Wimbledon Studios Guest Blog | Mike Tucker on The Model Unit

NB This content was originally published on the Wimbledon Studios website in Summer 2014, but since the company has sadly since gone into administration, and their website (www.wimbledonstudios.com) has been suspended, we have reproduced the text here for posterity.

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I set up The Model Unit following the closure of the BBC Visual Effects Department in 2005. It had become increasingly obvious that the old business model of having a ‘one-stop shop’ that handled all aspects of effects work was rapidly becoming replaced by one were productions could choose specialists in particular areas.

Even within the BBC system I had already started to concentrate on miniature effects, and had been heavily involved on model heavy shows like Red Dwarf and the classic Doctor Who series.
Whilst the science fiction shows tend to be very high profile, the bulk of my work usually comes from documentaries and drama-docs. Over the years we’ve handled a wide variety of ‘extreme weather’ effects sequences for shows as varied as Human Body – Pushing the Limits, Raging Planet, Krakatoa and Atlantis, as well as more explosive effects for shows like The Last Flight of Columbia and Hiroshima.

Although primarily a television effects facility, we did handle the miniature effects for the highly-acclaimed British film Atonement in 2007.

Initially based at Ealing, the company moved to Wimbledon Studios in December of 2012, setting up a workshop to handle the construction of the models for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor. These included a ¼ scale TARDIS, multiple ¼ scale Daleks and all the associated miniature landscapes and buildings.

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Because of the large scale nature of the models, we needed somewhere with a sizeable construction area, and good access in order to transport to models to studio once they were finished. The old loading bay area at Wimbledon was ideal for that, and the studio support team were great in helping to put in the additional power and lighting that we needed.
This project landed us with a BAFTA Award for Best Special, Visual and Graphic Effects.

Upon completion of that project we then went on to provide large scale models for the Fram Museum in Oslo before rejoining the Doctor Who production, providing yet more large scale miniatures for the Christmas episode towards the end of 2013.

The combination of studio facilities and the varied companies based at the media village has proved to be extremely beneficial, and we have already been able to take advantage of the costume store as well as several post-production opportunities.

I currently have an office based in the media village and am in the early stages of negotiating several large projects that I hope to bring to the studio in the coming months.

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award-winning models and miniature effects for television and film

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