Bottletop was asked by Merlin Entertainments to create queue line videos and main video content for its new experience, Nemesis Sub-Terra. Described as ‘your worst nightmare underground’, Nemesis Sub-Terra takes place within a network of underground caves at Alton Towers close to the famous Nemesis inverted roller coaster ride.
Our task was to explain the Nemesis backstory, and to update it with the latest discoveries from the caves, through a series of videos for queue lines, within the lift descent to the caves and the main viewing chamber itself.
The project required film shoots and animation as well as costumes, props and location sourcing. With an extremely vigilant Nemesis fan base who would be analysing the final product every detail needed to be perfect so extensive research was vital to its success. The project was subject to an NDA until the launch date.
With opening scheduled, and advertised, for the beginning of the Easter holidays we worked to an extremely tight deadline – only six weeks from seeing the initial scripts to delivering the final, client-approved videos.
The scripts, provided by Merlin, were read thoroughly and broken down into requirements – what needed to be conveyed in each section, rough timings of narrated sections, mood, visual look and feel.
It was essential that Nemesis Sub-Terra linked seamlessly to the original Nemesis experience. We researched previous Nemesis visuals, characters, storylines and names and wove them into our ideas for concepts and initial client drawings. Scientific aspects needed to be accurate to keep the content grounded.
From the script we identified filming/animation requirements. Stock footage was sourced where filming was impossible or too expensive e.g. war/helicopter footage. We created a visual breakdown of the whole project into individual scenes to give the client an idea of structure. This also acted as a ‘tick list’ for shot listing and animation development
Locations and Casting
We had several different location requirements including caves, warehouses, security gates and offices. The recce for every location involved assessing power, health and safety, access, permissions and keeping to the terms of the NDA – any information about the shoots could not leak out to the public. As Nottingham is built over a network of natural caves we located one underneath a pub that could be accessed easily and had electricity. Friends and colleagues were roped into filming to keep security issues to a minimum and cope with the tight turnaround.
Props and Costumes
From the script our team generated a props and costume list. We made embroidered badges, sourced uniforms, bought props from military surplus stores, created documents, maps and rubber stamps. A Geiger counter was made from industrial salvage and joke shop slime was used for alien gloop. In one scene where an office is ‘burgled’ we also create the screen content for the tablet that is ‘stolen’ and recorded the entire scene with a head-mounted camera.
All filming requirements were broken down into scenes, locations, cast, props, costumes, day/night. Locations needed to be dressed before filming with signage and props. Some scenes were shot as day-for-night and graded in post-production. Others were shot partly on green screen, with tracking markers, as it was safer and more controllable, for instance in creating the caving shots.
Editing and Post-Production
Each scene was roughly edited to a guide track voiceover for client approval during production. Storyboard frames were cut in where shots were incomplete or missing. These edits were revised as work progressed. Shots needing animation and effects were split our for matte painting or 3D elements to be created.
All the animation was created from scratch to be consistent, authentic and to contain enough relevant detail. Timing for the animations was critical to the customer experience within Nemesis Sub-Terra needing to be in sync with live lighting changes, sound effects and set changes.