Tag Archives: Milk VFX

‘Ex Machina’ VFX team gets Oscar

Artists from London’s Double Negative and Milk VFX took home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects for their work on Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. In winning, Milk’s co-founder, Sara Bennett, became one of two women to ever win the Academy Award for VFX — the other was Suzanne Benson for her work on Aliens during the 59th Academy Awards.

Bennett got the gold along with Double Negative’s Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris and Mark Ardington. This is Dneg’s second win in as many years, taking home the statue for work on last year’s Interstellar.

“I am beyond excited!! We are thrilled and honored to be recognized by The Academy for our work on Ex Machina,” says Bennett. “It was a privilege to work with Alex Garland and to bring his incredible vision to life, alongside Andrew Whitehurst and the Dneg team. I would love to see more women in prominent creative roles in our industry — I was a little shocked to find out I was the third-ever female VFX Oscar nominee.”

“I’m still in shock, I think, but what an incredible experience and what an amazing group of people to represent,” says Double Negative’s Whitehurst

Norris says, “It was an honor and privilege to represent out team at the 88th Academy Awards — it was an amazing experience that’s still sinking in!”

Double Negative

“The whole crew did an incredible job, and should be, rightfully, proud,” says Ardington.  “Our work stands on the shoulders of every other department from day one — from reading Alex Garland’s amazing script, through to the beautiful cinematography, striking production design, ingenious costume and make-up, awesome soundtrack and, of course, the wonderful performances from Alicia, Oscar, Domhnall and Sonoya.  What a journey this has been.”

Double Negative delivered 303 shots for Ex Machina, but that number is slightly deceptive due to the length of the shots — their average shot length was eight seconds and their longest shot was 1,800 frames.

According to Whitehurst, “The work on Ex Machina was focused around the creation of Ava, a robotic character, realized through the careful duplication of Alicia Vikhander’s performance mapped onto a fully articulated CG robotic body.”

Milk VFX, which worked on about 100 shots on the film, designed and created Ava’s CG brain, which is seen during the conversation between Nathan and Caleb in the construction lab. For the design of Ava’s brain, Milk was briefed to use jelly fish references while incorporating a computerized “tech” feel in its design.

Using Side Effects Houdini, the build was fully procedural with strong emphasis on the ability to quickly choreograph and combine major features to reduce the turnaround of versions during the look development phase.

Milk VFX

Starting from a sculpted core mesh, a complex set-up was built to create the main features of the brain, including frills, tentacles, pores, antennae, wireframe cages and air bubbles. The Milk team opted for noise-driven animation over simulations in order to avoid having to rig and animate each shot separately. Collisions were solved by post deforming wires and meshes using volume collision approaches where necessary. The resulting brain asset was then brought into Maya for shading and lighting using Arnold and finally composited in Nuke.

Milk was also tasked with devising a look and style for Ava’s visual point of view — seen at the start of the film when lead character Caleb wins the office lottery, and in the bathroom scene. A range of supporting 2D shots was also created, including environment fixes, compositing and monitor inserts with animated graphics.

London’s Milk VFX house expands to Wales

London-based Milk VFX is opening a second studio in Cardiff, Wales, to support its expanding roster of TV and feature film projects, such as ITV’s 13-part warrior drama Beowulf and Thunderbirds are Go, FX’s The Bastard Executioner, Hartswood/BBC’s Sherlock, as well as the feature film Poltergeist and the recently completed Insurgent, the second offering in the Divergent series.

Milk’s new studio is located at the GloWorks building in Cardiff Bay — the Welsh Government’s flagship center for creative industries. Milk will open at the end of April with 20 artist seats and will begin work immediately on projects including the upcoming ninth season of the BBC’s Doctor Who and Hartswood/BBC’s Sherlock Christmas Special 2015. The new studio will share seamless communications and workflow with Milk’s London office via Sohonet.

