Richard Hammond Builds a Planet — Lola
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Richard Hammond Builds a Planet


Production Company - BBC
Distribution Company - BBC
Executive Producers - Will Aslett and Mark Hedgecoe
Directors - Mike Slee and Nigel Simpkiss
Series Producer - Arif Nurmohamed
Series Director - Nick Shoolingin – Jordan


July 02, 2019

TV Factual
About This Project

This award-winning series for BBC1 featured Top Gear’s Richard Hammond building a planet and a Galaxy from the comfort of his two-mile high observation platform in the middle of the Nevada desert. Lola worked closely with BBC exec Will Aslett to design an original and beautiful concept – the biggest Planetarium in the world. We had to build 60,000 miles of photorealistic terrain and sky and the tower itself, almost every aspect of which was CG. We also scanned Hammond himself and used his CG avatar in the wide shots and to create accurate shadows and reflections on the tower model. See our VFX breakdown for a demonstration of the technique.

With artist John Kennedy we designed everything from the tower and platform to the sequence boards. We explored placing the tower in the Utah Salt Flats and in a city location (New York and Las Vegas were on the cards). Eventually we settled in the Nevada desert, partly because the presenter could do any demonstrations and experiments at the base of the tower and partly because Top Gear is (was) quite demanding on a presenter’s schedule – if you only have a few days of his time, best keep him in one place. Building a planet and a galaxy from scratch – from particles of dust to the entire universe, we needed a virtual studio large enough to convey a sense of enormous scale. We ended up building 40,000 square miles of CG terrain to match the location shots. Viewed from the tower, it gave us the world’s biggest Planetarium to play with.

Massive set pieces were shot in Nevada including the arrival of dozens of Big Rig trucks, along with demonstrations of the forces that create the universe – conducted using machine guns, a magnifying lens capable of exploding rocks and a device that turns rock to lava.

Lola delivered more than 150 shots over the two episodes.

‘The graphics in themselves were stunning’ – Telegraph ‘Some spectacular CGI’. – Radio Times.  ‘Look Out For: The epic visuals’. – TV Catchup  ‘Hammond utilises some impressive CGI’ – Time Out