The cast of USS Callister in a star trek-like spaceship set

Black Mirror - USS Callister

Framestore’s Television department proudly re-joined Black Mirror to deliver VFX for series four episode ‘USS Callister’ handing the creative studio an unrivalled opportunity to deliver stunning 4K assets and edge-to-edge CG and anamorphic sequences, in a 270-shot, 74-minute, Sixties-inspired showcase.

Visual Effects Supervisor
Effects Simulation
uss callister space crew sitting inside the spaceship looking towards the right

Working with Charlie and Annabel is amazing; everything they comment on is in service of the story, and the audience experience is always front and centre in their minds. This, more than anything, brings the best out in all who work with them.
Russell Dodgson
VFX Supervisor, Framestore

Framestore’s brief for ‘USS Callister’ was no small undertaking. Approached by Brooker and Executive Producer Annabel Jones to work on Haynes’ episode, the team was challenged to find the creative solutions to a big idea: one that would combine the iconic visual tropes of a past era of sci-fi with its modern counterpart, all under a video gaming umbrella. The narrative arc of this highly stylised episode called for numerous environments, including those in outer space; the namesake USS Callister spaceship; the nightmarish CG Arachnajax creature; and the many special effects, matte paintings and graphic replacements that bring veracity to a high production value film.

uss callister space crew sitting inside the spaceship looking towards the right

All aboard

Much of the episode’s action takes place on board the USS Callister, a spaceship of epic proportion that proved one of Framestore’s greatest achievements on the project. Supplied with an initial concept and a clear indication of the intended style and aesthetic, Framestore’s Rob Harrington led the CG team in continued look development on the model to turn out a beautiful hero asset. The ship’s fluid, flowing lines drew on a full pack of references, including retro cars, historical spacecraft architecture, and the design trends of the Sixties, from which the overall sequences take their cue. Extensive texturing and shader work ensured that the gargantuan craft would sustain the scrutiny of detailed 4K close-ups.

actress cristin milioti as nanette cole wearing a uss callister space dress looking up while up against a wall

Our worlds

Of course, our spaceship would need a setting. Framestore artists designed and matte-painted multiple space environments across the duration of the episode. Always keen to push the work to a higher creative plane, the team worked to reflect the nuances of the script in the visuals - whether using a red, stormy, nebulous background when protagonist Jesse Plemons flies into a rage, or painting a cool and muted atmosphere to reflect gameplay stasis. The episode’s final sequence, set amongst a labyrinth of asteroids rendered in deep compositing, also called for a level of responsiveness: movements were carefully crafted to generate the feel of a first person video game chase, set within a vast cinematic scene.

uss callister space crew on a planet


Having created the monstrous star of Series 3 episode ‘Playtest’, it felt right for Framestore to flex its creature-making credentials once more. Passed an initial sculpt by the show’s art department Painting Practice, Framestore applied further look dev to the Arachnajax: a writhing, multi-tentacled CG beast, which called for extensive technical rigging, colour and texture, seen predominantly within a gravelly, rock-simulated landscape. The narrative called for emotional intelligence, too - the creature needed to demonstrate personality and emotion in its interactions. The Arachnajax’ fantastical nature gave the team a chance to riff creatively, incorporating ideas and eccentricities from across the board, whilst reiterating Framestore’s renowned capabilities in creature design.

actress cristin milioti as nanette cole sitting on an illuminous seat inside of the uss callister


Charlie Brooker, William Bridges
Executive Producers
Annabel Jones, Charlie Brooker
Toby Haynes
Louise Sutton
Selina Macarthur
Visual Effects Producer
Christopher Gray
CG Supervisor
FX Artist
Gabriela Ruch Salmeron
Asset Lead
Adam Smith
Modellers / Texture Artists
Vaughn Smith, Matthew Harney, Craig Clark, Michael John
Paint Artists
Hasan Khan, Christian Baker, Jonathan Williams
Daniel Pemberton
Production Designer
Joel Collins
Head of Television
Michelle Martin
Visual Effects Coordinator
Jack Grealish
Technical Director
Billy Perry
Lead Animator
Gez Wright
Rigging Lead
Greg Martin
Digital Matte Painters
Lee Matthews, Gerard Dunleavy, Dave Early
Lead VFX Editor
Rob Jewell
Stephan Pehrsson
Production Company
House of Tomorrow
Visual Effects Supervisor
Russell Dodgson
Production Assistant
Ben Stell
FX Leaders
Tim Jenkinson, Rafael Rey Camacho
Joseph Kane, Anita Corcoran, Aimee Westley
Modelling / Texture Supervisor
Andras Kavalecz
Viral Patel, James Russell, Lionel Heath, Saruta 'Puff' Pisanwalerd, Simon Stoney, Vanessa Duquesnay, Jack Fisher, Matthew Thomas, Tri Do, Euna Kho
VFX Editors
Richard Gao, Nick Feldman