One of the most awaited drama series of 2019, His Dark Materials, produced by Bad Wolf for BBC and HBO, was finished at Technicolor in London. With a story set in a parallel universe that seems like the Britain of a century ago, and with fantastic elements such as giant armoured polar bears and ever-present “daemons” – animal representations of the human soul – the production is a tour de force of visual effects, and therefore somewhat demanding of the colourist, Jean-Clément Soret.
One of the challenges of the story – based on a trilogy of novels from Philip Pullman – is that each human character has a daemon, and humans are rarely seen on screen without their daemons around them. That meant a large number of VFX shots to insert the CGI daemons.
The first series – based on Northern Lights, the opening novel of the trilogy – moves from an Oxford college bathed in warm sunshine to “The North”, Pullman’s name for the Arctic, where the first battles take place.
As well as remarkable creative control, the Baselight grading facilities at Technicolor also provided critical support in the workflow, by giving free access to all the raw footage from the series as well as the VFX shots as they developed. The practicalities of creating eight hours of premium drama in a television timescale meant that grading on specific episodes took place when directors and DoPs were available for supervision. That meant that Jean-Clément Soret could be working on three or four episodes at any one time.
The result is an engaging, enthralling drama that looks ravishing and chilling in turn. This first series is broadcast on BBC1 and HBO in November and December, while the second series is already in production.