Entertainment VFX

VFX studio REALTIME shares what went behind the making of ITVX drama series ‘Nolly’

UK-based organisation REALTIME was delighted to team up with Quay Street Productions on Nolly, the new drama series written by the BAFTA-winning writer Russell T Davies (It’s A Sin). It is directed by BAFTA-winner Peter Hoar (It’s A Sin, The Last of Us, The Umbrella Academy).

Nolly, the new ITVX three-part biographical is a sharp, affectionate, heart-breaking portrait of a forgotten icon – the inimitable Noele Gordon. As the lead actor on ITV’s long-running soap Crossroads, Nolly became Britain’s biggest star. Then, in 1981, at the peak of her fame, she was suddenly axed without warning or explanation. A wildly entertaining ride through her most tumultuous years, exploring how the establishment turned on a woman who refused to play by the rules, to finally answer the question: why was she sacked?

“It was a privilege to work on a series with such a fantastic team – the writing, producing and directing talent all worked together with a really stellar ensemble cast to make a highly entertaining but also moving and thought-provoking series,” said REALTIME executive producer Jonathan Rawlinson.

REALTIME was tasked with transforming scenes shot in Manchester into several period-correct 1980s locations, such as Nolly’s hometown of Birmingham. Other work included adapting the streets of Bolton into Bangkok, Thailand and adding greenscreen shots of Venice into the Manchester location for a restaurant scene. 

To achieve this, the team worked closely with the production designer, Ben Smith and the art department at Quay Street Productions to provide CG set extensions as well as crowd replication and a host of invisible effects.  The northwest-based VFX supervisor Sue Land provided on-set supervision for the show, supported in production by senior producer Fiona York.  

Nolly was a dream of a production to work on and the scripts a delight to read. The crew were incredibly supportive of our, sometimes strange, VFX requests and scanning antics.  The series was shot using a variety of cameras from the latest Sony Venice camera to the Ikegami video cameras, contemporary to the series’ timeline, all designed to evoke the visual feeling of the 1980s TV. This was continued through into all the visual effects, care was taken to ensure that even the small things, like the colour of the neon type lights, were accurate for the time,” said Sue Land.

One of the stand-out visual effects the team produced was the fully CG recreation of the Queen Elizabeth II, the iconic ocean cruiser Nolly sails away on in her final episode of Crossroads. Though the QE2 still exists, the structure of the ship has changed significantly over the years and there are very few reference images in existence that the modelling team could use to help replicate how the ship would have looked in the 1980s. Luckily, they obtained an old QE2 Haynes Manual with detailed specifications of the vessel which their talented 3D generalist, Louie Crick, used as a reference while modelling the ship meticulously in Maya; a task that took him over one month to complete.  

“The work we got back from REATLIME was exquisite and the QE2 was the star of the show. The team put everything into that and it shows. I’m looking forward to our next adventure,” said series director Peter Roar.

The series is executive produced by Nicola Shindler (It’s A Sin, Ridley Road, Stay Close, Happy Valley, Finding Alice, Queer as Folk), Russell T Davies and Peter Hoar. The series producer is BAFTA-winner Karen Lewis (The Salisbury Poisonings, Years and Years). The series is produced by Quay Street Productions, the first drama under Nicola Shindler’s new production banner with ITV Studios.  

All episodes of Nolly are available now on ITVX.