The secrets of Doctor Who's Christmas special

axisVFX reveals its approach to the VFX for the Christmas Day broadcast of Doctor Who.

Giant robot

AxisVFX contributed more than 120 shots for the episode

Most of the visual effects on Doctor Who are handled by Milk VFX but every now and again another studio gets called in to help. During season 8, Bristol- and Glasgow-based boutique visual effects studio AxisVFX were asked a new multi-dimensional menace called The Boneless. And this year they were called back to create visual effects for the flagship Christmas Day episode.

axisVFX completed more than 120 shots for the episode, from alien planets and giant robots to galactic star-liners.

Spooky scene

Maya, Houdini and Nuke were used to create a multitude of effects

The team, led by co-owner and VFX supervisor Grant Hewlett worked closely to complete a range of work spanning digital matte painting, character animation, fluids and particle simulation work, rigid body simulations and compositing using Maya, Houdini and Nuke.

'Whilst I was on-set liaising with Douglas throughout the shoot," says Hewlett, "Stuart worked in parallel, supervising the build of digital assets, creation of concept art and the production of early previz."

The Doctor and carol singer

Autodesk's Shotgun was usedto review work

The company uses Autodesk's Shotgun to review work, and has developed a number of proprietary tools for the seamless delivery of final VFX shot anywhere in the world.

"We engage a huge amount of technical ability, hardware and software to complete the work," says Hewlett. "But what actually matters is collaboration, listening and bang for buck."

The Doctor and River

AxisVFX were on-set throughout the shoot

"It was a pleasure and an honour to work with Douglas, Brian, Nikki and Steven again on Doctor Who," says Hewlett. "It was a huge honour to contribute again to this iconic sci-fi classic."

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