The mesmerising 2.5D opening sequence, details the history and lore of the Angels who feature heavily throughout Season 3.

With an open brief, the team led by Framestore Creative Director Sharon Lock, were essentially working with a voice over as the sequence is depicted from an Angel's point of view. “This meant trying to find a style or technique which complimented this - a sort of historical Angel vision. The client wanted something which felt old without feeling as if it was printed or came from a book, despite wanting a 2D approach” explains Lock. 

‘Angels’ had to feel grand enough to kick off the series, whilst not feeling like a second title or a VFX sequence-  it very much had to be a stand-alone piece.Ultimately the style came down to a visceral choice of whether it felt right for the show.

The other challenge was the need to depict characters to make sense of the back story without giving too much of the narrative away.

To help the sequence feel like a stand-alone and emotional piece, the client didn't want the Angels to have the same look and feel as the VFX angels in the series. Lock says: “We were working slightly ahead of the VFX timeline so there wasn't much Angel reference as they were still being designed. We settled on a hand drawn approach to the vignettes as a way of diverging from this, capturing snapshots of Angel memories to tell the story”.

All characters and backgrounds were painted by hand and animated in 2.5D with additional layering of elements and atmosphere to create depth. “In terms of technique we pretty much worked in reverse: posing CG Angels to get client sign off on camera angles and composition, before spending the time hand drawing each scene which is time consuming to change. The final imagery was painted by our concept artist who is usually at the beginning of the design process” explains Lock.

His Dark Materials is available to stream on BBC Iplayer, HBO and HBO Max.