Framestore CFC Bites into Baskervilles

On Sunday, Jan. 19, ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre will present an all-new version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles on PBS. This re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes classic will feature a ferocious CG pooch created by Framestore CFC, which recently brought dinosaurs to life for the BBC’s version of The Lost World and ABC’s Dinotopia.

Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge) takes a turn as the super sleuth and Ian Hart (Harry Potter‘s Professor Quirrell) plays sidekick Dr. Watson in this nailbiter about an ancient family curse, a desolate moor, a spectral hound and a deranged killer.

Animation Magazine Online spoke with Framestore’s visual effects producer, Scott Griffin, about tackling the mythic beast of Dartmoor.

SG: We didn’t get to create the dog. It was generated by an animatronics company (U.K.-based Crawly Creatures),” says Griffin. “They did the conceptual design and built the animatronic. We then scanned the animatronic and built the [CG] model based on that to get it to match as much as possible.

AMO: How much of what we see onscreen is animatronic and how much is digital?

SG: I would say 90% of it is actually animated digitally. There’s lots of mauling and that was done using the animatronic head close-up where you need to get that interaction. But then all the chase work and menacing growling and all that we did digitally. We worked hard on the digitally animated fur, especially with the thing meant to be in ill health with sort of bloody and matted hair from rolling in mud — just to give it that look of a sort of worn dog instead of having a nice fluffy poodle type thing.

AMO: What were some of the other challenges?

SG: It was shot at night, which always causes a few concerns. Everybody thinks it’s much easier to put something into night. It’s dark, but you have issues of rim lighting and making sure it hits him properly.

AMO: This is not The Lost World where you have monsters rampaging through most of the movie. It’s more about mystery and what’s waiting in the shadows. But when the audience finally gets to see the hound, it has to have that much more impact, right?

SG: You do have to make sure it looks special given what it’s being built up to. It’s big. It’s very big. Very vicious looking, big teeth. If I saw it coming around the corner, I’d run a mile.

Of the 45 effects shots Framestore CFC completed for the film, 19 were hound sequences. The shop also created 2D digital mattes to provide exterior glimpses of Victorian London and lend foreboding atmosphere to the famed moors.

The Hound of the Baskervilles premiered on BBC on Dec. 26, 2002. Sunday marks its North American debut.