Be Right Back

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror returned once again last Christmas with yet another unique vision of a not so distant future. This time round the narrative came in the form of a classic portmanteau of interconnecting tales of equal unsettling nature, and once again Painting Practice were invited to help the VFX design and supervision.

The motion graphics team were asked to re-design the opening titles to reflect the seasonal nature of the show.

Although the show can easily be seen as a whole, it is of course, constructed from three separate tales which all had their own unique demands in terms of VFX and production design. However, our previous experience and particular understanding of the Black Mirror universe, meant that we knew exactly were to go in terms of achieving the right balance in design.

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Finding the right balance between the future and the present is one of the unique appeals to Black Mirror and something we feel we got right.

Designing the Future

Production designer Joel Collins and supervising art director Robyn Paiba returned once more to face their own set of unique challenges involving key set constructions, multiple locations, and prop builds. In particular was the main set build which had to transform from an arctic outpost into a country kitchen before the audience’s eyes, and those of the shows protagonist Potter, played by Rafe Spall.

_v2Concept designs for the Arctic Outpost that later transforms into Gordon’s Kitchen at the end of the tale.

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Numerous props were designed for each story.

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Above are some concepts for the cookie and its final look.

Team Building for VFX

With a particularly tight schedule, we decided to set up a small motion graphics team immediately. This allowed us to road test designs and approaches with both the director, Carl Tibbets (White Bear) and the art department before shooting.

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Check out some of our motion graphics in this video.

COOKIEThe bulk of the VFX compositing was handled by Technicolor with VFX art direction and animation being carried out by the Painting Practice team, with our own small VFX team taking care of both the shows opening shot and the mind boggling ‘snow globe’ finale. Along with Charlie and VFX supervisor Justin, both teams worked across the ‘look’ of many of the standalone effects such as ‘Blocking’ and the Zedeyes.

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‘Blocking’ was a particular challenge for a rather disturbing proposition, but after various concepts we finally came up with this unique and unsettling look.

We were very proud and delighted to be asked by Charlie and the production team to be a part of this groundbreaking and award winning show. Like its huge audience we very much hope it will return again in the future and involve our team yet again.

Read this Vice interview with VFX Supervisor Justin Hutchinson-Chatburn as he talks about the design approach.