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Graphics Masters: Doctor Who, Half-Face and delivering the fantastic to the small screen

Filmmaking techniques • Written by Ellie CK, Creative Community Manager

The BBC really wanted to push the boundaries of what was possible with Doctor Who, and to do it in stereo for a cinema broadcast. The pressure was huge.

Will Cohen, Milk

To celebrate the work of the professionals and inspire a new generation of artists and filmmakers, we’ve partnered with HP to bring you a series of articles showcasing the extraordinary imagery being created for today’s films, broadcast TV and commercials.

In a unique look at VFX work in Television, this next article goes behind the scenes with boutique studio Milk, who have done some incredible work for BBC hit show Doctor Who.

Half-Face Facts

Milk co-founder and VFX supervisor Murray Barber on the layers of Deep Breath’s  Doctor Who villain, Half-Face Man.

  • “The clean-up involved not only removing tracking markers and the actor’s make-up, but also hollowing out his head and adding in the back of the hat and collar. It took an awful lot of prep work to make sure we’d be able to crack through the 87 shots and get everything spot on.”
  • “We took lots of photo scans of the sets for lighting reference, along with steel HDRI and grey ball data, and also shot reference using a fully working mannequin. We had originally intended blending the mannequin into some shots, but didn’t have time to line it up on set, so went for a full 3D solution.”
  • “Along with the tracking markers on actor Peter Ferdinando, we put additional tracking markers onto the hat. That really helped us out, providing us with all the rotational movement information we needed.”
  • “We had to be careful with the jawline. If it was a movie you’d have visible working muscle and sinew, but as this was for TV we raised it to create something impressive – while efficient and economical. It’s all about making informed decisions at the design stage to make the shots doable.”
  • “The animators really had to work hard on the CG eye, particularly in terms of matching its movements and reactions to the actor’s real one.”
  • “We created an automated cycle for the clockwork interior of the head, though at certain times – when he gets angry – the parts speed up a little, so there’s also some bespoke animation in there.”

Read the full story on VFX in Television here.

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