The Making of The Space Pirates (Revised Edition)
By Russ Port, Dean Rose & Stuart Palmer


Russ Port Talks us Through the Making of TSP...
Moving Pictures





Space Pirates presented many opportunities for moving footage by zooms over photos of models, clips from other sources and from Episode 2, video loops and movement on screens, as well as creating backgrounds by using video mattes on backgrounds from Episode 2, therefore providing a background with technicians and lights moving.

Animating the screen was done by using a matte to cut out the TV screen. The looped radar effect, either copied from Episode 2 or created/edited to fit was then placed in the layer behind and we resized and repositioned the animated screen behind the cut-out, Ian Pritchard again helped by providing some of these. We also used clips of characters walking from one place to another which were repeated from Episode 2.

Also extensively used on screen were small shapes used to indicate ships, overlaid on the radar. These were based on shots in Episode 2 and were animated in Mediastudio to give the impression of them moving around the screen, sometimes using several layers to allow for the background, the different ships and the video loop.




Stuart created the marvellous animation of the LIZ 79 leaving the beacon section. The other shots of the LIZ were 2D renders created by Stuart then animated in Mediastudio. The script also called for a pressure gauge to show the drop in pressure when characters enter the beacon in Episode 1, this was also created and animated by Stuart, along with the grandfather clock in Episode 4.

Another interesting clip we managed to create was of the Doctor and Zoe leaving the TARDIS, this was achieved by using the shot of the Doctor, Zoe and the TARDIS from the War Games and overlaying extra background to match the beacon section out of the area of movement and the console over the top of the scene. A similar technique was used in the Myth Makers recon when the Doctor springs out of the TARDIS onto the plain. Once again Ian Pritchard provided the original idea for this clip .




A shot which went through several iterations was the one of the LIZ dropping the copper needles in the path of the Minnow. Initially this was done as one of Stuart's renders of the LIZ with a cloud under it animated in Mediastudio (At that scale the needles would only be a cloud) this looked ok but didn't look reflective enough to be shiny copper. We toyed with several ideas on how to improve this, including filming crinkled up tin foil and mixing this in with the clouds and even tried filming glitter falling in water with a light reflecting on it but these proved impractical or unworkable. At almost the last minute I chanced on a shot of a rocket taking off which had a very sparkly tail and looked perfect for the needles and Dean reedited the sequence. We were very pleased with how this scene turned out.

Some of the film inserts for Episode 1 exist and were inserted at the appropriate place, however Episode 1 is quite repetitive with similar shots of engineers planting bombs so Dean took the inserts and adapted them by rotating and zooming them to add variety to other appropriate places in this episode. Dean altered the shot of the Beta Dart docking into beacon Alpha 1 to magically become Alpha 4 and Alpha 7 in Photoshop and Mediastudio. We have used clips from Episode 2 of the Beta Dart, again flipped for variety, to supplement the action in this episode, as well as clips from Episode 2 of the V Ship .




A clip was included showing a laser torch cutting through the door from the movie Dr Who: Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD. A clip from Seeds of Death was used to illustrate the smoke coming through the grille into the study, this is the shot of smoke being sucked out of the room in Seeds which we reversed and stretched a little to match the set.

The shot of the V Ship docking onto the Beacon was a cross fade between a photo of the docked and undocked ship with the beacon lined up. Again a similar technique was used in Episode 3 to allow the shooting of Caven's gun, quickly cross fading from a gun with parts brightened to the normal gun .




A 2D animation was created in Mediastudio of the Minnow firing its missiles at the LIZ. The animation of the Beta Dart flying into the Issigri nose cone was also done in Mediastudio. An Issigri nose cone was created in Photoshop and Dean laid it on a moving shot of the Beta Dart, The nose cone was then animated to move in time with the Dart to give the impression that they were joined. This shot also caused debate as to whether the nose cone was a hollow shell, or a NASA type nose pod. We eventually reasoned that for Warne to be mistaken it must be the same style as the original. However we are still unsure as to the direction of the stripes, it was a 50/50 choice and we plumped for horizontal. Should the episode ever be discovered we would be intrigued to find out the truth!

The candle flames in Episode 5 were animated by Dean by using a camcorder to film a few minutes of a real candle flame at a very close proximity. This was wafted to make the flame jump and to add a bit of movement to an otherwise still flame and was then edited in Mediastudio to just give the camera flame, This was then easily repositioned and resized for each shot .




Most of the shots of the ships were done by zooming in on the photos taken by designer John Wood - zooming to a point above the ship creates the impression of the ship passing under the camera. Similar zooms were applied to illustrate shots of the V-Ship approaching the planet. A favourite is the ship approaching large planet Ta in Episode 6, which was simply a grab from Episode 2 with the background removed and a zoom on a planet created in Photoshop. Shots of the Minnow approaching the Beta Dart in Episode 6 were also done in Mediastudio. The Beta Dart exploding was again done in Mediastudio with two separate explosions overlaid to match the torpedo impact, these explosions also gave a great feeling of the ship being engulfed, the shot was then peaked to white, as per the camera script.




Episode 6 provided the opportunity to try some interesting things with the eidaphore, which is the large screen in front of Penn. Prior to that point, according to the camera script, it had pretty much been used as a basic radar screen showing moving blocks but for Episode 6 it becomes more of a video phone. We took footage from Episode 2 of the technicians on either side and looped it to create an animated background of technicians moving and lights flashing. We then laid a still shot of the eidaphore, placed the character who needed to be on screen and a layer of flicker over that, and overlaid a character stood in front of the screen watching it. Overall this gave a great impression of movement for these shots. A similar technique was used for the shot of the ribbons fluttering in the empty LIZ. There was footage of the ribbons moving from Episode 2 which we laid down and looped. We then overlaid the shot of the computer tapes turning with the top bit where the ribbons were cut out, and again looped it (these bits had to be done separately as Milo's hand popped into view!). Then a grab was taken of the main part of the screen and Milo painted out of it. This made a quite effective empty control room with fluttering ribbons!




The shot of the welders overlooked by Zoe was a particular favourite. This was done by making a composite of various bits of scrap metal and two people welding, four versions of the shot were then prepared, One with both welding torches illuminated, one each of just one person lit and one with both dull, then they were cross faded in different order to give the impression of the torches being used.

I struggled to find a still image of the Doctor and Jamie holding on when the LIZ takes off that looked suitable so I decided to cut them out from a similar scene in the beacon section and composite them into an empty LIZ. This 3 second clip involved making around 80 new frames and was extremely tedious but works quite well.