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Old February 7th, 2012, 03:17 PM   #1
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Set Building Ideas

Hello DVinfoer's It's been a while since I trolled on here, but I have a fun project in the works, and could use some fresh ideas, and input hopefully from professionals who have done something like this before.

The project is a short science fiction film that takes place almost entirely in the bridge of a large space ship. I plan to build a set for this bridge, probably filling my entire garage for a while.

So here's the challenge, or at least a few things I am considering. I want the control panels to mostly consist of video displays, with some switches, dials, the occasional lever possibly etc. I would love to have this entire thing lit up, blinking and graphing things etc. For all these screens, would it be best to (option 1 ) mount real computer monitors into the panels, or (option 2) mount blank spots to digitally overlay the graphics into?

As far as I can see there are good arguments for both options.

Option 1 makes for lots less work in post. Drawbacks would be getting good visibility for off axis shots, and getting good exposure. IE difficulty matching exposure for screens and actors at the same time.

Option 2 would likely look the best after all the work is done. BUT it would mean motion tracking, layering, and probably lots of roto scoping.

So... What would you do?
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Old February 7th, 2012, 03:25 PM   #2
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Re: Set Building Ideas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Deming View Post
Option 2 would likely look the best after all the work is done. BUT it would mean motion tracking, layering, and probably lots of roto scoping.
My knee-jerk response is Option 2. But, how much camera movement are you planning for? At some point, Option 1 becomes more economical if every shot has camera motion.

If there's not much, when camera moves are called for, I'd just suck it up and do the motion tracking, which has gotten so accessible. And I'd use greenscreen in the set, so there'd be much less rotoscoping and breaking out into layers.
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Old February 7th, 2012, 03:29 PM   #3
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Re: Set Building Ideas

If you're up to building real set, I'd do it. 1000% more realistic, and they can push button, turn switches, respond to flashing and it's more convincing. Even touch screens like star trek next gen need to respond, and I'd hate to try to do this in post, because I doubt my ability to match physical hand movements to generated effects. Ebay is a great source of panels full of knobs switches and panels. If you're a bit of an electrics guru, you can make it look pretty good IF you have the money.
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Old February 7th, 2012, 04:12 PM   #4
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Re: Set Building Ideas

Great, two replies, differing opinions. So far I'm leaning for option 1.

Paul makes a good case for realism, and I AM a bit of the electronics guru. I can wire the thing up, and hopefully source switches & stuff from all over the place. I can see this getting expensive fast, but it's necessary to really sell the idea that they're in a space ship. Since I can do the electrical work myself I can save money there.
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Old February 7th, 2012, 05:13 PM   #5
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Re: Set Building Ideas

I would think that the decision should also be based on style. If the ship is a retired garbage scow, get grungy hardware. If the ship is squeaky clean and uses virtual touch surfaces, green surfaces are the way to go.
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Old February 7th, 2012, 05:20 PM   #6
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Re: Set Building Ideas

+1 for option 1. You could probably find a lot of old lcd monitors for dirt cheap on ebay or craigslist, since most computer monitors are widescreen these days and people get rid of their old 4:3 monitors. I just got rid of 2 myself and if I had seen your post earlier, I would have volunteered to donate them to your cause. ;-)

You might also want to check with local schools and colleges for old monitors. I work in the media department of a college and as they continue to upgrade their classroom pcs, there are lots of old computer monitors lying around waiting for the next e-cycling period.
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Old February 8th, 2012, 01:03 PM   #7
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Re: Set Building Ideas

Perhaps I should read more closely before responding!

I agree that any objects the talent interacts with - puts their hands on a control surface, touches dials, levers, knobs, switches - should be real objects in the scene.

I'd first consider green panels for displays, but, if you can pre-make display content, have large displays on-set, and time out the display updates to action, that's pretty cool. It's hard, though...

If you haven't done so, review of the various Star Trek TV episodes, original and the spin-offs, is pretty revealing of the changing state of the art. Creating 13 or more episodes each season, on a limited budget, is its own discipline, and the various producers and designers did very well.

One thing I've been impressed with since the original series is the use of sound effects linked to objects. They did this so well! The bridge lift doors have their sound. Touch-screen displays. Red Alert. Communication devices. Tricorders. Sound design was always integral to the design of these objects.
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Old February 8th, 2012, 03:58 PM   #8
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Re: Set Building Ideas

+1 for option 1 for your actors to respond to .. and +1 for great sound design in post.

Try visiting car, truck and bus junk yards to pull out a dashboard or two.

Various sized speedos/tachos could be mounted alongside computer monitors especially if you can power them up.

Space ship in the garage eh, better let the neighbours know and beam them in too :)

Cheers.
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Old February 8th, 2012, 04:30 PM   #9
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Re: Set Building Ideas

When building the set, keep in mind post production ideas. I have recently started asking my clients to put little green dots on their cars (I shoot motorsports quite frequently) so I have something for After Effects to grab onto when tracking. You can always clone out the dot relatively easily and just motion track the change to it in addition to any effect you will be adding.

This could also be done in your case, and you could add 2 points as well to get rotation and position all in one shot. Then adding in some HUD graphics would be easy (well, easier...), even with camera movements as you could get rotation right in the tracking data.
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