November 02, 2007
The 20-episode, action-drama series “Cell” uses a stylized mix of live-action and CG to tell two parallel storylines for the same hero character in two-minute long episodes. Filmed exclusively for mobile phone delivery, the show shares the production qualities of a TV show. Commissioned early in 2007 by Endemol UK, the show was created by Mobstar Media.
I worked at Mobstar Media for 3 months on this project back in 2007, alongside 4 other artists. It was originally developed to be content for mobile phones, but we finished everything to broadcast quality and the series was eventually shown on a sci-fi TV channel. Because of the scale the show was originally intended to be viewed at, lead artist Oliver Smyth was keen to have a very stylized, graphic novel look to everything, with exaggerated camera angles and colour schemes. He constantly pushed us to not get bogged down with everything looking photo real, but instead look like frames from a comic book.
Filming took place entirely in a greenscreen studio, and we were tasked with creating the many environments required for the story, including a prison ship, warehouse boxing arena, hotels, nightclubs and streets. Almost everything was created in After Effects, with our one 3D artist concentrating on a selection of more difficult shots. From Oli’s storyboards I was creating everything I needed – from going out and photographing textures, building the 2.5D sets in After Effects to the final colour grade. Often it came down to additional digital matte painting to complete the shot once the basic sets had been built. I lost count of how many shots I finished in the 3 months, but the workload got pretty intense with such a small team and 40 minutes worth of vfx shots to complete. The end result really set a new standard for production values in this field, and spawned a second series.
Here is a more detailed article in Digital Arts in which I was interviewed about the post production on the show.