Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017

TV Drama, 2017

Milk created the digital visual effects for the BBC’s 2017 Doctor Who Christmas special: “Twice Upon A Time”.

The hour-long festive episode aired on BBC One and BBC America on Christmas Day 2017 and in cinemas.

Twice Upon A Time marks Peter Capaldi’s final episode as the 12th Time Lord and sees Jodie Whittaker make her debut when the Doctor regenerates into his 13th incarnation.

Milk created 157 visual effects shots in six weeks, with a prior two month asset build.

South Pole environment

Milk created digital set extensions to enhance and illuminate the snowy South Pole environment; and created the static frozen snow environment for the sequences in which time stops and everything – including the snow – freezes.

Frozen/static snow environment

Milk modelled the snowflakes according to the BBC’s request that they resemble the intricate ice shapes similar to that found under a microscope. Using the base model, thousands of tiny cards were scattered across the surface with varying orientation to give a glitter effect as light would hit each card at different times. We hand-animated the flakes that needed to ‘interact’ with the actors as they walked through the frozen snow and we used Houdini to scatter varying snowflakes in clusters around the actors to fill out the scenes.  As the snow had to remain static for most of the time, it was vital we didn’t place snowflakes too close to the camera otherwise they appeared to float given the short focal lengths. Highly accurate tracking was key.

Frozen battlefield

Milk extended the battlefield with digital matte paintings and added flames, smoke and a static 3D pigeon.

Glass Woman

We undertook extensive look development work for the Glass Women character to ensure she adhered to the producer’s and director’s brief. She needed to be almost transparent, with a glowing aura in order to stand out against the live action plates. Our look development team used Arnold and found an IOR (Index Of Refraction) that best worked for the refracting of light through the model. They then used curvature and facing ratio shaders to allow the compositing team to further distort the plates using her form. The glow was a separate render layer that was intensified in compositing.

For the scenes in which the glass woman speaks we used a facial capture rig to gather data from the actor Nikki Amuka-Bird as she spoke key lines from the script. This was captured at a later date in a ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) session. This provided our animators with key reference to match her movements.

Chamber of the Dead

The team created set extensions and added in shadowy movements to enhance the coliseum-style practical set.

Valengard

The full CG red city and sky-line was created by our environment team lead by Simon Wicker. Their work was created using only a basic plate showing the set with columns and the rest was built in cinema 4d.

Dalek Creature

The Milk team modelled and animated the Dalek creature, basing it on previous Dalek creature iterations. The scene was shot with Mark Gatiss and a green ball standing in for the creature when it attacks him, landing on his face. The team then added squash and wobble effects to the model which were incorporated once animation was complete to give the creature more weight.

Regeneration

The regeneration scene features fire and lava effects to maximise the dramatic effect. Three shots of energy and plasma blasting from the Doctor’s arms and head were created by our effects team in Houdini.

The shot of the Doctor’s eyes is a classic Doctor Who regeneration sequence. We made morphed the two plates between the eyes of Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker.

For the sequence with Jodie Whittaker falling out of Tardis and down towards the cityscape through clouds; we added created the Digital Matte Painting of the city below and added in clouds to pass her and enhance the drama of the fall.

 

 

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Credits

VFX Supervisor – Murray Barber

CG Supervisor – Dominic Alderson

VFX Producer – Louise Hastings

 

 

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