During the development of 'Time Lord Victorious', a brand new multi-platform Doctor Who story told across audio, novels, comics, vinyl, digital, immersive theatre and more, the BBC approached Studio Liddell to take on the challenge of producing a five episode YouTube animation series featuring the Doctor's most feared enemy, the Daleks!
Each episode was to be 10-15 minutes in length and the entire series had to be delivered within in a five month schedule, to be part of the 'Time Lord Victorious' celebration.
The Studio Liddell team had just started working remotely due to Covid. Pre-production had the team assessing the scripts to work out the asset build, animation and development approach and timings.
The story called for visiting four different planets, four different speaking alien races (Daleks, Librarians, Mecanoids, the Sentinel), three cities, huge armies of Daleks and Mecanoids battling against each other, massive explosions, debris, chase sequences and a mysteriously powerful alien set on destroying the Daleks forever.
We determined that in order to meet the production deadline we would need to employ a real-time 3D production approach using Unity as the main development platform. Studio Liddell have been working with real-time projects in Unity since 2008 and have many years of knowledge and expertise in this area. We also had some new technology we could adapt which would help speed up real-time animation production.
Daleks, Mecanoids and Librarian's all visualise their speech with synchronised flashing/blinking lights. We were going to have to animate all these characters, speaking to each other, including ( spoilers! ) an army of 10,000 Dalek's chanting “Ex-ter-minate!”.
We had recently been developing some software to automate and synchronise mouth animations to speech using real-time audio tracks. We quickly adapted this new technology to automatically synchronise all character's speech visualisation in the series, which saved literally weeks of animation work.
Work began on developing real-time, dynamic storyboards in Unity Timeline which would later become the actual episodes. Each scene was developed using the cast script recordings as the base, playing back in real-time via Timeline. Camera shots and movements were created in Timeline using Cinemachine and rendering was done frame by frame using Unity Recorder.
With a core team of seven people, the best way to meet the deadline was to develop multiple episodes simultaneously. We established three episode development teams developing assets alongside. Episodes 1, 3 & 4 were developed first followed by battle heavy episodes 2 & 5.
The BBC were thrilled with the result and we delivered on time and in budget. The series is available on the BBC YouTube channel under the title 'Daleks!'.