Doctor Who production employs LED screen technology

Posted Filed under

In Doctor Who Magazine 603, Paul Kirkley revealed that LED screen technology used by other high-end productions was used for the first time on the third 2024 series Doctor Who episode Boom, written by Steven Moffat.

Boom also marks a significant first for Doctor Who, through its use of in-camera VFX technology to create the episode’s stunning alien landscape. The technique, used extensively on productions like The Batman and the Star Wars TV shows, replaces the traditional ‘greenscreen’ process with a vast bank of LED screens – known as a ‘volume’ – plus live camera tracking and projections to create an immersive, real-time digital environment.”

With Disney providing some of the funding for the production, many fans wondered whether Doctor Who would utilize this expensive technology.

Producer Joel Collins explained the rationale behind the use of the untried technology, employed with the help of leading VXF house Pixomondo.

“One of the things we were excited to do, with slightly better resources than the past, was explore other types of technology to tell stories that otherwise may have been much harder to tell. This script is set on a world that we don’t have – a world that doesn’t exist. So you need to create it. And the cost of taking a unit on location, even for a couple of days, is huge – for something that’s still only going to be 30 or 40% right. Which means you need another 60% VFX to cover the rest. When you put all that together, it’s extraordinarily expensive.”

“As a producer I know this technology is going to give us something in the future, and [production designer] Phil [Sims] knows he’s going to get his vision out further. But, ultimately, it’s the story that dictates the need – and this was the right story.”

“From the start of Special 1 [2023’s The Star Beast],” production designer Sims explained to DWM. “Joel has had a keen eye on where in-camera VFX might give us more bang for our buck. And it was something Julie Anne [Robinson, the director] was very keen on. I had a natural reticence, because it was untried technology for us, so we had a Plan A and a Plan B.”

“Plan B was to have a painted backing, which would have given us a very ’60s version of a sci-fi show. But we always knew we needed that scale. We can create a certain amount with studio sets, but there are moments in this script when you need to break out of that.”

We are aware that a scenic painter was hired to paint an alien sky backdrop for a steep, craggy set at Wolf Studios. Kirkley describes it as “an alien vista stretches to the far horizon…”.

The suspenseful plot of Boom, as described by DWM as inspired by a Doctor Who tale from many decades ago, is “an alien battlefield, the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) must hold his nerve – or everybody dies.”

“It’s one of those that draws you in, makes you cry, makes you question,” Collins told DWM. “Steven’s work is sometimes a bit dark. So what you get is this fantastic balance, of a story like this within some of the more playful episodes.”

Boom stars Ncuti Gatwa, Millie Gibson, Jo Anderson, Caoilinn Springall, Bhav Joshi and Majid Mehdizadeh-Valoujerdy.

Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Julie Anne Robinson, Boom streams on Disney+ and BBC iPlayer on 18 May 2024 midnight, 00:00 BST (10 May 7:00pm ET). The episode will also broadcast early evening on May 11 on BBC One.

Doctor Who Magazine 603 Beatles covers

Doctor Who Magazine Issue 603 is available Thursday 25 April from Panini and WH Smith and is also available as a digital edition from Pocketmags.