Bristol based VFX studio Lux Aeterna worked on BBC Studios’ landmark Union, with David Olusoga which airs next week.

The same team behind Netflix’s Our Universe completed all GFX and motion graphics work for the recently aired four-parter Union.

The series explores the history of the four nations of the UK and the founding of the United Kingdom, touching on historical events from the 1600s to the early 1900s.

The project was led by Creative Director and Co-founder Rob Hifle, with the support of Lux Aeterna’s motion graphics lead Joe Hockney and the wider VFX and compositing teams at the studio. The scope required the team to deliver a visual narrative through the design and direction of graphical elements; the wealth of archives, historical maps spanning hundreds of years, and the historical construction of the Union flag.

A critical challenge was the management of a substantial volume of archive material. Lux Aeterna was tasked with transforming historical documents and low-resolution archive footage into visually compelling graphics that seamlessly integrated with the narrative. This required a knack for visual storytelling and technical finesse to enhance the quality of the archive visuals supplied by the production team.

“The subtle 3D CGI lighting, dust and directional compositions were designed to complement the beauty of the specially shot footage and to work harmoniously with the tempo of the film,” says Hockney. “One unique aspect was our close collaboration with the editing team. The scenes we worked on often involved longer shots, sometimes lasting a minute and a half. We were given raw materials and occasionally a guideline, but at times, we had to take the lead in shaping the sequence. Given the diverse archive pieces, we had to create a cohesive look through our artificial camera work, tying together disparate footage.”

In terms of technical tools, Lux Aeterna primarily used After Effects for motion graphics, with occasional integration of Cinema 4D, Nuke, and Houdini for specific shots.

“Lux Aeterna worked very closely with Series Producer and Director Francis Welsh and Editor Dilesh Korya in the edit,” explains Hifle. “It’s a relationship that has been garnered over many projects working on David’s projects. We understand how each other works, these films are handcrafted sometimes over long periods of time due to access or commitments meaning that we have to be reactive to the demands of changing schedules.”

The collaborative sentiment is relayed by the series Executive Producer, Francis Welch. “David and I have worked with Lux Aeterna’s Creative Director and Co-founder Rob Hifle for many years on a number of high-profile films,” explains Welch. “Rob is a brilliant creative and we always enjoy collaborating together. The challenge with a landmark series is you have to establish a new visual style, this evolved over the course of the production and Rob and the Lux Aeterna team collaborated with us on this journey. As the series evolved during filming and in the edit, the graphics brief also evolved. Lux Aeterna were very flexible and supportive as we collaborated together to establish the right visual style.”

The first episode of Union airs on BBC Two on Monday 2nd October at 9pm BST, with the full series box set available on iPlayer on the same day.


Pippa Considine

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