As series Production Designer, Joel Collins was invited to create the look and design involved in all three episodes of Charlie Brooker’s new twisted drama series Black Mirror. And naturally this was an opportunity once again for Painting Practice to employ all their skills and creativity to deliver not just stunning sets and design but first class VFX and title design.

The series kicks off with ‘The National Anthem‘, which is set very much in our own time where the PM is faced with a rather unsettling ransom demand. The second episode, ‘Fifteen Million Merits‘ is placed somewhere in the future in a world where the only way out is through a bizarre talent contest not to dissimilar to our very own Xfactor. Finally the trilogy is rounded off by ‘The Entire History of You‘ which again is set in the not too distant future, where everyone can record their personal experiences and download them for viewing at a later date – basically Sky Plus for the brain.

Each episode had it’s own set of challenges, from budget to location and VFX, but we came through with flying colours and ended up with a show that looks just at home on the big screen as it does in your front room.



Painting Practice were also commissioned to design and produce the title sequence for the entire show, and after numerous tries we finally settled on this version which calls up both the dark side of Black Mirror and the technology it references.




For this show Painting Practice developed the identity of the main news channel ‘UK News including all the onscreen interfaces, motion graphics and web feeds. Co designer Robyn Paiba also used our team extensively to generate all of the graphic design on the show from crisp boxes to company Logos.




Episode 2 had high expectations from the start. The idea of creating nearly all the solutions in camera was a challenge that would leave every computer in the office groaning! With a television schedule and Film approach ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ was going to draw on on all of our resources and challenge all of the prep and shooting crew alike. In addition to creating the set designs and graphics we were commissioned to create all matte painting work of the claustrophobic world where the story is developed.

“The first unusual challenge was not to start work in episode one but two. With a visual effects shot in almost every frame, Fifteen Million Merits was every designer and producer’s nightmare. Our decision early on was not to ‘leave it to post’ but grab a hold of the problem. So with the first film bubbling away, we set to work on the next’s concept designs and motion graphics.

We rapidly designed the sets knowing that this wasn’t our biggest challenge. The graphics needed to be created, animated and graded prior to the shoot. We also had to pre-shoot shows to appear on screens and were charged with the task of designing and creating an avatar for every actor, plus thousands of CG individuals for the audience of the show-within-the-show, Hot Shot. As the script slowly developed and characters were added, the workload increased.”

Joel Collins, Broadcast, November 2011


For the third and final episode of Black Mirror Painting Practice was given the task of designing all the on-screen interfaces and visual effects as seen throughout the show. Although full of drama and tension, this particular episode was visually much quieter than episode two, and so we designed and executed the VFX elements so that they remained at harmony with the shows beautiful production design. From sleek and sophisticated computer interfaces to a discreet yet alarming futuristic eye effects, all of the work we did in the show looks fantastic as I’m sure you’ll agree. VFX supervision was also our responsibility, and with upwards of 150 shots it was no easy task to keep everything looking consistent but we managed it!