BlueBolt provided both spectacle and a taste of Victorian London for the supernatural crime series The Irregulars, streaming on Netflix from March 26. The Irregulars is an eight-episode drama series set in Victorian London following a gang of delinquent teens who are manipulated into solving crimes for the sinister Doctor Watson and his mysterious business partner, Sherlock Holmes.
The BlueBolt team, led by VFX Supervisor Kyle Goodsell and VFX Producer Sam Dubery, provided 245 shots the series, most of which included the large-scale period London cityscapes and extensions as well as creating environments for the Steamboat and a battered Aldgate Underground.
The most important sequence for the project was at the start of the first episode, opening with Bea (Thaddea Graham) walking by the Duck & Quiver Pub. “This sequence, which was also one of our largest on the project, was key as we wanted to create a spectacle early on to sell this environment to the audience and draw them into the world of the story,” explains Goodsell. “It provides a first look at our Baker Street location and an unknown watcher. The camera soon pulls up to reveal the city of London, the first look at our full CG cityscape environment.”
Overall VFX Supervisor, Richard Briscoe explains how BlueBolt’s cityscapes were crucial to narrative. “The scope and detail of BlueBolt’s cityscapes were essential for context, allowing wider views of the sprawling period London, essential to the story and characters. We needed to help embed the main characters in their rather crowded, narrow ‘home’ backstreets environments closing them in. Also, we had to give a real sense of a wider, different London (just) beyond, with all the different types of streets and buildings, and hence, strata of society that they travel through and amongst throughout the series — from the palace, to Theatreland, to the Thames Docks, to the potteries and of course, Baker Street.”
“Any viewer re-viewing or pausing some of the shots upon revisiting the season will, I think, delight in all the little details and touches they built into our London that were perhaps not noticed first time,” Briscoe adds.
BlueBolt created shots with just the right balance of taking some historical liberties for aesthetics and following the show's design motifs, while keeping textures, weathering, overall feel and especially lighting, very naturalistic and suitably gritty — and seamless blends from set or location to full CG, from the most overt high wides to subtle glimpses.
Initially, BlueBolt was the vendor on board for any environment work, but as the series progressed, Briscoe assigned new work to the team, such as creating a chimney smashing using FX and an anamorphic lens treatment, to go hand in hand with their theatre environment in a flashback sequence.
Being involved in different styles of sequences throughout the show, from plate integration to structural layouts, “came with its own challenge,” says Dubery. “But Kyle’s creative drive often met Richard [Briscoe] and the directors' [Weronika Tofilska, Johnny Kenton and Joss Agnew] brief early on and brought the team to produce some incredibly high-quality work, both creatively and technically.”
The BlueBolt Post team was made of 32 artists working at different stages throughout the project.
Filming for The Irregulars started in September 2019 and wrapped after exactly a year due to the pandemic slowdown. The final shot was delivered at the end of January 2021. The majority of filming took place in Liverpool, including St George's Plateau. The palm house was shot in Sefton Park and Falkner Street in the Georgian Quarter. There were other locations in Manchester, Sheffield and Stoke-On-Trent.
From August 2019, the BlueBolt team began asset work on the London build, which quickly developed into previz for the opening aerial shot of the city, that in turn drove specific plates shot at Wentworth, which hosted The Duck & Quiver pub seen throughout the series and often the foreground feature to their Baker street and London cityscape additions.
The main compositing tool used on the show was Nuke, with Maya and Houdini supporting the 3D pipeline.
Almost all the post for this show was produced through the pandemic. “This was probably the biggest challenge the team had faced,” concludes Dubery. “The team needed to adapt working from home and the trials that came with it – from being at the mercy of home broadband speeds and working in your living room, to childcare and timing your weekly food shop to avoid the crowds! No doubt a vast amount of tea and coffee were consumed in the making of this show!”