VFX for submarine thriller on BBC

Goodbye Kansas Studios in London was the main vendor for all visual effects in BBC’s hit series “Vigil”. The first episode of Vigil premiered on BBC One and BBC iPlayer August 29 2021 and attracted an audience of 10.2 million across the first seven days, making it BBC’s most watched new drama of the year so far.

Vigil is described as a “deep sea thriller” starting with a mysterious disappearance of a fishing trawler and a death-on-board the Trident nuclear submarine HMS Vigil, which brings the police into conflict with the Navy and British Security services.

Goodbye Kansas Studios worked on all six episodes. In collaboration with VFX producer, Desirée Rydén, Visual Effects Supervisor Jim Parsons played a vital part in the success of the production, being on-set during the filming of scenes and providing around the clock support to both the production and VFX teams through- out post-production.

He worked closely with directors James Strong and Isabelle Sieb on their vision for Vigil. “It was a really ambitious project with very demanding visual effects,” he said. “As you can imagine, the whole show involved a lot of water, and despite these kinds of effects coming on leaps and bounds in recent years, anyone will tell you that CGI water is still a diffi- cult thing to pull off successfully.”

One of the most important assets created for Vigil was the title character itself - an incredibly detailed 150 metre model of a Trident nuclear submarine, where the main action occurs throughout all six episodes. But with images, and even drawings, of real-life Naval submarines being a classified secret, developing a true to life ‘replica’ was certainly a big challenge for the production team.

Jim explained, “We created a convincing model through extensive research, even going so far as talking to a former Navy officer... obviously without revealing any classified information! The next challenge was to submerge HMS Vigil into the ‘digital North Sea’, developing each shot to make the submarine look like more than a long object in a dark ocean. We created a thickness to the water that allowed pools of light through it, creating a sinister and ominous mood, with every shot of the submarine adding to the atmosphere of the show’s mystery.”

Being a main VFX vendor for a BBC series was yet another important milestone for Goodbye Kansas Studios in London. As the Film/TV industry is emerging from the shadows of the pan- demic, the VFX industry is ramping up again and Goodbye Kansas Studios is currently working on VFX for several upcoming series for recurring clients like Netflix and Amazon, but the titles of those productions can still not be disclosed.

See how we created some of the visual effects here.