I’ve always liked “Behind the Scenes” documentaries on DVDs, Blue Rays and even VHS back in the days. It was inspirational, and I guess in some ways, they helped me decide what I wanted to work with or towards. Some of the better ones that I like a lot is “Under Pressure” (The Abyss), “Hearts of Darkness” (Apocalypse Now) and “Dangerous Days” (Blade Runner, 4 hours of pure film making joy!). Also shorter featurettes on Unforgiven, Terminator 2, Total Recall, Star Wars and the latest Star Trek movie are good (J.J Abrams uses some easy and excellent old school techniques that show that simplicity still works like a blast!) . If you’re hardcore you may want to check out all 12 hours of LOTRs extended edition extra material. But only if you’re hardcore. Anyway, now I wanna try to go behind my own stuff. It’s “just” ads and promos, but the process is still the same in many ways, only shorter!  

The set four days before shooting

My biggest production so far, in terms of set size, number of people, budget and equipment, is the ad we did ahead of the winter olympics 2010. I had never actually shot in a “built from scratch” studio set before this. All my previous shoots had been on location, and I was looking forward to work in a controlled enviroment for change. Control is perhaps not the right word, “rigid” is more appropriate. Because in studio, nothing happens without you or someone else doing it. No wind, no weather, no natural lighting, no natural moist or density in the air,

Two days before shoot. Halfway there!

no nothing.  NRKbeta wrote a behind the scenes article back when we made the ad, if you read norwegian, have a look.

When shooting on location I almost always come back to the editing room appreciating the small mistakes, chances of luck and unforeseen events that happens through a day. Picture 1, 2 and 3 shows the building of the set over three or four days. It’s not a big set, the hallway is 10 meters long, 2,5 meters wide and there is path that leads to the right for another 2 meters. As inspiration I had the Ice hotel from Dr. Zhivago, and as it turned out, so had my set designer as well, before we even started talking about how

Set. Done.

I wanted it.  

We actually discussed the possibilities of building the set in a giant fridge at one point, because I wanted the realism of warm breath in cold air which is really hard to do well in CG. In the end we decided not to do it. It was to expensive and would not allow much maneuvering space,in addition to the uncomfortable conditions of shooting in a subzero environment. We tried a CG solution later on, but it never felt right to me, so in the end we decided to leave it out.  

A lot of stuff got left out due to time and budget restrictions. I initially wanted drifting snowflakes in the air and 50 cm of powder snow covering the floor, just like in Ridley Scotts, “Legend“! (Legend is perhaps not the best movie in the world, but it is a visual masterpiece when it comes to set design. The whole thing is more or less shot in a studio, which in the end burned down before the shoot was finished. Early Scott-movies are visually stunning, check out The Duelists, Alien, Legend and Blade Runner!)  

We shot the ad using Arri D21 on a MovieBird crane most of the time. Some shots on a dolly. It later turned out that there was a software bug in the Arri or in the workflow between the camera and editing software that messed up the blue channel of the image, which again caused problems when we started keying the green screen footage. It turned out okay in the end, but we spent a lot of time messing around, trying to find a solution to the problem.  

The Arri D21 on a MovieBird.

Where did the other wall go..?

 In addition to being my first studio shoot, it was also my first time working with 3D-elements which requires some extra planning. I’ll continue with that in Part 2 of this “behind the scenes” post, and let us not forget about the snow.. I’ll write something about that as well.