I have a life! I did other things, too!
This was my favourite, though. Sorry, human beings I saw over the weekend.
As you may already know, I’m on the gishwhes team Apokaleypse (like us on facebook to join in the fun!). While the main hunt takes place in August, there are also mini-challenges known as gifwhes. The latest was to “Recreate a scene from Supernatural using gishwhes mascots”. Click “the entry” above to see it, and “the original” to watch the original scene!
(First off, got to plug the London Film School’s short course in Production Design. Okay, off we go.) Storyboarding to replicate existing footage is easier and quicker than creating your own from scratch, which is handy as I only had three days to do this. With such a limited time, I had to cut parts of the scene, and I had to determine the most efficient parts of the set to built – so that each part could be used in more than one shot, I ended up with a roughly L-shaped set.
I decided straight away to go for a shoebox diorama (and actually managed the whole set out of one box), so the next question was scale. After measuring the dimensions of each wall/side of the box, I decided on roughly 7cm (for Sam/the Wooster, and slightly smaller for Deanmonite and the Casopus) so that I could get the wide shots without running out of wall at the top. I gave Sam a sling in photoshop, and if you were wondering whether I darkened the shade of red of Dinomite’s cape to match Dean’s shirt in the iconic scene…of course I did! I changed his pants shade to denim and cleared the belt so I could write “Deanmonite” on, but the cape’s the pièce. I then rescaled the images to the right size to print on A4.
Of course, Dean’s cape didn’t show up a dark enough shade of red, so I went over it with a burgundy marker.
Speaking of markers…
I would always say if you’re making a shoebox diorama pretty much literally on a shoe string, you can find everything you need in your house – and that was the case for me. But there are some things you can do to help yourself out, and having a decent set of pens if you’re going to be creating anything at all is wise. Here’s what I used, from left to right:
- Gold marker, bought in conjunction with a silver one, used both for door lettering and on this project a while back.
- Black Stabilo fine liner, and, after the Mildliner, another artists’ black ink pen. Can never have enough.
- Zebra Mildliner in grey. These are only available from Japan so they take a little while to arrive, but I’m so glad I have them. Not as bright as highlighters or as opaque as markers, I’m amazed at how useful the grey one has been in darkening anything you like by a shade or too. It’s basically a shadow in a pen, and I mainly used it for colour variation in the tiles on the walls.
- White gel pen. A white gel pen is another must that always comes in handy, and you’ll see your* favourite artists, like Kinko, using it all the time. I mostly used it for the grouting around the tiles, but it’s also handy as a fine-point Tipp-Ex (Whiteout to the Americans).
- Expo dry erase markers. I also used these for signs during gishwhes, such as during Save The Unicorns and Hug a Stormtrooper (oh, the kids’ smiles!) on this playlist.
- Black sharpie. Enough said. Always have at least two on hand (I found one of mine had run out during pre-production and had to bin it). Incredibly versatile.
Aside from the pens and the shoebox, I recognise that most people wouldn’t necessarily have the other items I used in their houses. We have a good stockpile of paper and cards of various colours, but what really brought it all together was the lighting. I managed to find some beads which matched the light fittings relatively well, and of course we also happened to have white LEDs and the tools to wire it all up. Just think outside the box for this one – if I hadn’t used the beads I would have found something else. Nevertheless, LEDs and a soldering iron can’t hurt to have on standby. Lastly, we also happened to have some sticky-back wood panelling for the doors. The dialogue:
Me: Can I use some of this stuff?
My Dad: Yeah. We actually got it for a [His Dark Materials] prop for you last year anyway.
Every little helps.
You can cut corners when it comes to anything that won’t be in shot/seen by the audience. Here’s a picture of how terrible my sets look if you swing the camera round to an angle I didn’t need shots for.
Only the finished product matters, especially if you’re on a tight schedule (which, if you’re working on anything for/with anybody else, you are).
If you’ve lain the groundwork with your storyboarding and your set, it should all come together here. Position your ‘actors’ (I used masking tape), position your camera, get your focus and lighting, and shoot. For a tiny set like this, the combination of natural lighting from the windows around my desk, the lights in the set, and a desk lamp were enough. If you were going for stop motion, you’d want to use a tripod, but as there was very little minute movement and the focus was on the set as the characters moved around it, I did it freehand.
My favourite part of the shoot was my cat walking around the set like a giant panther. I wish I’d gotten a photo, but I also forgot to get an aerial shot of the set before I took it down after the shoot…talk about eat, shoot, and leave. Here’s roughly what it looked like:
The shoebox lid bent over for one wide shot to provide an arch.
Since we were tight for time, I took the route of making short videos using the photos in iMovie, importing video footage to frames in Photoshop and saving as gifs. Since I hadn’t planned to subtitle anything (it’s a fairly self-explanatory scene anyway) I didn’t need to mess around in After Effects, and the colour grading needed was simple enough to cover in iMovie too (cooling the colours and desaturating to match the original shots better where necessary).
The Bad and the Ugly: What I would do differently next time, continuity errors, and straight up goofs
I put this part last because most people won’t stick around long enough to ever know of the myriad screw ups.
- Left-facing Dean didn’t have Deanmonite written on his belt.
- Not all of the tiles were finished all the way to the bottom, and the walls in my set didn’t have a layer of green tiles along the bottom.
- There are two hanging-lights absent in my set.
- There should be two steps at the back of the corridor Dean walks along.
- The gap in the wall leading off down a smaller corridor is too far forward (in the direction of the camera) in my set.
- I wanted to give the walls the same gloss as the tiles in the show, but ran out of time (and initial PVA testing did absolutely nothing).
- The dimensions of the tiles are not exact. The patterning is uniform, except where I spotted a distinct variation on camera and adapted it to suit.
- I made the scene of Dean bursting through the door, but didn’t get a chance to edit that gif. If making it again, I would’ve increased the size of the door for greater clarity of the ‘APOKALEYPSE’ text replacing ‘ELECTRICAL’.
- There should be two arches on the back corridor – I only made one (and it left a lot to be desired)
Let me know if you spot anything else!
Until next time,