6 Apr - 2020

Keyframe Studios has announced the delivery of the Dead Pixels ’s animated content sequences

With the broadcast of the hotly anticipated second series of E4’s hit comedy Dead Pixels on the way soon, Keyframe Studios – a creative full-service London studio for 2D and 3D character animation – has announced the delivery of the show’s animated content sequences. And it’s been a fast, high-quality turnaround – enabled by some unique in-house innovation.

The enormously successful show parodies popular MMO (massively multiplayer online) roleplaying games and gamer culture via Kingdom Scrolls, the fictional game specially created for Dead Pixels.

But the workflow for its animated sequences went one stage beyond conventional CGI processes. The rendering – the output of the animated sequences – was accomplished by using Unity, the leading real-time 3D rendering platform. Keyframe’s bespoke animation pipeline has been built on the Unity platform, fully customized over the last three years. Today, the customized animation pipeline is used in all the studio’s workflow – whether it’s delivering 3D CGI, 2D, virtual reality, interactives, apps or games.

Keyframe’s bespoke pipeline incorporates the full creative process, beginning with animation, real-time lip-sync and motion capture recording through to lighting, next-generation virtual effects and real-time 4K+ (very high definition) rendering and compositing.

The pipeline is up to 300 times faster than the traditional render process. Equally significantly, it is also 100 times more environmentally friendly due to significantly lower energy consumption.

It is also flexible and highly responsive, affording Keyframe’s clients the ability to make changes throughout the production cycle. This has been particularly useful with Dead Pixels, as it has allowed the team to accommodate continuous tweaks and last-minute amends – essential for a show where the animation has to work seamlessly with the live action to ensure that the comic timing is just right.

This revolutionary approach is affectionately known in the studio as Grue (named after a fictional monster from a popular 70s game – and Keyframe’s CTO’s pet cat!). Keyframe has developed Grue as a bespoke pipeline facilitating high-quality animated CGI – only much, much faster than most studios can manage. This has allowed the company to work to tight deadlines for the Dead Pixels material – a production cycle of less than eight months – and deal with last-minute changes at very short notice.

Underlining its confidence in its bespoke pipeline, Keyframe has integrated Grue into the entire studio workflow including its popular pre-school animated show, Adventures of Zeze Zebra, as well as other kids and family projects in development.

Dead Pixels (series one) first aired on E4 in March 2019. It focuses on three friends and their obsession with a fictional, highly popular, MMO role-playing game called Kingdom Scrolls. Starring Charlotte Ritchie, Alexa Davies and Will Merrick, it’s a clever, funny and affectionate satire of game culture and the obsessions of those who pursue it, written by Jon Brown (Fresh Meat/ Succession), himself an avid gamer. It also enjoyed such a good critical and audience response that Keyframe received confirmation of series two being commissioned within hours of series one coming to an end.

Central to the series is Keyframe’s reimagining of the games of the past – including what The Guardian newspaper called the “pleasingly grotesque avatars” – for the main characters. This has required not just skill but flexibility: series one satirised the games of 2012/13. Series two takes the game into 2020, and has highly enhanced graphics with a much more epic cinematic look. This has meant starting series two animation from scratch to redesign and rebuild a whole new world, including entirely new environments and over 80 characters.

As Jon Brown, writer of Dead Pixels says: “Genuinely, no other animation studio would be able to turn this around so fast – and with such incredible results.

Asa Movshovitz, Founder & Animation Director, Keyframe, says: “With series two of Dead Pixels we have had an incredibly tight turnaround. The whole production process took less than eight months, which in animation-speak is incredibly tight for a six-episode TV show. It would not be possible without the pipeline we have developed. We happily take on new scenes or last-minute changes late into the production process because we have speed on our side. From my perspective accommodating late changes serves the whole series better and elevates the show up another notch or three…so as a studio we’re more than up for the challenge!

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