Friday, 1 November 2013

The Mill's special effects: Will Cohen interview

Broadcast has a long and interesting interview with Will Cohen (currently Executive Producer at Milk, doing pretty much the same job as he did back when the Doctor Who VFX people were called The Mill) about special effects on Doctor Who. Full article at the link.
"As a measure of just how pioneering it was, when the BBC tendered Doctor Who’s visual effects work in 2004, there was virtually no reference material available. A decade ago, VFX wasn’t really present in UK drama...the only VFX for TV were graphics sequences in docs or reconstructions in drama docs. Maybe there would be a couple of shots compositing a pyramid outside a green-screen window on an episode of Poirot. It was all quite na├»ve.”
The Mill itself, while it had worked on a good many advertisements and feature films, didn't have much experience with television and keeping up with the DW production schedule was quite difficult for the first few years. 
“Drama producers now value VFX because it suggests production values of ambition and scale...Where TV VFX was once considered cheap or shoddy, the dividing line between feature film and TV is now very fine and Who can claim to have embedded that in UK TV production culture.”

He talked about some of the most interesting shots that they'd done. One was the Rose-hanging off a barrage-balloon sequence in "The Empty Child", which melded matte paintings with green screen shots of Rose hanging on a wire. “This had never been done on British TV before and while the result was quite stylised, it was also quite beautiful and not interruptive to the narrative...It was the moment it dawned on me that this show was blurring the boundaries of normal TV drama with big-budget action features.” Another was the CGI-Dobby in "Last of the Time Lords", which Cohen freely admits "wasn't entirely successful," but he's proud of the "sheer bravery of the whole creative team" on that one. A third was the Bafta-winning sequence in "The Fires of Pompeii" of the volcanic eruption.

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