This gripping episode of Black Mirror, Season 6 sees Framestore deliver an unmissable transformation sequence that shines the spotlight on the creative studio’s award-winning creature work.
Written by Charlie Brooker, ‘Mazey Day’ centers on a troubled starlet who is dogged by invasive paparazzi while dealing with the consequences of a hit-and-run incident.
Framestore embarked on the complex process of transforming a woman into a werewolf to deliver some of the episode’s most captivating scenes. The project’s intricate and multifaceted nature, encompassing both anatomical and creative aspects, meant that the VFX team was composed almost exclusively with Heads of Department.
“We developed a transformation asset which could morph from full digi-double to werewolf,” explains Framestore VFX Supervisor, Jay Khan. “This was essential in being flexible enough to change parts of the transformation from shot to shot”.
Once the final look for the wolf had been established, Framestore’s asset team worked on fitting their digi-double of the actress to the final wolf pose. “After weeks of refining we were able to achieve a seamless blend between human and wolf. This meant that we could work towards a fully transformable asset that would give us the greatest flexibility with the client and allow us to explore all the different ways we could execute the transformation” explains Framestore CG Supervisor, Phil Robinson.
One of the biggest challenges with this workflow was the rigging. To allow different features to transform, intuitive controls were needed that were also able to transform to their new positions within the anatomy - all the while giving the freedom to reach the level of expressive performance that would be involved in an entire body crunching and breaking into position.
“Sculpted expressions were key - but we needed to make sure that they worked across each level of transformation. We had many, many conversations, iterations, and updates about teeth” Robinson adds.
For this asset, the team needed to continually consider all stages of the pipeline. “We would need to decide early on what we were hoping to accomplish in modelling, rigging, animation and importantly creature FX. We developed a system where we would output multiple caches to CFX, with varying levels of transformation, allowing them to create stretching in areas, but fully retaining the performance achieved in animation. We also had a system for bones breaking and shifting into place” explains Robinson.
The team created a base level of groom so that they could control the growth in certain areas per shot, adding bespoke grooms in shots as needed. Having such flexibility in the asset was invaluable in eventually landing on what the clients were wanting to achieve.
Khan concludes: “The chance to work on a werewolf transformation was an exciting challenge, one which required experts from all disciplines to work closely together. Being part of the Black Mirror series made it all the more compelling and gave us the opportunity to lean on our dark side”.
Black Mirror Season 6 is now streaming on Netflix.