VFX & Production company Untold Studios has worked with Bad Wolf to help bring the BBC’s 60th Anniversary Series of Doctor Who to life.

Untold’s VFX team contributed 330 shots to the limited series of three episodes, with a focus on the famous and enigmatic Meep character.

Untold Studios VFX Supervisor Tom Raynor explains, “It was a total privilege to take on the first of the Doctor Who specials, kickstarting a new season of the iconic TV franchise and the eagerly anticipated return of David Tennant. The brief was all encompassing, bringing to life a plethora of visual effects and SFX, from complex character work, CG environment builds and set extensions, massive battle scenes and highly complex FX sequences. This special is a rare example of costume and SFX being seamlessly integrated with high end VFX in a sensitive and impactful way.

“The Meep is an iconic character, well known by fans from the early comic books and as it was the character’s first screen appearance, it was extremely important that we got this right. The character posed a unique set of challenges as it required both a full CG approach for some shots and an augmented 2D approach to an actor in a costume for other shots.
For the augmented 2D approach, we used the tracked geometry of our CG asset to drive a 2D spline warp/ST map driven facial rig in Nuke. The rig had sliders to dial in or enhance a range of different facial expressions and emotional states and could modify the mouth performance to accurately match lip sync. It was used by our compositors in almost every Meep shot in the first half of the episode. Once The Meep turns evil, a CG digital replica of the character was used, complete with fully simulated muscle/fat and hair systems.

“It was extremely important to respect the timeless aesthetic and charm of the Doctor Who franchise along with the artistry of the costume makers and SFX artists. We took great care to match the range of movement of The Meep to what was achievable for the costume to ensure a consistent look and a seamless invisible transition between full CG shots and augmented costume shots. Using a CG digidouble enabled us to greatly increase the emotional range of The Meep during the later sequences. It also allowed us to do things like pupil dilation, articulated finger and toe movement, and make The Meep run which was a practical limitation of having an actor crouched down in a costume. We paid careful attention to the flow of every part of the groom, the subtle pigmentation changes of the fur and how it bent and flexed as it moved.”

Pippa Considine

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