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End at the Beginning
The final weeks of principal photography were spent filming the interior scenes of the movie, most of which take place at the beginning of the film in the containment facility known to the filmmakers, cast and crew as Centerville. A seamless blend of enormous practical sets and computer-generated surroundings, the underground city consists of three many-storied residential towers framing a common work and play area called the Central Atrium.

Production designer Nigel Phelps says, "We wanted Centerville to look like something the military might have once built to house up to 100,000 people in the event of some catastrophe. Then, prior to the start of our story, it was converted into this futuristic spa-like environment, where the inhabitants believe they are living on the surface and have no idea it's really an underground ex-military facility.”

Phelps researched military and modern engineering projects to design a credible underground city. "Michael had a great book on enormous underground structures, which was very influential. I also looked at the design of North Sea oil rigs, which are these amazing looking structures, with concrete towers several hundred feet high before they are submerged. I was basically looking at any buildings that were massive in order to make our environment more believable.”

Phelps designed Centerville in concrete, glass and steel, with clean lines and hard edges and almost completely lacking in color, firmly establishing the contrast between the controlled atmosphere of the facility and the chaotic world Lincoln and Jordan would eventually face outside. The agnates can see the blue sky through the windows, unaware that what they are looking at is merely a holographic projection to sustain the illusion that they are living on the surface.

The production designer also worked closely with costume designer Deborah L. Scott to carry over the design scheme to the uniforms worn by the residents and staff. Scott offers, "I couldn't put too much color into that setting, or it would take away from the stark architectural look that Nigel had going on. My job was to create costumes that would blend in. If we had put somebody in there dressed in bright yellow or red, we'd have ruined the overall palette of what we were trying to create. But rather than just being solid white, the uniforms have small splashes of colored fabric and pattern lines, which give them a graphic element.”

Recognizing that the same costume had to be worn by different actors as well as the hundreds of extras, Scott acknowledges, "The agnate costume is not the easiest thing to wear. We had a lot of people looking at us like, ‘White stretch? Are you kidding?' It was a big challenge to come up with a design that looked good on so many different body types. We ended up deciding on a simple, clean unisex design that is slightly body conscious, but has a functional feel.”

The sets that comprised Centerville were constructed at Downey Studios, an 80-acre former NASA/Boeing aerospace facility, which is now the largest filming space to be found in the Los Angeles area. Five months in the making, the sets occupied both of the studio's vast buildings, with the largest set, the Central Atrium, erected in the cavernous 627,000-square-foot Building One.

Bay comments, "I told Nigel that, instead of having everything broken up into different sets, I wanted it all to connect so it would appear even bigger and longer. It turned out to be the largest set I've ever filmed on. I was actually intimidated to shoot on it because it was five football fields long, and I had no idea how we were even going to light it.”

The Atrium's Nutrition Plaza, where the agnates gather to eat, was built in the 65,000-square-foot water tank—the largest in North America—which is located in Building One and was obviously emptied for the duration of filming.



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