“Mistika was the only viable choice. SGO’s technology offered a coherent all-in-one piece of kit with fast turnaround of the kind of high quality stereo finishing that was required on every shot of the show.
Mistika gave us the power to achieve advanced stereo refinements that just weren’t an option on any other system.
Mistika’s advanced stereo toolset proved so capable that we actually ended up downgrading a number of challenging shots out of VFX and into the Mistika where we could make improvements more quickly, saving time and allowing us to keep the VFX budget down.”
David Wigram, Stereo 3D Consultant, Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Episode
Mistika’s involvement included the conform, online and stereo 3D finishing work. Every frame of the iconic Doctor Who show went through Mistika, prior to the delivery of both the 2D and Stereoscopic 3D versions.
DOCTOR WHO ONE-OFF SPECIAL MAKES GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS
Part of British popular culture, Doctor Who has influenced generations of television professionals, many of whom grew up watching the series. Starring Matt Smith, David Tennant and Jenna Coleman with Billie Piper and John Hurt, the 75 minute BBC Cymru Wales produced anniversary episode was seen on BBC One and was also broadcast on three BBC channels and shown in cinemas across the country, and top of the box-office draw of the night. The one-off special was the most requested programme ever on BBC iPlayer in 24 hours with 1.27 million requests, beating the Olympic opening ceremony, and is also the most tweeted drama ever.
The programme is listed in the Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, the “most successful” science fiction series of all time and now for the largest ever simulcast of a TV drama with its 50th anniversary special, airing in 94 countries and also shown in 834 cinemas around the world.
DOCTOR WHO IS WORLD’S FIRST MAJOR TV DRAMA FILMED IN NATIVE STEREO 3D
The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary episode was the world’s first major television drama to be filmed in native Stereo 3D (S3D) providing a natural and vivid experience for the viewer. Steven Moffat and the Doctor Who producers wanted to give audiences a memorable experience for the show’s 50th birthday, by choosing to bring their ambitious story to life in the immersive S3D genre for maximum impact.
THE VFX TEAM DELIVERED GROUND-BREAKING RESULTS
Following the enthusiastic lead of Producer Marcus Wilson, the Doctor Who team broke new ground both in terms of affordability, and in freeing the director from limitations normally associated with 3D. The team which included Lead Stereographer Adam Sculthorp and Stereo 3D Consultant David Wigram successfully delivered an excellent 3D programme that can be appreciated on the big screen as well as at home on TV.
David Wigram emphasises Mistika’s reliable capabilities from the outset, “During the testing phase, it was determined that one of the VFX teams had a gamma inconsistency somewhere in their pipeline when working directly with the ARRI ALEXA camera originals, so we used Mistika to take everything into high bit-depth DPX so that they were successfully able to round-trip without error.”
FILMING – MISTIKA’S OPTICAL FLOW CREATED A COMFORTABLE VIEWING EXPERIENCE
Director Nick Hurran and Steven Moffat, filmed the feature-length project in S3D. “The show was originated at 1080p 25 on the Alexa, with some high speed sequences shot at 4K on RED Epics.” Adam confirmed. Director of Photography Neville Kidd tested various combinations of lenses before selecting ARRI Ultra Primes. Consistency was maintained with the regular Doctor Who production, which was always filmed using ARRI’s cameras, choosing the AlexaM light weight hand-held camera for this episode.
David explains further, “The tools driven by optical flow in Mistika also helped us out of a particularly tricky issue with a rolling shutter that caused very slight temporal artefacts. It occurred at the camera stage and fortunately was noted fairly early on in the shoot, and Mistika came to the rescue of solving a large number of non-traditional stereo refinements. In other situations these would have been upgraded to full VFX shots, but the optical flow tools in Mistika clamped down on the eye-to-eye differences with just a couple of simple clicks, and left us with a comfortable viewing experience.”
MISTIKA’S STEREO FINISHING TOOLS SET EACH SHOT IN S3D SPACE
Supported by long-standing Post Supervisor Nerys Davies, David Wigram set up a picture workflow that allowed each VFX supplier to keep their internal data-flow the same. Unlike 2D productions, every shot in S3D needed to go through a special online Stereo 3D finishing process to make sure it was comfortable to view, before the creative depth-grade which sets each shot in S3D space. The industry-leading Mistika was used for the conform, online and Stereo 3D “fixes” in post giving complete control over the stereo image and was achieved by David using the Mistika suite based at The Look in London’s Soho.
CEO and award-winning Colourist at The Look, Thomas Urbye states “We were thrilled to provide our Mistika based Stereoscopic facilities for consultant David Wigram to use for such an important and well loved show.”
David Wigram expands “When creating a picture workflow we looked at other options for the stereo finishing stage, including combinations of different manufacturer’s offerings, but Mistika was the only viable choice.” David continued “SGO’s technology offered a coherent all-in-one piece of kit with fast turnaround of the kind of high quality stereo finishing that was required on every shot of the show. Over and above that, Mistika gave us the power to achieve advanced stereo refinements that just weren’t an option on any other system.”
David added further “Mistika’s advanced stereo toolset proved so capable that we actually ended up downgrading a number of challenging shots out of VFX and into the Mistika where we could make improvements more quickly, saving time and allowing us to keep the VFX budget down.”
S3D AND SPECIAL EFFECTS
Special effects can prove challenging with S3D productions and David Wigram also provided assistance and feedback throughout the VFX process, from shot design to compositing in Mistika, making sure the 3D was the best it could be. Director Nick Hurran tested with Real SFX to get the right combination of explosives and shooting style to get the most out of the 3D. Millennium FX adjusted their creature effects and prosthetics to minimise issues associated with stereoscopic shiny surfaces. The visual effects were spread across a number of companies, with Jellyfish working on the hero Zygon transformation, Bluebolt providing the Digital Matte Paintings of the desert, and BBC Wales providing laser blasts, holograms and flying composites. The BAFTA Award-winning team at Milk did the majority of work including full CG shots of Dalek ships and aerial attack runs over Arcadia, as well as all the key 3D painting effects, and the challenging portal composites.
David concludes “At key emotional points in the episode we were offered extreme close-ups of the Doctors, and the shots came to us with significant differences in the sharpness between the left and right eyes. The most common stereo improvement technique in this type of scenario is to perform a 2D to 3D conversion with the sharper eye, but in Mistika we were able to bring back the sharpness in the soft eye selectively across the frame. This gave us a pair of images matched in sharpness and clarity that, nonetheless, maintained the unique glistening quality characteristic of a native stereo image, something that couldn’t have been achieved through conversion techniques, thanks to Mistika.”
ABOUT DOCTOR WHO
Doctor Who is a British science-fiction television programme produced by the BBC. It follows the adventures of a Time Lord time-travelling humanoid alien known as The Doctor. He explores the universe in a TARDIS, a sentient time-travelling space ship, appearing as a blue British police box, a common sight in 1960’s Britain when the series first aired. The Doctor faces enemies while trying to save civilisations and help every day people. Further information about the special Doctor Who 50th Anniversary episode can be found here and here.
SOME KEY POST CREDITS INCLUDE:
Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Faith Penhale
Producer Marcus Wilson
Lead Stereographer Adam Sculthorp
Post Supervisor Nerys Davies
Stereo 3D Consultant David Wigram using Mistika at The Look in Soho, London owned by Thomas Urbye
Post Production System for online, conform, and Stereo 3D refinements – SGO’s Mistika