Goodbye Kansas Studios delivered 180 shots for the BBC series Vigil. Originally released in the UK in August 2021, episode one of Vigil attracted an audience of 10.2 million across its first seven days, making it the BBC’s most-watched new drama of the year so far. However the series only launched in the US late last month on Peacock, and it had its linear TV debut on the USA Network on 3 January 2022. If you have not seen it yet, it is a stunningly good drama, and very well made. Here are the notes on the show by Goodbye Kansas Studios.

Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva of the Scottish Police is sent to HMS Vigil, a nuclear-powered Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarine, to investigate a death on board. The action starts right after the mysterious and dramatic disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler. Her investigations, and those of her colleagues ashore, bring the police into conflict with the Royal Navy and MI5, the British Security Service.

Vigil is a British police procedural television serial created by Tom Edge and produced by World Productions. World Productions, is the same production company responsible for hit shows like Line of Duty and Bodyguard. After having previously worked with one of the producers of Vigil on the first season of Alex Rider, Goodbye Kansas Studios were chosen thanks to its extensive knowledge and expertise, especially in relation to complex water simulations.

The series stars well-known British TV actors such as Suranne Jones (Dr Foster) and Martin Compston (Line of Duty), as well as Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones).  The deep-sea thriller unravels a dark conspiracy that goes right to the heart of Britain’s national security, set against the backdrop of Scotland’s nuclear deterrent.

Goodbye Kansas Studios

Goodbye Kansas Studios worked on all six episodes as the primary vendor for the production. In collaboration with VFX producer Desiree Ryden, visual effects supervisor Jim Parsons played a vital part in the success of this one-of-a-kind production, being on-set during the filming of scenes and providing around-the-clock support to both the production and VFX teams throughout post-production.

During the VFX specification for Vigil, there was a need for a plethora of visual effects. As a large part of the action was set underwater, the need for extensive and comprehensive visual effects grew beyond any normal remit.

Following its announcement in January 2020, the pandemic delayed production substantially, much like several shows over the past 18 months. Filming had to be temporarily halted as the lockdown was enforced, and the Goodbye Kansas Studios team was forced to adjust to a completely new way of working. Managing Director James Prosser explains, “At that point in time, this was a first for everyone. Overnight we had to figure out how our teams would operate effectively from home, whilst developing plans of how to interact and collaborate with our clients too.”

Visual effects supervisor Jim Parsons was instrumental to the final outcome of the deep-sea thriller, working closely with Directors James Strong and Isabelle Sieb, and Executive Producer & Head of Drama at World Productions, Jake Lushington, 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 difficult thing to pull off successfully.”

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

The actual Royal Navy Vanguard Class submarine HMS Vigilant returning to HMNB Clyde after her extended deployment.
Image: used under the OGL (Open Government License).

The four real Vanguard-class submarines form the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent force. Each of the four boats is armed with Trident 2 D5 nuclear missiles. Like all submarines the Vanguard Class are steam-powered, their reactors converting water into steam to drive the engines and generate electricity. They are powered by a Rolls-Royce PWR2 nuclear reactor and two GEC turbines.

Jim explained, “We created a convincing model through extensive research, even going so far as talking to a former Navy officer… obviously without breaking any official secrets! 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.”

“Without giving away too much, some important scenes feature a fishing trawler that, due to the complexity of the sequences, called for it to be shot in many different locations. To make it look as though the fishing trawler was out in the North Sea, it was filmed in various positions including in a bay and in a stationary dock. A lot of our work involved removing external scenery, creating the illusion that it was nowhere near land,” he explained. Some underwater scenes with actors were also filmed at the Pinewood Studios water tank, which involved having to remove the external scenery in the edit and create VFX surroundings of a lake in the Scottish Highlands.

Managing Director of Goodbye Kansas Studios in London, James Prosser, heralded Vigil as one of the most successful productions to date for the team. “The entire team continues to constantly surprise me with their skills and artistic vision.”

Line of Duty fans will recognise not only the plot twisting cliff hangers of each episode – but a few cast members as well (Martin Compston Centre)

Goodbye Kansas Studios offers award-winning and uniquely integrated services for feature films, TV series, commercials, games and game trailers. The company has a staff of 250+ is part of Goodbye Kansas Group AB (publ), listed on the Nasdaq First North Growth Market. The team has studios and offices in Stockholm, London, Helsinki, Vilnius, Belgrade, Beijing, Los Angeles & Manila.

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