Paramount have just released a cluster of teaser shots for their live action remake of Ghost In The Shell (GitS). They are frustratingly brief and play out like a digital glitch, but what they do reveal of the designs, coupled with what the art direction of the original animated versions (if you haven’t seen the original animated version, I thoroughly recommend you to do so), suggest we could be in for some gorgeous production design and cinematography.
Production designer for this version is Jan Roelfs, whose previous work includes Gattaca, whilst cinematography is by Jess Hall who provided the cinematography on Son of Rambow and Hot Fuzz. VFX is to be provided by Weta and MPC, so I am hopeful that we will see some superlative digital sets amongst the set design. The quality and influence of the original animated version of GitS demands that any live action re-telling of the story be accompanied by nothing less than a work of unparalleled visual quality. Please don’t disappoint.
Proving that the Devil really is in the details, the design work of Julian Nix and Sarah Bradley covered items such as passports, business documents and a iPhone retinal scanner app. As the article states, “The cumulative effect is the creation of a world that the audience accepts without question – and only adds to the power of the story.”
There aren’t enough spy movies being made these days, so its good to see the latest trailer for Guy Ritchie’s Man From U.N.C.L.E. appear on the web yesterday.
The story is set in 1963 – Bond’s From Russia With Love came out in 1963 – which suggests an abundance of opportunities to play on the designs and style and costumes of that period. It will be interesting to see what Production Designer Oliver Scholl delivers. There isn’t anything like MFU on his CV, but Edge of Tomorrow was a fine looking film, so lets see.
Opportunities for digital sets and set extensions should be plentiful too, so I look forward to tracking the behind-the-scenes revelations from the various different effects houses that are involved.
Having worked exclusively in digital formats for the past 15 years, I have recently been making a concerted effort to resurrect some of my practical design skills. Around five years ago, I started to sketch more frequently, as I began to take on more of a design lead on projects. It proved a great complement to pixels.
More recently, I have looked to expand upon this positive experience and started to explore the use of miniatures in filmmaking. The shots below are of a miniature I have been developing for a sequence of shots based on a snowy environment I have designed. Two faces of a section of a building have been constructed, and set within a snow covered landscape. This miniature set design will ultimately be extended through the use of digital set extensions and 3D tracking.
The shell of the building was made out of foamcore, which was then clad in balsa. The balsa was ridiculously pristine when first applied, but has since been aged and weathered with heavily diluted ink washes. The snow is a combination of polystyrene base, on top of which, model railway snow effects and marble dust (to add sparkle) have been applied. The icicles are made by applying model railway water effect gel to waxed paper. Once dried, they are glued to the eaves of the building. It’s not finished yet, but so far, it’s proved to be a hugely, enjoyable indulgence.
As with any miniature, depth of field has proved problematic. The only way to counter this, has been to dramatically stop down. Testing has shown f16 to be the absolute maximum, but to achieve optimum results, I am going to need to reduce the aperture even further. The direct consequence of this, is that I then need ridiculous levels of light.
I’m currently looking at stop motion techniques to achieve small apertures, with less light and longer exposures. This approach will allow for better digital environments through better depth of field and improved image quality and resolution compared to video capture.
I wanted to post these before Fortitude is screened tomorrow, as I started work on this last Autumn but business has been very busy and limited the opportunities to work on these kinds of personal projects.
Work schedules permitting, I’m hoping to have the first sequence completed by the Spring
Hashima Island, commonly referred to as Gunkanjima, meaning “Battleship Island” in Japanese, is a former coal mining facility off the coast of south west Japan. At it’s peak in 1959, the island was home to 5,259 people. By 1974, the island’s mine had ceased to be economically viable and and the facility was abandoned.
Though it’s now a ghost island frozen in time, it’s apocalyptic appearance has inspired the production and set designs for films such as Inception*, and more recently Skyfall**. As Stu Maschwitz points out in his DV Rebels Guide, “Reference is God” and as references go, Hashima is proving to be very popular and persuasive source material. Visits to the island are possible, but access is highly restricted so it’s great to find that parts of the island are now covered by Google Streetview.
** Addendum part 2: Silva’s island hideaway was constructed as a set on Pinewood studios backlot and is acknowledged as being based on Hashima. The set was constructed over shipping containers and stood three stories high. Double Negative generated set extensions based on photography from Hashima itself. (Joe Fordham, Old Dog, New Tricks, Cinefex 133, pp47)
Thanks to Ilona Gaynor for snapping me out of my complacency an making me re-read my issues of Cinefex.