Creating The Sets
"A production designer creates the world within which the film is shot," says White
"A production designer creates the world within which the
film is shot," says White. "When you read a script,
you have a vision of the world the characters live in. I have
to create that world, be it a set or location or even a visual
effects shot. It involves everything from construction to props
to the sets."
"We wanted to update the design of everything from the space
shuttles to the wardrobe but we had to integrate it with existing
technology. Once we got cooperation from NASA, it put the onus
on me to make sure that any sets or spacecraft we designed integrated
with NASA's look. We took artistic license with mission control-ours
is much more stylistic-but we made sure the technology was accurate."
NASA consultants would walk the set, from console to console,
screen to screen, and advise the set designers and decorators.
White is proud of his blend of authenticity and
style, but was concerned that in elevating the aesthetics of NASA
on set, the company had to take greater care when scouting the
real NASA locations needed for further filming.
"There are some facilities at NASA, that while utilitarian,
are pretty mundane looking and simply don't translate to film,"
White says. "But there is so much there, and they opened
their doors so widely to us that we found places that worked beautifully."
One such spot was the hallowed launch site of Apollo 1 where the
crew shot a poignant scene between Grace and Harry.
One of White's greatest challenges was creating the asteroid which
became a character in and of itself. "We wanted it to be
scary," says director Bay. "We wanted anything but a
soft rock. It had to have a real presence. Our asteroid specialist
said anything goes because these things vent gas. Apparently they're
pretty vicious in terms of how they heat up with solar windstorms
and all that."
White did a great deal of research and came up with multiple designs
before he and Bay settled on the exact look of the asteroid. He
claims most asteroids look like russet potatoes that, in reality,
are not very interesting. "They're sort of globular and very
Rat on the surface with not much personality," he says. "We
wanted something more menacing so we went through a lot of designs
to come up with the shape of the rock, the razorlike barb
rock formations and the overhangs, to create a sense of peril
whatever spot you're in."
Construction on Stage #2 at The Walt Disney Studios took tour
months using a crew of 150 men and women. The stage measures 240'xl30'
and is one of the largest in Hollywood. Crews excavated 30 feet
(at the lowest point) below stage level, increasing the space,
floor to ceiling, from 45 to 65 feet, and in some areas as high
as 75 feet.
Two months was probably nothing but plastering, woodwork, steel
construction and foam carving," notes White. "It was
built in components, on two or three different stages, and then
transferred and assembled like a big puzzle-most of the pieces
fit, but a few didn't," he laughs.
Stage foreman Richard Birch highlights the broad strokes of the
construction process. "We used a molding comb to take a profile
of the miniature model the art department designed. From the molding
comb we traced the outline on 1/4inch grid paper. The grid
paper is then used to transfer the outline to a oneinch
grid system on the plywood floor of the soundstage. The plywood
is then cut to the shape of the contours of the rocks and mountains
on the asteroid.&q
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