© Scott Free London and Hardy Son & Baker.

BlueBolt on BAFTA-nominated BBC series, "Taboo"

Henry Badgett, Visual Effects Supervisor at BlueBolt

To celebrate the inspiring talent in the VFX industry, Autodesk is delighted to present interviews with the nominees of the Special, Visual & Graphic Effects category for the 2018 British Academy Television Craft Awards.

Henry Badgett, VFX Supervisor at BlueBolt, talks us through the challenges he faced working on 'Taboo', how he got to where he is in the industry, what inspires him, and gives advice for new artists.


 

How did you get started in the VFX business? 

I initially did a compositing training course at Finishing School and after studying architecture for my degree, I decided that wasn't for me, and I wanted to look for another creative industry where I could apply my skills. My interest came from discovering an industry that was completely new to me, and which still feels like a young and vibrant industry today.


Tell us about the work you’re nominated for, what are you most proud of?

On Taboo I'm most proud of BlueBolt's creative involvement. BlueBolt was involved in talks with the production team long before they started shooting, and we had a presence on set for most of the shoot. The bulk of the work was creating and extending environments, where we took the lead from production designer Sonja Klaus's brilliant work. Using her set design at Tilbury Fort as a starting point, we worked closely with her team in the early stages to build a grimy London riverside of 1814.


BBC series Taboo BlueBolt VFX breakdown

Still from BBC series Taboo, BlueBolt VFX breakdown© Scott Free London and Hardy Son & Baker.



With so many different views there was plenty of room for us to enjoy some creative design work. The local geography of the story's main location, down by the river in Wapping, was particularly important to making sense of the edit. So, we created a huge low-resolution virtual set that we could use to orientate ourselves and the viewers, adding matte painting detail where necessary and bringing it to life in comp. Some of the individual shots I am most proud of were some green screen shots set on the banks of the Thames. It wasn't far to walk to get some photography and, although the river has changed a lot, these shots were directly usable as
there are places left that still have the mood we needed.


BBC series Taboo BlueBolt VFX breakdown

Still from BBC series Taboo, BlueBolt VFX breakdown© Scott Free London and Hardy Son & Baker.



Our work also included some fully computer-generated backgrounds for green screen shots (generally around the river Thames setting, including the London landmarks of St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London). There were lots of blood and guts, rifle fire and bullet hits, as well as adding period sailing ships to the Thames (with lots of ship masts in the background of other scenes), including two of them separately catching fire - helped here by some fantastic special effects from Special Effects (SFX) supervisor Colin Gorry. Colin also produced some spectacular explosions for the final episode's escape/battle sequence.


BBC series Taboo BlueBolt VFX breakdown

Still from BBC series Taboo, BlueBolt VFX breakdown© Scott Free London and Hardy Son & Baker. 



What tools did you use?

Maya, Nuke, Photoshop, Arnold, Shotgun. Taboo was an environment based show of the sort BlueBolt specialize in doing, it was nice to use our familiar default software freeing us to concentrate on the creative challenges.


What was your team like who worked on this nominated work with you?

I supervised a brilliant team of around 30 people for over nine months at BlueBolt: We completed 580 shots in 8 episodes.


What were the most difficult technical challenges you overcame on the production?

The biggest technical challenge was keeping track of layout changes made for individual shots and handling the knock-on effects on the scene. I'll admit we cheated a little and there were a few 'floating' churches to make them visible, and the scale of our St Paul's cathedral varied wildly (which is not the first project I've had this issue!)


BBC series Taboo BlueBolt VFX breakdown

Still from BBC series Taboo© Scott Free London and Hardy Son & Baker.


What are you working on now?

Currently, I'm working on Johnny English 3: It’s fun working on a comedy as there is always another aspect to consider, apart from the way it looks in any shot.


What advice would you give to people starting out in the industry?

To anyone considering getting into Visual Effects (VFX) I say do it! It’s a fun industry with some great jobs, and there are many far more relevant degree courses available to choose from now.


How is the industry evolving/changing?

The high-end TV explosion continues, which is great for us. The variety of work is greater than ever before, with some interesting stuff happening away from the traditional VFX, the home of sci-fi and action genres. 


What trends excite you?

It’s really interesting watching the electronics manufacturers trying to figure out what developments really make a difference to the viewing experience, whether it’s more resolution, a higher frame rate or some kind of stereo viewing. I'm wondering whether as a more traditional film and TV VFX house we will be asked to do any Virtual Reality (VR) projects, and what that would involve. 


What do you do in your spare time?

Anything outside! Compositing specifically and VFX, in general, is so indoorsy. Also, I find playing guitar a great antidote to screen fatigue, using my ears instead of my eyes for a bit.



Massive thanks to Henry and the entire BlueBolt team for sharing your insights. Congratulations on the Special, Visual & Graphic Effects Nomination, British Academy Television Craft Awards 2018!

Tags
  • Maya
  • Shotgun
  • Arnold
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