Well, isn’t that lovely? Earlier today, the above picture was posted to Instagram by one Dan Kay, a TV producer who worked on Series XI and/or XII (as evidenced by this excellent picture of a bunch of lads playing Goldeneye on the N64 in the Green Room). It’s since been tweeted, on an account set up seemingly at the request of UKTV’s press team. So I guess they want us to talk about it…
There’s so much to take in. Most noticeable is the bloody great motion control rig. Motion control is the technique used by model shooters to give the impression of an object travelling, when in fact it’s only the camera that’s moving. It’s something that was used in Red Dwarf throughout its original run, which was not at the production’s disposal for Series X, due to a lack of money, or know-how, or possibly both. Coming just days after the news that two very experienced companies are involved in the shoot, this is a further indication that there have been serious improvements to the visual effects shoot this time round, after the well-documented disasters of four years ago. I mean, just look at that picture. It’s all very impressive.
This particular shot seems to be in the process of sweeping along one side of the ship, in fairly close proximity. Note also the blue-screen background. Chroma-key will be used for the spacescape; a change from the glory days the last time we had motion control, but in line with Series X and most modern model-based productions. The ship itself is looking mighty fine, and this photo has brought out a lovely shade of deep, yet murky, red. Size wise, it’s hard to get a sense of scale from a still photograph with no people in it, but those cameras aren’t small. Best guess is that this is the regular model-formerly-known-as-pencil from the last series, rather than one of the new builds, but I can’t be sure.
One more thing that the Instagram post has taught us – the location is given as Halliford Studios, which is a facility near to, but unaffiliated with, Shepperton Studios. It’s strangely heartwarming to know that at least some footage from Series XI and XII is being filmed in the show’s spiritual home; every single episode from 1991 onwards will have been at least partly shot in Shepperton.
In related news, while we now know that the model shoot is using the tried and tested motion control technique, there’s been an indication that a much newer technology is also being utilised. A couple of days ago, Richard Naylor tweeted a photo of a befucked drone, that he’d been trying and failing to operate. We were wondering whether or not this was relevant to the ongoing model shoot, but decided that it was equally likely that Richard had just bought a drone for his own personal shits and giggles.
However, today we learned that behind-the-scenes director, and current Somerset’s Hairiest Man title holder, Nathan Cubitt was on hand to film the carnage. The evidence is still not entirely conclusive, as a further tweet emphasised that it merely took place “near a BTS camera”, but we know what our money is on. The particular drone in question, DJI’s Phantom 4, is noted for its excellent camera, which is capable of shooting either in 4K, or at speeds as high as 120fps in full 1080p HD. Both of these functions would be very useful indeed on a model shoot.
It’s certainly an interesting juxtaposition: the old and the new; the reliable and the untried; the expensive and still-quite-expensive-but-relatively-cheaper. What ends up on screen in these twelve episodes is the main thing, no matter how those shots were put together, but hopefully the special effects segments of the next two documentaries will be fascinating for much happier reasons than the segment of We’re Smegged.
Thanks to Paul Muller for pointing us in the direction of the Instagram post.