Black Mirror made waves when it first aired in 2011, presenting viewers with the deeply uncomfortable possibilities of contemporary technologies gone awry. Surrounded by our daily ‘black mirrors’ – the plethora of smartphones, laptops and television screens in our pockets, palms and homes – the ever-changing casts of the episodes discover the dark side-effects of the inventions making our lives ‘easier’, one sinister malfunction at a time.
The artists worked on ‘Playtest’, directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane). The series’ move to Netflix, plus the public’s ravenous appetite for more episodes, resulted in a serious upping in production values for Season 3, giving Framestore opportunity to showcase one of its finest skillsets – creature work – in spectacular 4k.
The work centred around the design of a fully CG creature, a disturbing mash-up of spider and human which haunts character Cooper (played by Wyatt Russell), who is lost in a state somewhere between game engine and greatest fears. The episode seeks to explore the line between the virtual and the real, leaving viewers to question their own understanding of the evolving demarcation between the two.
Though an actor was originally shot and photo-scanned for reference, in particular for his eyes, it proved better ultimately to fashion the entire asset in CG, to allow maximum manipulation and effect. The artists were able to draw on the experience of Framestore’s Capture Lab to assist with the scanning, using Zbrush to blend the information onto the spider build.