We are thrilled to announce that ‘Black Mirror – Metalhead’ was honoured last night with the BAFTA for ‘Special, Visual and Graphic Effects’ at the 2018 BAFTA TV Craft Awards Ceremony in London.
A huge congratulations to our whole ‘Black Mirror – Metalhead’ crew!
Written by showrunner Charlie Brooker and directed by David Slade, ‘Metalhead’ is the fifth episode of ‘Black Mirror’ Season 4. After the unexplained collapse of human society, Bella (Maxine Peake) attempts to flee from a robotic “dog”. Shot entirely in black and white on the RED EPIC Monochrome cameras, ‘Metalhead’ delivers a stark visual style that matches the bleak future it portrays.
A photo-realistic quadruped robot
DNEG TV team was briefed to create the photo-realistic quadruped robot, built from technology that could conceivably exist in the near future. The team created over 300 shots for the episode, including 200 shots involving bespoke character animation.
Starting with a concept from Series Designer Joel Collins, DNEG TV took the design further by trying to understand how such a robot would actually work. To ground the mechanical systems of the robot in reality the team looked at cutting edge research from pioneering robotics manufacturers around the world before extrapolating the results to create a plausible near-future concept.
The design of the “dog” had to feel utilitarian. The team were careful not to add superfluous details; every component had a specific purpose, from shock absorbers and internal cooling fans to the LIDAR scanning equipment inside the visor. The final model ended up comprising over 1,500 separate parts.
The DNEG TV animation team also referenced the latest robotics research to create a physically and mechanically accurate look for the robot’s movements. Although the robot was four-legged they wanted to avoid instilling too many mammalian traits within its behaviour, to help maintain a sense of engineered menace. Animators developed walk cycles that gyroscopically controlled robots can achieve but are impossible for most quadrupeds, such as balancing on two legs only.
A unique point of view for the robot
The team was also tasked with creating a unique look for the “dog’s” point of view. Both Charlie and David wanted to move away from an information filled heads-up display toward a more visual and topographically focused style. The team looked at self-driving cars for inspiration and developed a design based on real-time laser scanning technology, which reconstructs the environment as thousands of points in 3D space (LIDAR).
Watch the acceptance speech here:
And find out more about our TV VFX work here.