Archive for the 'TV' Category

Behind the House of Imagination

Syfy House of Imagination

On July 7th, The SciFi channel rebranded itself to Syfy. The new name was perhaps the most widely derided since Nintendo’s market leading Wii. Nonetheless, it appears to be paying dividends with increased viewership. Syfy’s previous identity remained intact with expanded brand potential, in an era where the traditional television model continues to erode.

Rather than being branded as a destiantion for only sci-fi, they really wanted “to own the imagination space.” This led Syfy to commision an ident short film, House of Imagination, as part of their Imagine Greater campaign.

BAFTA & Cannes Lion award winning 4Creative spearheaded the endeavour, directed by Brett Foraker. Accompanying him, the cinematographer of Watchmen, Lost and 300, Larry Fong; and production designer Tino Schaedler, whose credits include Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and The Golden Compass. Visual effects were provided by the Moving Picture Company.

Following is a behind the scenes glimpse of the design, courtesy Tino Schaedler. Each set focuses on a space, featuring concept art & digital set designs accompanied by construction photos and the finished shot.

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A New Kindgom

NBC’s Kings has proven the most fascinating new television series of the mid-season. A reinterpretation of the classic King David tale translated into modern times, monarchy intact.

New York City serves as the basis for the new capital of this modern kingdom, Shiloh, retrofitted with visual effects and apt production design as done so effectively in director Francis E. Lawrence’s previous work, I Am Legend.

A long, straight road leads to Shiloh’s centerpiece landmark, evoking at least in effect, the East-West axis of Hitler and Speer’s Welthauptstadt Germania. Except here there is no Arch of Triumph or Volkshalle, rather a prominent skyscraper, its black angled facades reminiscent of a stealth fighter shrouding the monarchy’s political machinations. Its position in the skyline unimpeded by competing distinctive skyscrapers; the Chrysler and Empire State Building are nowhere to be seen.

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Fringe Architecture

This past Tuesday, Fox launched its first new drama series of the season, Fringe. The latest endeavor from Lost co-creator J.J. Abrams in collaboration with his former Alias cohorts, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

At the vanguard of fringe science is the corporation, Massive Dynamic. Its unique office interior recognizable as the Daniel Libeskind designed Lee-Chin Crystal, extension to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Albeit here the angular facades are laced with stock ticker and motivational propaganda displays, integrated into the architecture so seamlessly that the source projection is entirely invisible.

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Perspective, the Journal of the Art Directors Guild & Scenic, Title and Graphic Artists has been made available for free download. The magazine offers a fascinating look at the set design and art direction behind film & television productions.

Considering the difficulty in attaining copies in the retail stream, the free availability of issues in PDF format is a welcome move by the Guild. Unlike its cousins, American Cinematographer or the quarterly visual effects journal Cinefex, the articles in Perspective are frequently written by the artistic practitioners themselves.

The most recent February/March issue includes features on The Spiderwick Chronicles, Into the Wild, Best Picture Oscar nominee There Will be Blood and winner No Country for Old Men, Fox reality series Hell’s Kitchen and the CBS series Moonlight. Also featured, 5D: The Future of Immersive Design written by Minority Report production designer Alex McDowell, production designer John Mutto and art director Judy Cosgrove.

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New Image for Chevrolet

Chevrolet Clay Model

Director Joseph Kosinski has unveiled two new Chevrolet commercials at his website, Baby and Clay Model.

Both feature a noteworthy congruency of poses & space. While Baby’s evolving protagonist finds herself surrounded by an industrial digital set built by Digital Domain, Clay Model was filmed at the Malibu Synagogue off Pacific Coast Highway with the final scene shot at the Irvine based Nikken Building. It’s fitting that Clay Model is accompanied by the impeccably selected Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Take Five. Kosinski has wrapped on three other Chevrolet commercials soon slated to debut.

