Milk unleashes explosive VFX upon UK for 24: Live Another Day

London VFX facility celebrates one year in new business by blowing up Jack Bauer's world

As it celebrates its debut year in business, the independent London VFX house has revealed a mix of CG and effects work for Fox’s TV action-thriller, 24: Live Another Day , currently airing on Sky 1 in the UK and around the world.

In addition to the typical action-packed “24” repertoire of explosions, Milk, as lead VFX studio, has so far created the CG drones that chase Jack Bauer through London, blood enhancement, effects work including CG water, fire and smoke, explosions and a range of effects to be revealed in upcoming episodes.

Set and shot in London, the 12 x 60-minute 'event series' follows the exploits of agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). It is the first US drama to shoot in the UK following the implementation of the high end TV tax incentive in April 2013.

Will Cohen, CEO and Founder of Milk VFX said, “We were extremely excited to be asked to be part of a UK '24'. Working on a high profile television show that is chasing transmission is always a challenge, but Milk is well set up in terms of technical pipeline and experienced key crew to be able to turn around VFX shots very quickly, at a high standard.”

There's a variety of high-quality VFX in the series, such as the exploding house from Episode 5 (right). 

The house was a model unit explosion on a scaled replica of the house and only required 2D elements to pull it together in the plate. 

For all VFX, Milk modeled, animated and lit in Maya, with Arnold used for rendering and compositing carried out in Nuke. 

See more scenes and breakdowns from the series by using the controls above and right

A key sequence from Episode 10 concerned the explosion and sinking of the Chinese aircraft carrier.

Milk built and lit the entire CG aircraft carrier asset as well as creating CG water for the ocean and the explosion.

Michael Burns: How did you create the explosions and water vfx for episode 10?

Milk: We used 2D elements for the flames, then generated mattes to allow the lighting team to create additional lighting for the volumetric smoke and ship, as they needed to appear to be lit lit by the the flames.
We also utilised Houdini to create some plumes of smoke and add real depth to the scene.

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Michael Burns: What did you use to build the ship and submarine? What sort of detail is involved?

Milk: We used Maya to build the ships and Mari to texture. They were very wide shots so the level of texture was not too demanding. Luckily battleships all tend to be grey, but up close there's a whole host of furnishings and signage.

The submarine was closer to screen and required a higher level of detail in terms of rivets and so on, but again, military vehicles are pretty uniform in colour.

There was also a caustic generated to create the effect of moonlight refracting through the oceans surface onto the submarine. Without this the shot would have been very dark, as we were underwater at night.

Michael Burns: What were the main challenges with the aircraft carrier sequence?

Milk: Apart from the time scale to turn the sequence around one of the main challenges was the sea. Although we used stock footage for some of the shots, which worked very well, we had to create CG sea to submerge the aircraft carrier into.

While creating the sea was not too difficult, the night-time lighting proved tricky, as without the reflections of moonlight on the surface, you don't see the sea at all. Being such a wide view from above, we had to really push the position of the moon to achieve enough light across the whole plate and avoid a shortfall off into blackness.