REALTIME crafted the VFX for a special episode of Doctor Who to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the show.

In collaboration with Bad Wolf and Painting Practice, REALTIME provided virtual production services and futuristic CG on one of the three special episodes, Wild Blue Yonder, which sees the return of the pairing of David Tennant in the role of The Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna.

“As huge fans of the show, we are honoured to be involved in the anniversary celebrations,” says Jonathan Rawlinson, Head of Episodic at REALTIME. “We were able to support the production from the shoot onwards; bringing our experience in virtual production and getting creative with a range of very cool futuristic sci-fi scenes in postproduction. It was a lot of fun, and we have really enjoyed working with VFX Producer Will Cohen, Executive Producers Phil Collinson, Joel Collins and the whole team at Bad Wolf and Painting Practice on this amazing episode from the showrunning legend, Russell T Davies.”

VFX Breakdown

An ambitious script sees the episode set mostly onboard a spaceship; featuring a long, complex corridor visualised by design studio Painting Practice and bought to life by the REALTIME team. With Tennant and Tate shot against green screen, REALTIME developed a virtual camera to show the director and DOP a live key with the talent comped onto an Unreal environment. The live comps could be recorded and played back on set.

Alongside the real-time virtual production asset, a higher fidelity version with an identical layout was used to render the final background image. A set extension of this magnitude, delivered in 4K, created a unique and technical challenge for the team.

Says James Coore, VFX Supervisor: “Once we knew that the set had to be created digitally, we needed to find a creative solution of rendering the scenes. As most of the episode is set against this spaceship environment, we had a large volume of shots to work with and the audience expects a high level of quality. We partnered with our friends at Mo Sys to provide camera tracking on set and worked in Unreal Engine to save us time. Luckily we’ve got the in-house experience to work within these cutting-edge technologies and are thrilled with the final result.”

The team had a range of challenges for this hour-long special; from bespoke gags, CG-enhanced body contortion, to the explosive finale and the all-important TARDIS apparition. The team also collaborated with Painting Practice’s Dan May and Showrunner Russell T Davis on a reimagining of the infamous title sequence, the TARDIS time-travelling through an ethereal vortex.

Jon Creamer

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