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Television’s Most Favored Seat


From the office of Dr. House to the interrogation room of the major case squad in Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and countless other television series, stands an iconic chair. Emeco’s classic 1006 Navy Side Chair. In production since 1944, the chair continues to gain popularity. Apparently it’s even a product of the twelve colonies, making a cameo in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series.

“Legend has it that Wilton Dinges, who founded Emeco in 1944, actually tossed a 1006 Navy Chair out the window of a six-story building. The result? A few minor scratches. Emeco’s 77-step patented construction process was invented to satisfy a military need for lightweight, corrosion-resistant equipment” for use on aircraft carriers, submarines, etc.

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Through Lost’s Looking Glass


Tonight ABC will re-air (9pm EST) an annotated version of Lost’s season 3 two hour finale, Through the Looking Glass, in anticipation of tomorrow’s season premiere.

Worse than Devil’s Island in French Guiana, the imprisoning island of Lost also serves as a key character. Filmed predominantly outdoors in Hawaii, the art department has still had the opportunity to conceive significant set pieces. All beginning with the wrecked Oceanic Airlines aircraft scattered across the beach. An expense that resulted in a pilot budget of $12 million, the most expensive in ABC history and rivaling the massive cost of the HBO/BBC series Rome.

Season two introduced elaborate interior sets as the we discovered what was behind the hatch. One section of the underground complex even featured a Buckminster-esque geodesic dome.

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Transforming the Bradbury Building


Pushing Dasies | Episode: Corpsicle


Blade Runner

“But when Ridley decided to use the Bradbury, I was against it,” Fancher continues. “He’d come back from seeing the place with the location manager (Michael Neale) and was all excited. I told him, ‘Ridley, you can’t use the Bradbury Building. I know you’re from England and you think it’s a great place, and it is a great place, but it’s already been done. Overdone. I’ve seen it already in a ton of movies. And even though I never watch TV, I’ve been told that the Bradbury’s been used for cop shows every week for the past ten years.’

“Now, I was trying to make the point that Ridley was from out of the country and didn’t realize that everyone already knew this building. But then Ridley looked at me and said, ‘Not the way I’ll do it.’ At the time I thought that was incredibly arrogant. But then I went to see Blade Runner and thought, ‘My God! Ridley was Right! No one’s ever seen the Bradbury like this before!” - FUTURE NOIR: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon.

Space within Space


The illusion of a contradictory space within another urban space was arguably instigated by 3D street art, an evolution of past trompe l’œil techniques. First attributed to artist/architect Kurt Wenner and further popularized by Julian Beever, their chalk paintings use anamorphosis projection to create a 3D illusion when viewed from specific angles (see appended).

The realm of visual effects affords more unique opportunities as seen in the seminal 2005 Sprite commercial, Liquid Freedom. The ad was conceived by John Shaw, Simon Handford & Sylvester Song at the Hong Kong office of agency Ogilvy & Mather. Directed by Josh Taft at Gang Films, the spot features a basketball court that unexpectedly doubles as a swimming pool with visual effects by French firm BUF (famed for their digital set work in Fight Club and Panic Room).

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Art Directors Guild Design Presentations

Ugly Betty Art Director

The Art Directors Guild, the Hollywood guild whose members handle the production and set design for television series, films and commercials, has publicly made available select design presentations provided for their eleventh annual awards. These PDF presentations are occasionally accompanied by quicktime video clips highlighting the sets. Unfortunately some PDF files suffer from over compression and low resolution source material; recommend viewing at seventy five percent zoom.

The presentation for Ugly Betty, (Winner for Episode of a Single-Camera Television Series) featuring prodution design by Mark Worthington, is the real standout. While this presentation is apparently the only one not present on the new Art Director’s Guild website, it’s still accessible from its prior incarnation.

Another highlight is the pilot for Aaron Sorkin’s defunct NBC series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which interestingly incorporates 3D wireframe models of the main set. Most presentations are relegated to television, though Superman Returns is done justice with well varied examples. Other productions covered include House M.D., Heroes, Hell’s Kitchen, The Queen, Stephen King’s Desperation, and more.