Recently, while perusing the archives of the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Stratford, CT—where Saxon Mills is based—I came across something interesting.
It was a contact sheet for a set of photographs of a model of a set, which was to be built on this hallowed stage in the mid-1950’s. I quickly saw the corollary between these giant stage productions and the productions of webseries, music videos, and other intentional online video content. 3D modeling of sets is clearly nothing new. What is exciting is how accessible they are for the cost-conscious producer of online video, today.
The 2005 film, Good Night and Good Luck, directed by George Clooney utilized Google Sketchup. In 2006, production designer James Bissell was quote as saying, “I’ve used SketchUp to design movie sets for almost two years and I love the ease with which I can add to an existing design. Making quick edits is crucial to the movie production process and this software delivers on its promise of ease and accessibility.” The ease and accessibility is exactly why Google Sketchup is such a powerful tool in the creation of online video.
There are so many different reasons and ways to make the most of 3D modeling for production. However, this post is focused on how our team has reduced time on location by utilizing this free tool.
Twice I have had access to my ideal location with very limited time to set, shoot, and strike. In both cases we beat the allotted time by 15 minutes only because we had spent considerable time on location virtually in Google Sketchup. Google Sketchup comes with an expansive library of models to pull into the virtual location, including Arri and Kino Flo lights & stands as well as models of architectural elements such as Pella windows and models of people in various shapes, sizes, and colors.
For the music video Wishing, we created a restaurant counter and a back wall and loaded in pre-existing models of actors, stools, and diner-booths. From there we created a lighting design including the specific lights we planned to use. Prior to the shoot, cast and crew received a copy of the 3D model. When shoot day came, set, shoot, and strike took two hours and forty-five minutes. A similar
process was used when the team had one day to shoot twenty-two pages of script in the Hersham Acorn Newspapers offices for The Oligarch Duplicity.
Knowing that we didn’t want to move lights during the shoot, we were able to load in pre-existing models of the lights we planned to use and office furniture as well as models of people.
We created an entire storyboard of shots with the lights in place. Though the team spent less than eighteen hours to set, shoot, and strike the newspaper office, it was only possible because we had spent more than eighty hours on location virtually.
There are many reasons to create 3D models prior to production. This is something they knew at the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre more than fifty years ago; back when the slide-rule was the tool of quick calculations. Now today, when productions are viewed around the world simultaneously from small and large production companies alike; it’s great that such a powerful tool is available to take advantage of the latest technology to do the same thing. What should be exciting for the online video industry is that budget or lack of it is not a barrier to use.
You can find Google Sketchup here: http://sketchup.google.com/.