Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 1: The Magician’s Apprentice

TV Drama, 2015

Milk received a 2016 BAFTA Television Craft Award nomination for the visual effects for Doctor Who series nine.

The first episode entitled “The Magician’s Apprentice” aired on 19th September 2015.

The visual effects included a full CG animated albino snake-like character named Sarf, spooky CG hands and a full CG environment to represent Skaro, the Dalek city.

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Milk received a 2016 BAFTA Television Craft Award nomination and a 2016 BAFTA Cymru Award for the visual effects for the much-anticipated Doctor Who series nine. The first episode entitled “The Magician’s Apprentice” aired on 19th September 2015.

Number of shots: 108
Duration of production: April-July 2015 (4 months)

Key challenges included:
Sarf
Milk was briefed to create a full CG animated albino snake-like character named Sarf. The main challenge was to create a digital take over from the static prosthetic version of Sarf which was filmed on set. Milk then had to animate Sarf’s face unravelling, to reveal that he is entirely composed of snakes.

Milk tackled this challenge by photo-scanning the prosthetic Sarf to create an exact match in CG and enable us to seamlessly take over. To create the unravelling effect Milk projected the prosthetic plate on to the matching geometry and animated the snake coils while dissolving from the projected plate to the CG unravelling face.

The snake’s body reveal was mainly CG; Milk only kept the background plate. The main snake was animated while the cloak and falling snakes were cloth and fx simulations to show a dramatic mass of writhing snakes.

Milk created the lip sync required for when Sarf speaks. The challenge was to retain Sarf’s malevolence and avoid a ‘cartoony’ look. Milk created a few lip-sync variations to get the look right, which allowed the director, Hettie McDonald, to opt for a subtle but visible look.

Skaro
Milk designed and created a full CG environment to represent Skaro, the Dalek city. We catch a glimpse of the city in episode one.
Milk built the city asset as a 3D asset created in Cinema 4D, which allowed fly over and fly through shots and it was used later to establish Skaro geography. Milk created concept designs based on vintage Doctor Who comics from the 1960s.

Hand mines
Milk created a number of spooky CG hands, each with an eye in its palm. Real hands were filmed on a raised muddied platform, which Milk then had to track accurately in order to add a CG eye to each one. We also added CG hands to augment the number of hands or populate shots where real hands could not be filmed.

Software used:
Nuke
Houdini
Maya
Rendering in Arnold
Photoscan
Cinema 4D
Photoshop

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Awards

  • Gold
    BAFTA Cymru Awards

    2016

  • Nomination
    BAFTA Television Craft Awards 2016

    2016

Credits

VFX Producer
Louise Hastings

VFX Supervisor
Salvador Zalvidea

2D Supervisor
Pedro Andrade

CG Supervisor
Darren Byford

VFX Co-ordinator
Sarah Williamson

VFX Editor
Mark Bright 

VFX Shoot Supervisor
David Jones

Modelling/ Texture Supervisor
Sam Lucas

Rigging Supervisor
Neil Roche

Matchmove Supervisor
Amy Felce 

Animation Lead
Rachel Ward

FX Supervisor
James Reid 

DMP Supervisor
Simon Wicker 

Animators
Toby Winder, Christian Brown, Will Correia

FX TD
Dominic Carus, Nick Webber

Lighting TD
Bastien Mortelecque, Adrian Williams

Matte Painter
Turlo Griffin, Doug Winder

Compositors
Luciano Lopes, Jorge Oliva, Mario Brioschi,
Myfanwy Harris, Frederic Heymans, Neil Alford,
Rebecca Clay, Tamsie Thomas, Theajo Nagarajan

Junior Compositors
Alex Balmer, Daniel LongMarco Pileri,
Matteo Inchingolo, Ross Allen, Sarah Iduwe,
Vasco Cerqueira

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