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

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