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Axis Animation creates the digital world featured in TV drama Kiss Me First

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Axis Animation, the high-end animation arm of creative collective Axis Studios, has played a central role in creating the animated virtual worlds of Channel 4 and Netflix’s epic thriller, Kiss Me First, which is produced by Kindle Entertainment and Balloon Entertainment. Axis Animation delivered an unprecedented level of CG for a TV drama, comprising 543 shots across 50 minutes that weaves in and out of the series’ live action sequences.

Working in collaboration with production companies Balloon Entertainment and Kindle Entertainment, Axis Animation was responsible for the CG creation of Kiss Me First’s virtual world of Azana. The 50-strong team contributed numerous pivotal narrative scenes in fully animated CG across the series’ six episodes and depicted the cast’s likenesses and performance in the digital realm.

This work included all of pre-production and design of the characters and world as well as the creation of emotive digital characters such as Shadowfax, Mania and Adrian, and large-scale environment work, including sweeping battle sequences on a scale never before seen in a television drama – all designed to enhance and augment Kiss Me First’s immersive narrative.

Kiss Me First & Axis

Created by Bryan Elsley (Skins, Dates), Kiss Me First is an innovative thriller based on Lottie Moggach’s debut novel. When her mother dies, lonely girl Leila (Tallulah Haddon – Taboo, The Living Dead) has to learn how to manage living on her own. Leila has a digital avatar, Shadowfax, and when she logs onto the virtual reality game Azana she feels truly alive. It’s there that she meets the mysterious Mania aka Tess (Simona Brown – The Night Manager), and discovers the secret paradise called Red Pill. But Adrian (Matthew Beard), the leader of Red Pill, tells her she has to be invited to join and blasts Shadowfax out of the game. The next day, at Leila’s workplace, Tess/Mania turns up – in real life and Leila wants to know why. The show combines live action with stunning state-of-the-art, computer generated virtual world sequences, created by the team at Axis Animation.

Axis Animation collaborated closely with showrunner Bryan Elsley and executive producer Melanie Stokes and live action directors Misha Manson-Smith and Tom Green to seamlessly blend animated content with the live action storyline. The actors were captured using a motion capture workflow to create the performances of their digital counterparts – a first time experience for many of the cast.

Creating the digital avatars of the series’ eight main characters required artists from Axis Animation’s studios in Glasgow and London to work in close collaboration. The animated characters needed to share a likeness with their real-life counterparts and also to elicit empathy from the audience, as Kiss Me First is a drama that is primarily about human relationships. In order to hit these all-important narrative beats, the Axis Animation team used highly advanced animation techniques, capturing subtle details in the actor’s performances and adding nuanced physical movements.

Axis Studios’ VFX team axisVFX also contributed visual effects work witnessed in the live action sequences of the show.

Kan Muftic, animation director on Kiss Me First, comments: “The work that we did on Kiss Me First is usually the domain of feature films. Now we’re producing this level of quality and technological innovation for television. We were able to work at an amazing level of scale, from the sweeping opening battle scene to the subtle intricacies of the digital avatars’ facial performances. It was a golden opportunity to flex the Axis Animation skill set while playing a major role in showing that this level of animated quality, rarely seen on television, is now absolutely possible.”

Richard Scott, Axis executive producer on Kiss Me First, comments: “Kiss Me First really is a unique project for television. We are so excited to create animation for an audience of this type. Animation is considered by many the domain of children’s and family audiences, we’ve long believed that modern older skewing audiences will embrace animation as a storytelling medium just like any other.”

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