it shipped to the production team, provided training sessions in Soho ahead of the team heading out, and created a user guide to cover all processes needed on location.
Remote-assistance software was installed on the kit to make it possible for Evolutions to access the systems in South Africa remotely and solve any technical issues that arose. When kit was damaged, Evolutions repaired it from the UK, avoiding any recording downtime.
The kit had a built-in LTO back-up to ensure the footage was kept secure and safe. All the ingesting of rushes was completed in South Africa, with Evolutions configuring the storage so the location teams could back up media, create proxies and log footage at the same time.
Once rushes arrived at Evolutions in London, the edit team were able to start cutting straight away. The post-production finishing was completed at Evolutions, with a Baselight grade by colourist Carlotta Rio. Online was completed by Jonathan Field and a Dolby Atmos audio mix by Michael Wood.
For the online, Evolutions says the bulk of its work was resizing and further enhancing the pictures, as well as stabilising shots that were filmed from afar. For the Baselight grade, Evolutions worked with the natural lighting, dramatising mood and the daily passage of time.
A LIFE IN TEN PICTURES
PRODUCTION BBC Studios
POST-PRODUCTION Blazing Griffin
WATCH IT BBC iPlayer
This documentary series explores the life of a well-known personality through 10 key images, from their earliest photo to one of their last. It looks at their milestones, moments of conflict and turning points.
The series comprises 5 x 60-minute episodes about Freddie Mercury, Tupac Shakur, Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali and John Lennon. Blazing Griffin completed full post-production across the series, including editing, grading, sound design and mixing. The final post of the first three episodes was completed remotely, with each episode being signed off by the individual director.
Colourist Jon Bruce says: “There’s a mixture of archive footage and interviews. Some episodes, like Tupac, used news footage from the 1980s and 1990s, which needed to be graded to have a style set. That episode had a more stylised look, with cool shadows contrasting with the warmth of the highlights. Due to lockdown restrictions, a variety of cameras were used by the different crews filming in the UK and the US. Matching the look across the various formats was our biggest challenge.”
PRODUCTION Drama Republic
WATCH IT Netflix
Eight-episode drama The Irregulars is set in Victorian London and follows a gang of delinquent teens who help solve crimes for Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. BlueBolt, led by VFX supervisor Kyle Goodsell and VFX producer Sam Dubery, provided 245 shots for the series, most of which were large-scale period London cityscapes and extensions, as well as creating environments for a steamboat and a battered Aldgate Underground.
One of the most critical sequences is when Bea (played by Thaddea Graham) walks by the Duck and Quiver pub. Goodsell says: “This sequence, which was one of the largest on the project, was key as we wanted to create a spectacle early on to sell this environment to the audience and draw them into this world. It provides a first look at our Baker Street location and an unknown watcher. The camera pulls up to reveal the city of London, the first look at our full CG cityscape environment.”
Overall VFX supervisor Richard Briscoe adds: “The scope and detail of BlueBolt’s cityscapes were essential to the story and characters.”
PALOMA FAITH: AS I AM
PRODUCTION Mosaic Films
WATCH IT BBC iPlayer
This one-off doc follows Paloma Faith as she balances the demands of a vital make-or-break tour with writing a new album, launching an acting career and being a first-time mum. Envy completed full post-production on the film.
The brief for Envy colourist Andrew Cloke was to create a cohesive, naturally flowing picture with a filmic aesthetic. It needed to be rich in appearance without becoming oversaturated or hyper-real.
The film was shot over three years, with changes in environment, time, lighting and equipment, which ranged from cameras to mobile phones. In the grade, this had to be seamlessly tied together without losing the individuality of the material.
Meanwhile, the brief for Envy dubbing mixer Matt Skilton was to keep the audio as authentic as possible. Ambient noises from high traffic areas, dressing rooms and concerts were neutralised using iZotope’s
RX noise reduction to prevent them distracting from the dialogue. With this approach, and by restricting the use of sound effects, the viewer’s attention is focused on the film’s intimate moments.