VFX Los Angeles

Film production sets are a major key in filmmaking

Film production sets are key to filmmaking

Experienced engineers needed for complex designs

Bond movie set

Set design is a major part of the filmmaking process.

In some cases, the sets are so complex that it even takes longer to make them than it takes to film the movie, much less the scene they support. Nowadays, sets are often so advanced they require the work of many experienced engineers. What you get is a flawlessly symbiotic relationship between art and science.

Movie Inception production set example

Director Christopher Nolan’s film, Inception, stands tall grossing over $830 million dollars worldwide. What seems like a work of brilliant computer-generated animation, however, was largely shot in a completely real environment. Whereas many action-style movies nowadays use CGI to boost their effects, Christopher Nolan, when interviewed, claimed: “using real-world sets gives the seemingly impossible action scenes a feeling of authenticity that CGI cannot create.”

Inception’s scene involving the zero gravity corridors shows this best. Two men engage in an all-out fist-throwing struggle. They fight in what seems like an impossible environment as they jump off and onto walls and ceilings. This scene was created using a large rotating rig, which supported and twisted a built-in elaborate corridor. While it may have seemed that the actors were fighting in a strange zero-gravity-like environment, the corridor was simply rotating and the two would run up the sides to keep their balance.

Inception movie poster

Another example would be Inception’s downtown scene in which a freight train randomly appears, cutting through intersections and traffic, and ripping up gravel. Despite the ease in which this could be done with visual effects, this train was all but computer generated. It was constructed by building the exterior of a freight train on top of a trailer truck. The wheels of the train were then dropped on-set lower than the truck to create gashes in the cement. This massive construction was then shot as it drove through the set in downtown Los Angeles.

Integrating CGI with real environment

Although the possibilities of computer-generated animations are constantly expanding, some directors still prefer real-world environments for their authenticity. And when complex sets are needed, it’s often up to engineers to enter the world of film and fill it with their own personal art form. It may be complex, but it’s also dazzlingly beautiful to see two art forms come together so flawlessly. In the end, is it worth it to spend extra time and money on building overly-elaborate sets?

Really, it’s up to the audience to decide, but one thing is certain – cool sets make for amazing behind-the-scenes footage.