Figure 6-1B Hand-drafted city jail elevations—upper and lower levels—by Maya Shimoguchi. MURDER IN THE FIRST © 1994 Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner Entertainment Company, L.P. and Le Studio Canal + (U.S.). All Rights Reserved.
Figure 6-2 Hand-drafted city jail ceiling: reflected ceiling plan, section through ceiling skylight, and FSD of skylight center by Maya Shimoguchi. MURDER IN THE FIRST © 1994 Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner Entertainment Company, L.R and Le Studio Canal + (U.S.). All Rights Reserved.
Both are valid and useful, just so long as information on the page is clear and readable, although the former is a preferred convention. The drawings for the interior courtroom set, Body of Evidence (1993), were originally drawn by me in theatrical style and later revised as the courtroom set for Murder in the First two years later. It was decided that the original Body of Evidence set would be purchased as is, and added to or subtracted from in order to satisfy set budget limitations at the time. Retrofitting significant architectural detail on the original set with redesigned windows, judge's bench, and column capitals was an oddly familiar exercise. The twin angels wielding swords, Fig. 6-3, were newly designed additions to the original set. This kind of serendipity was atypical of the movie business and provided an unusual continuity of business as usual.
The courtroom and judge's chamber sets were constructed and assembled in Stage 12 at Culver Studios in Culver City, shown in Fig. 6-4 as a spotting plan for the sets. A prominent hero set scheduled for several weeks of continuous shooting, the courtroom set's placement and location onstage were important considerations. It was home for the shooting crew during that section of the shooting schedule, making everyone's experience more effective and enjoyable. Everything around the judge's bench wall changed between films, as each designer interpreted the contents of their respective
scripts into visual terms. For instance, the retrofitted columns were repainted as dark malachite with gilded detailing throughout the set as well as the witness stand, designed as a movable set piece on casters for the Murder in the First set. These changes are obvious in the drafting compared in the plates provided, Fig. 6-5 and Fig. 6-6.
We have briefly explored some traditional aspects of scenery drafting and design, as well as creative decision-making based on collaboration and script requirements. The advent of CGI has incorporated technology into the mix and spawned digital drawing and drafting. Many questions arise as a result of this evolutionary step into the twenty-first century. Perhaps it's best to analyze the perceptions of digital set designers regarding traditional vs. digital filmmaking. From a recent interview, Victor Martinez (The Terminal, The Cat in the Hat, Minority Report) had this to say:
Digital film environments are becoming more accepted as normal, although it will probably be difficult to find art departments that are just digital; the same goes for films that will be solely hand-drawn. In any art departments I've worked in, there are sets that lend themselves more to being drawn by hand and others being drawn on computer (see Fig. 6-8 and Fig. 6-9). On The Cat in the Hat, I worked on a very complex interior set, the inside of the house that is transformed (Fig. 6-7), and it wasn't your typical process of designing a set. There were days when I was just modeling in clay in order to whip out sketch model ideas for the more resolved digital model. I'm not one who's going to close the door on any process. A good digital designer must have training in handcraft as a way to problem solve, otherwise the process of working is robotic and straight out of a manual. My physical art background is very important to this. The people I work with and respect have worked by hand or at least understand that mode of working.1 Also see Fig. 6-7 in the color insert between pages 142 and 143.
CG modelers and CAD draftspersons in digitized art departments work in tandem with each other and their traditional counterparts. A digital modeler might clearly see a structural problem in a set that an analog draftsperson might otherwise overlook. In this way, all bases are covered. The beauty of CAD is the speed of making changes, regardless of whatever caprice is tossed at the draftsman. To use an example from the Minority Report (2002), the rendered Rhino model and resulting AutoCAD drafting for the building of the interior Pre-Cog chamber evolved through many permutations. From digital set designer, J. Andre Chaintreuil's perspective:
A few of us worked together on a piece of the Egg interior set, or chamber, where the Pre-Cogs were kept: Victor Martinez played with the exterior, and David Chow and I worked on the interior. In the end, it became my job to do all the construction documents for the Egg interior. On that Egg, every single angle was unique so I worked with the 3D model in Rhino and then drafted everything in AutoCAD. I would often section or slice the model by extruding or projecting curves through it at any angle that was appropriate. In the
same way, I could take any plane and fold it flat or develop any surface I wanted. The pages you see (flipping through a wad of CAD drafting) are just a small percentage of a ream's worth of paper for one set of working drawings. (Laughs) It was massive, but it was the best way to communicate with construction about how to cut every angle on every unique piece. The construction crew made the frame of the Egg set, which we called "the cookie cutter." While the frame pieces were individually being cut and assembled, we sent the computer files out to a company in San Francisco called Kreysler & Associates, who used their CNC, or computer-numerically-controlled, milling machine to carve the interior sculptural surface of the Egg. These CNC pieces were then fitted into the cookie cutter frame as the finished interior surface was crafted. It was composed of two overlapping waves moving in opposite directions creating a beautiful, woven texture from Styrofoam blocks.2
As you can see, the options for visualizing are limited to the imagination and subsequent needs of the designer. The Egg was derived specifically from the aesthetics of working in the computer (Fig. 6-10 and Fig. 6-11). Alex McDowell, the designer, specifically hired digital designers because he
wanted a digital aesthetic for the movie. The same process of concept designing applied to other aspects of this film. See also color insert between pages 142 and 143. J. Andre explains,
My main set for Minority Report was called the Haii of Containment where the prisoners were confined to vertical sleds that rose out of the ground as a telescoping, horizontal arm swung around to access them. The visual image was like blades of grass in the wind or much like a device called "Pin Art" you've probably seen where you can press your hand onto a frame of blunted pins that mimic the shape of your hand. I collaborated with illustrator James Clyne on this set (Fig. 6-12 and also color insert). In 3D it's so easy for me to create a shape quickly and accurately, then share renderings with an illustrator like James. A benefit of sharing files like this is that it saves the illustrator the time to properly set up a perspective view so more time can be spent adding textures, creating mood, and furthering the set design. We already know from the 3D model how much of the set will be built for the camera. The other beautiful thing about these modeling environments is that everything is life size—my one-quarter, my three-quarter, and my full-size are all the same image, just printed out at different scales.
I really was thrilled in the end and very happy with the world we had created. Alex McDowell, production designer, composed some books we
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