michael pickwoad

anonymous asked:

beyond dumb fandom drama, there were actually some interesting tidbits that came out of sherlocked usa, tho nothing hugely surprising. one that's gotten less circulation is that apparently arwel wyn jones said he's taking over production design for dw s11. which means we're losing michael pickwoad and that's super sad but makes sense since he's one of those longtimers who probably sees this as a good stopping point. but arwel's a brilliant replacement who's both amazing generally &familiar w/ dw

So I hear! From the sound of things, he puts an immense amount of love and detail into his work and adds meaning to small, often overlooked details, so I reckon that should be an excellent fit with the imaginitive infinities of Doctor Who. I hope Michael Pickwoad will be happy wherever he goes next, and wish Arwel Wyn Jones a very happy Doctor Who career.


Go behind the scenes and take a tour of the New York City Skyline with Peter Capaldi, Charity Wakefield, and production designer Michael Pickwoad.

Notes on Heaven Sent, Part 1

Below I have broken down scene 1 of the BBC-published script for Doctor Who S09E11 and annotated it with a combinations of notes, thoughts, and questions. This starts to illustrate the complexity of the script and the process of figuring out shots, set design, locations, production, etc etc. - the decisions/discussions that went into the details. Many of these are in a shorthand note form I might use to annotate the script on an early read, others contain more detailed explanations. 

What is the castle? References? Where will we find the spire footage – shoot/stock?

sunrise? 2nd unit shoot or stock footage? Practical or VFX?

2nd unit/stock for sky? 

We ended up taking a stock sky shot and animated the moving flare, rather than the more common moving clouds shot. (Note that the flare is moving in the wrong direction.) 

For the light sweeping in the room – find a room where we have access to windows where we can put lights on cranes and create the movement. Smoke will enhance this? 

We found these logistics in the Great Hall on the main floor of Caerphilly Castle, where the lighting could be controlled for the moving beams and they fortunately did allow us to use movie smoke. Lights were on lifts to provide enough height for the shadows to hit the floor to emphasize the movement. 

This could have been done with VFX as well. 

The Castle design:  Production Designer Michael Pickwoad suggested the look of Pierrefonds as it is Disney-esque fantasy, isolated, and complex. 

We location-scouted castles: Caerphilly, Cardiff, St Donat’s (William Randolph Hearst’s house/castle in Wales, now a  school), Castle Coch, Raglands, and Chepstow. Each had elements that could work, but we used only the first two — St Donat’s was a wish-list addition, but was ultimately difficult to shoot for the complicated scenes we were placing there. 

There’s a film production ‘joke’: “Montage is the French word for overtime”. 

What does this paragraph mean? How many shots? Where? This could shoot for a whole week…or more…  After much time discussion about breaking this into 10 or more shots in different locations, I pitched the idea of shooting stills (during our break while everyone important was at Comicon and we were starting to prep episode 12), so DOP Stuart, AD Scott, my daughter, and I went to Cardiff Castle and shot 200 or so stills of details in the castle. Well, Stuart did all the work, and Scott, Sophie and I talked to the docent and learned more about the Castle history. We were allowed access to non-public areas of the castle. The private prayer room is yet another spectacular area of the house. Magic words: ‘Doctor Who’. As it is, Cardiff Castle does a DW tour of areas used in the series.

We only used 2 or 3 of the shots in the episode, but the collection is amazing. 

We could only afford [time was a major limitation, because we had so many sets to build for the episode] to build two cog machines — one metal/brass and one ‘stone’. Conceptually, stone was used for castle locations and brass for Time-Lord technology rooms — the Teleport chamber and the Azbantium Wall room.

We were not entirely consistent with this, but that was my ‘concept’. Moving these contraptions around, keeping them working, etc, limited what was where – especially in the practical locations, where we also had to be careful not to damage anything. It was a particular chore to bring one to the Fireplace room on the top floor of a room in Caerphilly, accessible only by one narrow circular staircase. 

Which corridor?

Blood? — very not-Doctor-Who.

At this point, I  don’t have any idea who this is. Later I know and realize nothing can be given away.

My corridor of choice was at Cardiff Castle, but we were not permitted to use blood at this location. Must re-think.

Later we see this blood disappear, as if the area is re-setting.  

Traveling along the corridors — which ones? What details? — there was a great corridor in Caerphilly (no time, hard to light, ultimately did not use), instead Caerphilly had the best staircase. In 2015, all those areas have metal railings for health and safety. We were allowed into a non-public area of the castle that had not yet been fitted with these – this was a coup. Otherwise they need to be avoided,( limiting angles), or digitally removed, (limiting camera movement). 

Fantastic battlement corridors all around the perimeter of Cardiff Castle (priority to use these as they were majestically long, but also difficult to light).

Radial and circular corridor around teleport chamber must be built. No locations have circular corridors. The Radial corridor must be narrow enough that the Doctor cannot get around the Veil – “finally run out of corridor - a life summed up”. Radial corridor needs moving wall at the end – hence building it made most sense. 

I work with Scott to figure out time/locations/logistics – and what a splinter unit (2nd camera running around pickup up extra shots) could help with. It’s always about time-management. Always maximize shooting time. “Moving locations is not shooting”.

Photographic thoughts: Wider lens to emphasize movement. Lower angle, but only if we have a ceiling on the set.

Lighting thoughts: Graphic hard shadows of German Expressionism. Minimal smoke so that nothing looks soft – avoid romanticism of castles. Creepy, scary only. But the corridors in Cardiff are too high up and too long to light from outside the windows. Does that make this idea impossible? (Ultimately not at all, because Stuart had a plan, but these are my early considerations). 

