The audience expectation for special effects is so high today that big name shows have to constantly strive to match Hollywood blockbusters but often with a fraction of the budget. In the case of Doctor Who, the flagship BBC showcase for impressive visuals, the bar is higher than ever. I don’t know if the programme’s budget has risen over the last few years; typically budgets stay the same or even fall over time but what money is available has to be spent wisely to get the best impact on screen. Millennium FX and Milk VFX (formerly The Mill) have been two of the outsourced visual effects (VFX) and practicals companies used on the show from its revival in 2005. Series 11 is going to benefit from those clever people at DNEG (Double Negative) – an industry-leading VFX house founded in London 1998 and has rapidly expanded with workshop presences worldwide.
For 2018’s autumn series launch under new showrunner Chris Chibnall, there’s been a bit of a clear out of the ‘old guard’ and introduction of a new team including creative staff, subcontractors and composer. Yes, Murray Gold’s composing duties have been taken over by the fresh-faced Segun Akinola. The big news for Who is that awards-winning VFX company DNEG are on board to wow us with top-notch effects! If you’ve not heard of them then don’t worry – here’s a breakdown of their most recent achievements.
DNEG have done amazing work in the cinema’s over the last few years. If you’ve seen the awesome Marvel films Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok or DC’s pretty good Wonder Woman or dubious Justice League then you’ll have witnessed a showcase of their best work. Non-superhero blockbuster films (yes, there are some about!) include Pacific Rim: Uprising, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk and Baby Driver. Their upcoming films include Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, First Man and Venom.
DNEG’s breathtaking VFX wowed me in Westworld, Altered Carbon, the superhero series Marvel’s Inhumans and the dystopian sci-fi of the near future thriller series Black Mirror.
I loved the Metalhead, at times I couldn’t tell whether it was a practical effect – it was just that well realised. Monochrome helped and I could only tell it was an effect when it moved at speed (which of course is the litmus test!). DNEG pulled it off at slower movements and – although I didn’t think too much of the episode (Maxine Peake and the Terminator Dog didn’t excite me) – the Metalhead remains my strongest memory of the fourth series. If you are keen to find out more about the Metalhead VFX then head on over to the DNEG website.
DNEG and Doctor Who
I think you can tell that I’m really excited about the upcoming collaboration between Who and DNEG! I’m convinced that they will help raise the profile of the show and that their work will enhance the storylines (Who has always been plot-not effects- driven) and not dominate them (after all we’re still talking about BBC budgets).