After it’s huge success last year Charlie Brookers ‘Black Mirror’ returns once again, cracking our screens this February.  And just like the last season Charlie brings us three unsettling futures that are little but a tweet away from our current reality.

Episode One – Be Right Back

Be Right Back is the first story in the series, and centers around two main characters, Martha (Hayley Atwell) and Ash (Domnhall Gleeson). Martha looses Ash to a car accident and is left dealing with her grief, until a close friend introduces her to a new technology that can replicate someones personality by gathering up all their online information.

The emotional heart of story is quite powerful and although the technology plays a large part in Ash’s resurrection, it was important that it didn’t get in the way of the story. The VFX were deliberately subtle and held a unique sympathy with the production design so that they never once jarred with the look of the film.

It was decided early on that the technology should have a tactile nature to it, and in particular Martha’s easel. Series designer Joel Collins came up with the initial design for this well used piece of technology whilst Painting Practice worked on the interface and it’s overall feel. It’s certainly something that many artists would be enviable of even today yet on screen it never feels too flashy.

Other smaller details included the pregnacny test and Martha’s laptop which had a very understated interface design that again complemented the overall feel of the film.


Episode Two – The Waldo Moment

Episode two was a satirical projection that again in truth is quite the possibility. Waldo, named in the title, is a computer generated  TV personality that is driven by a human performance much like a puppeteer. Waldo’s characteristics are not to dissimilar to those of fictional TV personality Ali G as they both handle politics and members of parliament pretty much the same. Having an ‘onscreen’ character meant that we had to make a decision as to wether his performance was to be applied in post or we try to do it live. Naturally we opted for live and worked very closely with Passion Pictures in both the design and execution of Waldo on set.

Much like the story our Waldo was driven by three puppeteers including award winning director Darren Walsh. The puppeteering team delivered a live performance of Waldo that could be altered on the day rather than needing extensive post animation work. In the end Waldo became very much a part of the cast as the real actors.

Production design was once again down to Joel and the team and our biggest visual effect of the show was the final shot involving the dystopia left behind by the success of Waldo’s penetration into our culture. This involved a huge amount of work involving CG, motion graphics and matte painting. A failure to find the right location that could double as this city scape meant that our CG team had to create a city -scape from scratch including a working train system. Billboards and signs all had to be animated and composited into a plate that was shot on a 40mm anamorphic lens – great fun!

The matte painting before final tweaks – all the signs are animated

The results were fantastic, although sadly the shot was pulled in the UK broadcast for creative reasons but it will apparently make an appearance in the international version. Painting Practice also delivered the alternative matte painting for this shot that can be seen in the UK version.