In collaboration with Bad Wolf, we provided virtual production services and futuristic CG on one of the three special episodes, Wild Blue Yonder, which sees the return of the much-loved pairing of David Tennant in the role of The Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna. Described by Empire magazine as a “brutally simple, slickly executed high concept,” the episode takes fans to the very edge of the universe where sinister alien doppelgangers steal the show.
Russell T. Davis’ script plays out mostly onboard a haunted spaceship; featuring a long, complex corridor that required a full CG build. We proposed creating two separate versions of the corridor: a virtual camera asset with simple lighting data, and a high-resolution version with an identical layout for the final shots. Supporting the green screen shoot, our virtual camera gave 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.
With a range of VFX and animation work set in this digital environment, this cutting edge real-time technology allowed us to produce the shots much more quickly than is usually possible. We received concept artwork of the environment by the team at Painting Practice, rebuilding each component in Maya and assembling them in Unreal.
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, was rendered in a fraction of the time compared to most other contemporary productions.
Alongside the real-time virtual production asset, a higher fidelity version with an identical layout was used to render the final background image. The corridor was designed to be very bright – a difficult choice for a predominantly CG environment. In the end the team found a balance – a perception of brightness but plenty of deep shadows and darker elements in the textures to bring it to life.
In the end, we produced 330 VFX shots for the episode; from bespoke gags, CG-enhanced body contortion, to the explosive finale and the all-important TARDIS apparition.
Wild Blue Yonder Making Of
Titles Making Of
We were delighted to collaborate with Russell T. Davis and Painting Practice on a reimagining of the infamous title sequence, the TARDIS time-travelling through an ethereal vortex. This was created in Houdini.
The three Doctor Who special episodes were produced by Bad Wolf, in partnership with BBC Studios. Huge thanks to VFX Producer Will Cohen, Director Tom Kingsley, Executive Producers Phil Collinson, Joel Collins, Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner at Bad Wolf, Dan May and the team from Painting Practice and of course the showrunning legend that is Russell T. Davis. They will broadcast from 25 November to 9 December 2023 on BBC One in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and on Disney+ internationally.