Post studio uFX has just completed work on ‘Jackboots On Whitehall’, a satirical
history of WW2 played by 1/6th-scale puppets, delivering over 1,200 VFX shots,
the DI grade and multiple deliverables for theatrical release.
The production, shot on 35mm with Viper cameras at 3 Mills Studios in London, employs animated puppets, with sets and characters built to 1/6th scale, and an all-star cast of voice talents. ‘Jackboots On Whitehall’ was written and directed by Edward and Rory McHenry, and produced with Karl Richards. Hitler and his gang of ruthless Nazi drones take over London and England, forcing Winston Churchill and a band of brave Kentish farmers to amass at Hadrian’s Wall to prevent an all-out Nazi invasion of the UK.
uFX received the script for Jackboots On Whitehall in early 2009. Initially, the directors did not intend to use facial animation on the puppets, expecting only VFX clean-up, set-extensions, greenscreen compositing and atmospheric effects. However, early discussions with producer Karl Richards lead to uFX running a series of successful tests in R&D to develop each character and add dynamism to the action.
During the production, which took place from June to August 2009, uFX's VFX supervisor and lead artist Jonathan Cheetham provided on-set visual effects supervision. In post, with a team of nine CG and compositing artists, uFX turned out over 75 shots per week, delivering more than 1,200 shots in under six months. All compositing was completed in Nuke and Fusion, with the DI grade done in Scratch at 2K in realtime in uFX's screening theatre. Deliverables included HDCamSR and the DCP. The 35mm filmout and prints were provided by Ascent Media.
“Nearly every shot you see in the final, on-screen version has VFX – whether it's facial animation, explosions, set extensions, greenscreen compositing, clean-up, muzzle flashes, or smoke and debris effects," said Clare Cheetham, VFX producer at uFX. However, Jonathan Cheetham said, "We were using CG imagery only to enhance each scene and retain the satiric nature of the 'anim-action' captured in-camera. We aimed to avoid distracting the audience with obvious or overly-strong effects." Claire said that the main challenge on this project was time, but that they have been refining their VFX, editorial and DI workflow and delivered the shots on time and on budget.