Doctor Who will be showcasing the first use of crowd-generating Massive FX technology – created for the Lord of the Rings movies – on television for the first time when the new season premieres on 5 April. And the guy who developed it for Weta, Stephen Regelous, flew half way round the world to work on the show.
For the episode “Partners in Crime", Doctor Who’s CG maestros at The Mill contacted Regelous to help them create an army of diminutive critters. Regelous created Massive at digital effects company Weta. Now regarded as the premier animation system for generating crowd effects, Massive allows animators to populate a scene with individuals who are unique in their appearance and responses. When this is scaled up into the hundreds – or hundreds of thousands – the results are brilliantly realistic.
And Regelous couldn’t have been happier to be approached by The Mill. Why? Because he’s a huge Who fan. “The Mill was one of our very first customers,” explains Regelous, referring to the fact that The Mill has used the software for its movie work previously, “and we’ve been very excited to see the wonderful work that’s been produced over the years there using Massive. When I first found out that The Mill was working on Doctor Who, I was quietly hoping that Massive might be used to create hordes of Daleks or Cybermen and with series four, I jumped at the opportunity to be involved”.
“By the time I came to London for my three weeks of lending a hand, The Mill had already done a great job of putting together the characters, complete with geometry, textures and animation cycles,” Regelous continues. “So all that was left to help out with was the fun stuff of putting some magic into the brains. Though the creatures all look quite similar to each other, we were able to create a lot of subtle variation in behaviour, motion, proportions and look.”
Regelous adds “It’s been very fulfilling to be a fan from about three or four years old and finally be able to contribute to the Doctor Who universe.”