I was discussing some old Doctor Who episodes when I recalled a notable example of the sort of 'bad' special effects used when CGI was in its infancy (and when the budget was low).

Does anybody know what sort of technique may have been used to create this effect? Zap

The episode in question is The Sun Makers, 1977.

Thanks to @Oliver Giesen I now have a youtube link to a video of said effect:

  • 2
    What is that around him? Is it flowers or is it just colorful noise? Do you happen to have a video clip of it? Feb 1, 2017 at 3:16
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    It's essentially a "tracking shot"...the outline of the actor is 'traced' using special effects software (usually After Effects or the like) and computers 'track' the position of the outline against specific points. Then the 'track' can be used to attach a specific effect which then follows the outline. Stack Exchange has a dedicated site for more if you are interested - video.stackexchange.com
    – Paulie_D
    Feb 1, 2017 at 11:50
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    Here's a video: youtu.be/Nq-N_RHiyok?t=57s Feb 1, 2017 at 17:45
  • @Paulie_D Are you suggesting that this question is beyond the scope of movies.stackexchange.com and that I should have this question migrated to video.stackexchange.com or that video.stackexchange.com would benefit more from having this question?
    – Pharap
    Feb 1, 2017 at 18:04
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    @Pharap And no, your question seems fine here.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Feb 1, 2017 at 20:43

1 Answer 1


Seeing it in action, I agree with Paulie D that it is actually 2 stills and the effect is probably applied by hand in some way. Given that it was filmed in 1977, there were no affordable computer tools like After Effects to use for a task like this. In fact, computers weren't widely used for doing this sort of work at that time.

While I can't say for sure the exact technique, I believe that they used a still image on which they traced a wide blue outline. They then probably used a chroma keyer to remove the blue and replace it with another signal. The other signal looks like colored noise which could be found by simply tuning a TV tuner to an unused channel.

  • Excellent point about the age of the episode and the availability of software. You have my +1
    – Paulie_D
    Feb 2, 2017 at 21:28

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