VFX supervisor Sue Land will manage the new studio, reporting to Will Cohen, Milk’s CEO and executive producer. Milk has already recruited a number of key crew locally and will work closely with the Welsh Government and Creative Skillset to maximize opportunities to hire and train local talent as the studio grows. Milk has received the support of the Welsh Government as part of its program to foster the creative industries in Wales.

“Wales has a growing reputation as a great location for the film and television industry, and the Milk team are excited to be part of it,” reports Cohen. “The Welsh Government has been extremely supportive. They have helped us to locate our premises and talked us through the various options for new business support in Wales. They are passionate about growing the infrastructure and it is infectious!”

And regarding the move to Cardiff in particular, he says, it was “a natural choice of location, given our long-term relationship with BBC Wales, as the BBC Roath Lock Studios are just opposite GloWorks, where Milk’s studio will be located. Milk’s new Cardiff hub will share seamless communications and workflow with our main London studio — enabling us to replicate its boutique style service.”

Milk’s location in Cardiff will use the same tools as its London location, including Maya, Houdini, Arnold, Golaem Crowd, Yeti, Mari, Nuke, Ocula, 3D Equalizer, Deadline, RV, Shotgun and some proprietary offerings.

Milk provides 117 VFX shots for ‘Doctor Who’ debut episode

The BBC’s Doctor Who is back, to the delight of television audiences worldwide. The series, which has gone through eight iterations over the years, recently had its season debut, and London-based VFX house Milk played a role.

The studio created the visual effects for the premiere episode “Deep Breath,” which featured Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who. Ben Wheatley directed the 80-minute episode, which was simulcast and screened in cinemas globally on August 23.

The focus of Milk’s work, 87 shots worth, was the sinister and mysterious “Half-Face Man,” who appears throughout the episode. Milk replaced one entire side of the actor Peter Ferdinando’s head in 87 of the 117 digital shots produced by Milk.

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Milk to create VFX for new ‘Doctor Who’ series

London — Milk Visual Effects (www.milk-vfx.com), which created VFX for the BBC’s Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special episode: Day of the Doctor, has been commissioned by the BBC to create the visual effects for the eighth series of Doctor Who, starring new doctor Peter Capaldi. The new series will be broadcast in 2014.

Milk is currently working with the BBC to create the VFX for the much anticipated one-hour Doctor Who Christmas Special: The Time of the Doctor — in which Matt Smith’s doctor will regenerate into Peter Capaldi’s incoming Thirteenth Doctor — due to air on BBC One on Christmas Day. Doctor Who series eight will start shooting in January 2014.

The news comes on the heels of the BBC’s landmark Doctor Who 50th anniversary special: The Day of The Doctor for which Milk created the VFX work in stereoscopic 3D.

The team at Milk (previously as The Mill’s TV department prior to Milk’s launch in June 2013) has been creating the visual effects for Doctor Who since its regeneration in 2005. During this time they have scooped a raft of awards including a BAFTA, a VES (Visual Effects Society) Award and an RTS Award for their VFX work.

According to Milk CEO Will Cohen, “Many of us on the team have been privileged to enjoy a 10-year love affair with Doctor Who, so to be able to carry on collaborating with the BBC Wales team on telling these incredible stories fills us with joy and provides us with an opportunity as VFX artists to help push the boundaries of what can be done visually on television.”

will cohensmall

CEO Will Cohen

He added: ”A new series with a newly regenerated Doctor is in many ways like starting working on the show all over again. Doctor Who is a show that never, ever gets boring. It’s different every week. This will be our fourth Doctor and we are very, very excited!”

Milk’s current TV projects also include Sherlock: Series Three (Hartswood Films/BBC); new pirate drama series Black Sails for Starz; Sky’s New Year’s Day TV special – David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive (Sky Atlantic); and the new TV drama Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a seven-part miniseries due to be broadcast on BBC One in the UK in 2015.

On the feature film side, Milk is working on MGM’s upcoming Hercules and has recently completed work on 47 Ronin for Universal.