Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Ten": The Studio

On my previous films, I did most of the actual filming on our dining room table. Truth be told, we rarely did our dinning in there anyway, so it wasn't a big deal that I took it over. Now that we have a new home and a baby that we're trying to teach some civilized manners to, it's a bit more important that I do my LEGO filming elsewhere (not to mention keeping all the loose LEGO out of reach of said baby). The solution was to find a new table to do the filming. So, instead of buying one, I made one:

So what we have here is a hanging wooden door (which had to be removed from the laundry room when we moved in) setting atop two large boxes that our child car seats came shipped in and wallah; a table! The room is our garage where we have some black shelves with miscellaneous boxes of stuff against one wall. The table runs right up to the shelves and is in absolutely nobody's way, so it's all good.

Of course, the table didn't stay empty for long as I moved extraneous containers of LEGO (plus my creations so far for the film) over to it's surface. I also got a folding chair to sit at and we pretty much have the set up we need.

One other minor thing to note: On President's day this past Monday, Mrs. Mosley and I took a little day trip down St. Augustine way to visit Fort Matanzas. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. In addition to the pictures we took of the fort and each other, I took about a dozen of the blue skies from on top of the fort, like this one:

The purpose of these was to use them for the green screen behind the skyscraper, so although we'll be hoping that viewers will imagine the skyscraper to be in some advanced city on another planet, it will in actuality be plain old Florida.

Next Week: The Chroma Key

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Ten": The Skyscraper

When I first started thinking about the look of the skyscraper in my film, I wasn't thinking about anything fancy. As long as it looked big and imposing, I was fine with it. Given that you only see it briefly in the establishing shot, that's all it needed to be, right?

But first impressions being what they are, I decided I needed something really grand and distinctive looking (even if the shot in question only lasts about ten seconds). I decided to seek some divine sci-fi inspiration.

For those of you who don't recognize that imposing structure, it's a building in the classic 1927 film Metropolis. This picture is a favorite of mine and I've been using it as my work computer wallpaper for many years now.

I came to two decisions right at the start: First, if I were to build something like this, I was going to have to go microscale, which is a building style in which models are constructed smaller than in standard minifigure scale. Second, the tower would have more than four sides like the one in the movie. Sorry, let me adjust that statement: The tower would appear to have more than four sides. Given that the camera only sees one side of it, making a false front tower should be easy enough.

So here we have the base of our tower:

I took a T-section road plate and built the tower facets over the smooth part while being anchored to the back section with the studs. That way I could use hinges to make whatever angles I needed without having to worry about how to fasten them down. That back structure is going to be pretty thick for something that doesn't even get seen, but it's going to need to be in order to anchor down the front and ensure it's structurally sound.

Here's is the final tower (front view and rear view, which showcases the anchoring structure).

Those two structures on either side are stand-ins for shorter buildings that will be built later. The top of the tower is kind of incomplete, but the camera won't reveal it with the angles I'll use. The camera will be moving forward between two tall buildings built on those front corners and then pan up the skyscraper. Up near the top of the building will be the penthouse office that belongs to the governor, which is where our first scene takes place.

This penthouse presented me with a problem. The camera will stop on the outside of the penthouse windows and then switch to an interior shot of the office. In order for a smooth transition, the exterior (microscale) must reasonable match up with the interior (minifigure scale). My original vision for the office window (a huge rectangle of glass overlooking the city) wasn't distinctive enough to make a strong enough visual link between the scenes.

My solution was to abandon "flat" windows altogether and go with an angled look.

These roof window pieces (which are 27 year old pieces from this set) in two horizontal banks of four match extremely well with the transparent "cheese slope" pieces in the microscale tower. You'll get to see the full effect of these once the office is constructed, but that's later.

Next Week: The Studio

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Ten": The Ground-to-Air Defences

Here we have the first construction that I actually built for the movie. It took some planning and about eight to ten hours of construction and re-construction, and the props are going to appear for probably five seconds in the final cut. Well, if you're going to do something right...

Anyway, what I was aiming for here was some futuristic anti-aircraft guns that are used to shoot down any incoming spacecraft approaching the moon. This means that the guns would have to rotate on a turntable and also raise it's gun barrel to just short of straight into the air. This was the result:

My first breakthrough in designing these was the decision to use X-Pod saucers to go on either side of the gun itself. It gives it a nice sleek look and implies that they function as shielding. The way the gun barrel will rise and fall while the saucers don't seem to rotate was another plus. Here's a shot behind the red discs:

The color choices were very deliberate. This being black and white, I want most of the props and sets to contain black and probably no more than two shades of gray (One of them being the dominant). Too many different grays would make it look muddled. The black sets it off and makes a nice sharp contrast to the rest of the prop.

The one concern I have with this is the antennae and gun barrel both being black. When I eventually shoot this, I will for the first time be using green screen. My concern is that the black parts that intersect with the green screen (which will eventually project a star field) will tend to blend in. The antennae can easily be changed with another color, but the gun barrel would be more difficult. We'll just have to wait and see until we do our first green screen test.

Next Week: The Skyscraper

Saturday, February 05, 2011

"Ten": The NASA Pic

We'll be doing some green screen work in this film. The details of how that's going to work (and how well it's going to work) will be for a later post. Right now, I wanted to share the process for what to put on that screen for a particular shot.

The shot in question will be of our hero in his prototype spacecraft racing to the moon where the bad guy has his missile. For this, I would need a shot of the moon from high up and the darkness of space punctuated by stars. First, the moon:

This pic is from the NASA archives (courtesy of Gimp Savy's easy-to-search website) and is thus in the public domain. There were a lot of photos to go through, but this one suited my needs best. Specifically, it has a nicely detailed surface and the horizon breaks lopsided over opposite sides of the frame, thus communicating great size. Once I had chosen the pic, I put it into Microsoft Office Photo editor to rotate, crop, expand dimensions, color the sky dead black and finally add stars. Here's the result:

With any luck, we'll see our hero racing across this space and make a turn towards the moon's surface (but that comes later).

Next week: The Ground-to-Air Defences

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Chiwetel Ejiofor Quote of the Month: February 2011

I was going to start off introducing this next quote as being from the only character Ejiofor has played to date that is due to return in a sequel. But upon reviewing the latest IMDb entry, it appears that the planned sequel to Inside Man has been scrubbed. That's a pity, because that film was wonderful proof that Spike Lee could work outside his normal subject areas and still turn in a cracking action film.

Ejiofor dons his American accent for his role of Det. Mitchell, who is partnered up with Denzel Washington's Det. Frazier. They get some nice scenes together, and one wonders if they're chemistry here was the reason Ridley Scott would pair them up again in the following year's American Gangster (which will be next month's subject). But for now let's just watch Ejiofor put aside the Bard for some good old American slang.

Det. Mitchell: "Hey Keith, let me see your shoe."

Det. Frazier: "What?"

Det. Mitchell: "Lemme see your shoe."

Det. Frazier: "Why?"

Det. Mitchell: "'Cause I have never seen anyone put their foot that far up a guy's ass."