Lighting: besides the sunlight (or simulated sunlight), what are our sources? No fire or torches or electric lighting. We can light the sets through the windows, but will it be enough? If it is to be scary, we want dark. But not too dark, that scares broadcasters. And what about the nighttime? How many moons in this location? Where are we, anyway? What colour is our night? Blue feels wrong, even though it invokes cold. Ultimately we decide the confession dial sides are reflecting orange into the night sky. And the Doctor is on Gallifrey, another  orange reflection. And it’s the Doctor’s torture chamber and the Time Lords want it to evoke hell.

I spend time staring at shadows and light in each castle location we scout. I look like I’m zoning out, but I am gathering ideas. Stuart and I are trading images. 

I used this image as reference for lighting the corridor outside the garden - you may notice that much of the lighting makes no sense. I had to push for that. 

Monitors cannot be mounted in the practical locations. How to solve this? How big are they? Is this old or new technology? How much should it fit in with castle look?

Design concepts for this? (the art department came up with concept art) Moveable to shot? Ideally practical as much as possible to save £’s of burn-ins. They end up on moveable bases and mounted on joints that can be angled to shot. This was critical because there were times when we had to see them through windows or pan from them down the hallway, etc. 

We need the ‘human’ shadow on the door — how will we show this shadow and not reveal in any way that it is the Doctor? His silhouette is distinctive, should we set up the shadow to be like the Veil? This ended up being quite easy, but I had to ask the questions and test ideas. 

Production note this is just the 1st scene and less than 1-½ pages of the script! We already have more questions than can be answered and more time for 2nd unit that I think we can afford. This alone could take a week to shoot. I also worry how long this will take on-screen. What is the audience thinking now?

Tone - How creepy is this? How much geography are/should we be giving away?

Editorial - we probably spent more time debating what to use in this scene than in any other scene in the episode - including the epic ending montage. This is because we ended up with a lot of varied material which was completely non-standard for a Doctor Who opening, so much discussion of how to draw the audience in, prepare for this totally different type of episode, but not lose them to itchy remote fingers.

Coming soon: Questions answered…well, some of them … and kind of answered. 

dr-nosy-parker  asked:

I have no words to describe what you and the team pulled in "Heaven Sent". I'm still horrified by it. I can ever un-see those skulls in the water or him punching that stupid wall. We always talk about scaring children with 'Doctor Who', but this was an adult's nightmare. All that grief, feelings of futility, physical suffering, and having to relive ALL that for 2 billion years. My life's nightmare. Thanks for the scare! Q: How did you convince me the Doctor was punching a 20-foot azbantium wall?

I will do a proper post on this when I have a few minutes/I’m finishing directing and editing The Flash. I must post photos of the set, which was difficult in Old Who fashion. It was both genius of Michael Pickwoad to know that cellophane would work — and madness. People would show up and say ‘where’s the set?’, thinking it was leftover pieces of old Who. It was modular as well. which was also brilliant efficiency but shooting complexity. 

DOP Stuart Biddlecombe deserves worship for taking plastic and lighting it to be magic. And brilliant lensing by Camera Operator Mark McQuoid.

 The punching – great acting by the Maestro. A few tricks, but mostly acting. 

The whole sequence defines of movie magic = illusion. 


‘Doctor Who’: Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman in EW Portraits

Does this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly defy the laws of physics by being bigger on the inside than it would appear from looking at its exterior? Fans of the British science fiction show Doctor Who may well think so. For this week’s cover story, senior writer Clark Collis travels to the UK to meet with Peter Capaldi, the new star of the now 51-year-old time travel saga, and to find out what fans can expect from the forthcoming season of Doctor Who, which premieres on BBC America on Aug. 23. “He’s more alien than we’ve seen him for a while,” says the actor, speaking about his version of the eccentric Time Lord. “He is less patient with the foibles of human beings.”

In addition to Capaldi, Collis also spoke with the actor’s costar Jenna Coleman and showrunner Steven Moffat who tackled such burning as questions as “Will Capaldi’s previous appearances in the Who universe be referenced this season?” and “What will happen in the two-part finale?” Collis even got to drive the Doctor’s bigger-on-the-inside time- and space-ship the TARDIS and did so without busting anything which, according to production designer Michael Pickwoad, makes him a more careful temporal navigator than previous Who star Matt Smith (“He was very good at breaking things”). We also persuade Capaldi to talk about the old monsters he’d like his Doctor to face and offer a sartorial breakdown of the Time Lord’s many looks through the show’s half-century history. Never seen Doctor Who (and feel a bid daunted by that history)? Then feel free to peruse our guide to how you can get into Who. [x] [x]

This copy will be on stands Friday, August 1st, and you can purchase it online here. If you live in Canada or elsewhere outside the United States and would like to place a back issue order, please call 1-813-979-6828.


Doctor Who Exclusive: New TARDIS Design Tour

Get an Exclusive tour of Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi’s New & Redesigned TARDIS, courtesy of show production designer Michael Pickwoad!

Doctor Who Production Designer Michael Pickwoad on the new TARDIS

The BBC Doctor Who Blog has a wonderful three part interview with Production Designer Michael Pickwoad about the new TARDIS:

Question: What’s your favourite element of the new TARDIS interior?

Michael Pickwoad: This has to be the contra-rotating time rotor. It came to me when realising that all TARDIS have had a large circular feature above the console, which never actually did anything. By making it revolve it would suggest that it was computing the time co-ordinates and setting the course through time.  Looking at the revolving tray in a microwave suggested the idea that if each ring supported the next on wheels fixed to the centre, then by turning one ring, the next would revolve in the reverse direction and give more of a sense of computing and conjuring up the idea of a circular slide rule.

Each ring of the rotor is divided into eighteen parts, complimenting the eighteen ribs of the TARDIS structure, and being finished in silver and furnished with Gallifreyan symbols, adds to the sense of precision.

Read parts One, Two, and Three here.