April 25th, 2014

From Dr. Frankenstein to Dorian Gray, Showtime's new psychosexual horror series, Penny Dreadful, features some of literature's most iconic horror characters embroiled in Victorian London. Mill+ director Yann Mabille takes us behind the scenes of the trailer ‘Just Like You’.

Following on from 'Stitched', 'Just Like You' is the final trailer before the series premiers on May 11. The film introduces several of the key characters in a succession of elegant portraits. Starting at the center of each character’s eye, the camera pulls back to reveal them all, one after the other through their own eyes.


With so many compelling characters to portray, the Mill+ team had to create visual clues that would tease out their personalities without giving away any details that get unveiled throughout the series.

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Yann explains, “The whole sequence is held together by a single string; the constant and fluid camera move. Every portrait in the sequence and the way we transitioned between them allowed us to show the other darker side of each character. As the camera moves back it reveals subtle hidden details that really signify who these characters are."

“In Frankenstein’s eye, for example, you see stitches. Eva Green’s character has demons in her head, so a demon appears in her eye. Dorian Gray wanted eternal youth and we see the “undead” in his eyeball. All the transitions through the eyes hint at the dual personalities of the characters. Moving the camera through their eyes and therefore their head and interior thoughts was the perfect platform for this.”


The sequence is also an infinite cycle; it starts on an eye and it ends on an eye. Starting small, the camera moves into the much larger scene, then back into the small scale of the eye again, in a loop.

To make this a smooth camera move both the eyes and the actors’ faces had to be recreated by the CG team. They took scans of the actors’ faces on-set and then projected them onto a CG face to create the close up of the “real” face, as it pulls out from the CG eyeball. Then blending these fully CG shots seamlessly into the live action footage.

Dorian’s CG face and eye was remodeled based on scan data from the shoot. The eyeball muscles and eyelashes were then recreated individually.

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The model of Josh Hartnett's eye shows the huge amount of detail needed around the eye, everything from skin texture to muscle detail.

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The track of Eva Green’s face shows the 3D camera pulling out of the detailed eye.

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The wireframes display the detail needed for the monster-like fully CG eye in the end of the trailer.

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As the camera zooms out from each eye a full-scale portrait is revealed. The sequence needed to be extremely elegant so Yann used high-speed photography. This introduced just enough motion to add life to the portraits while keeping their performance graceful. Character clues are hidden in these portraits too.

Yann details, “We chose an overall visual approach that mimicked the great Dutch portrait paintings from the 17th century, they have both a staged yet somewhat natural feel. Their light and textures are occasionally very graphic but always deep and rich, exactly what we wanted to simulate.”

The group shot was filmed in front of a green screen with The Mill+ team created catacombs as their background: a fitting setting for all the characters.

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“The Victorian world of Penny Dreadful is also incredibly rich. We used objects and motifs from it to further the tale we were telling in each portrait and give hints at past events and stories to come. Each portrait was approached with a very composed and graphic visual language that would enhance the elegant tone and elevate the actors within their environments.”

Ethan, Josh Hartnett’s character, was shot on green screen, and Kyle Cody, The Mill’s 2D Lead, built an entire set and gun effects around him that fitted his character.

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As the trailer comes to an end, the final shot is a much more menacing eyeball. Not just because it’s a macro shot of Milll VFX supervisor Andres Eguiguren’s eye, but because it isn’t human. Representing the inhuman in all the characters and possibly… “Just Like You”.

More info and full credits here.