Lunar Industries Mission Badges

When we were getting the costume designs together for Moon, I really wanted Sam to have a Silent Running vibe with his day-to-day outfit and I wanted to keep this going right through the design of the mission patches. Being one of my favourite films, Silent Running was a huge part of the inspiration for Moon and being one of my heroes I wanted to give Doug Trumbull a shout out wherever I could. Besides, you're not a legit spaceman unless what you're doing has got it's own patch. Seeing as it's almost Halloween I thought these designs might make your replica Lunar Industries jumpsuit that little bit better.I get asked about the mission badges quite a lot as we had some spare from the shoot and there was a period where Duncan and myself were giving them away at screenings. It's fun to chuck them into the crowd and see people's faces lighting up when they get one. They're all gone now so if you were lucky enough to catch one keep hold of it - they're special because they're slightly wrong. The colours are actually a bit too dark.There were only ten originals of each design, and of these, one set went on each jumpsuit, Duncan's got one and I've got one myself so somewhere out there there are six full sets of original badges. More have been made since but the colours were slightly wrong on the originals and all the others I've seen don't look the same, I can tell the difference immediately when I see them. basically, if you didn't get given one form either Duncan or myself, then it's probably not a real one.

These sizes are all accurate relative to each other. I won't bore you with details of where they all go on Sam's suit as I'm presuming if you're going to make a jumpsuit, you'll probably enjoy figuring all that stuff out for yourself. All the bootlegs out there are made from re-created artwork so they're not accurate.I should point out that these badges contain NO TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS WHATSOEVER. In the Moon universe, Helium 3 was renamed as a commercial fuel source so it could be copyrighted and Lunar Industries did this by swapping the "U" and "I" around so "Helium" became "Heluim". This way they could claim ownership of the material and control supply. This was a legal "fast-move" they pulled before they commenced their Lunar operations which allowed them to create an instant monopoly and become the largest corporation the world has ever seen, having full control of over 97% of the earth's energy supply. This is why the badge below says "Heluim" and not "Helium".

Regular readers may have detected some bullshit just then. Truth is, I had to get these badges designed and final artwork ready in half an hour whilst stalling the start of a big production meeting becasue I had no time. Like a lot of Moon, I was so overworked that I just had to make them up as I went along. I originally thought it might have been taken care of by the costume department. As the chairs for the meeting were being set up I had a visit from them informing me that they needed to get the artwork off in the email in half an hour otherwise we'd have a bald jumpsuit on day one of filming (nice, tight timings, as ever). This was all news to me and so I had to just jump on it. Everybody was sat in the meeting room ready to start with one empty chair and I'm across the corridor designing badges and sending them off to print the second I was done. So I'm sorry for not proof-reading this but I was rather busy.

There's a couple of other badges that ended up not being seen which are the ones I wore when I was being the rescue team. Eagle eyed Blu-Ray viewers might be able to find them hiding if you look really closely.

The other graphic on Sam's jumpsuit was an A4 iron-on transfer on the back which came from the graphic below. It has round corners and was cropped to the dark edges.

Quick note to the bootleggers -  if you take this artwork and use it to start selling accurate badges to people - fuck you. You're a prick. They're not meant to be for sale. If you do anything with these designs, be sure to tweet round some pics and let me know about them. Happy Halloween you crazy space-kids!

The trailer you were never meant to see...

I've been digging through my hard drives and came across something that you might like if you're interested in the process we went through getting this film made. It's a trailer that we cut for Moon before we'd finished making it. We ran out of money before we could get into post-production, and so we had to get some interest from investors so we could keep going and get finished. The Cannes film festival proved a great opportunity for this and so we cut a trailer to take over there and generally tried to get things looking as nice as possible in an attempt to give an impression of the film we intended to put out. We got it cut by a company called "Zealot" based in London's Soho, and as we had no VFX shots even started at the time, I took the footage and did what I could over a long weekend to try and give it a bit of scope and feel more like what we intended. Please don't judge me too harshly for the quality of these VFX shots - it was, as happened so often on this production, an emergency situation and it was pretty much just me in my bedroom, staying up all night, getting on with it.

As this was done so early on, there are quite a few differences in here than ended up in the final film. You can see there's a greenish grade to the whole thing that I was never really keen on which we cooled off for the final grade on the released feature. We had a hard time with this as we used quite a lot of cheap fluorescent lights on the film and they were at different colour temperatures in different parts of the set and at different times of the day. When saw the first runs of footage in the cut, the colour temperatures of the lights were jumping around from green, to pinkish, yellow, blues; there were little shifts in hue all over the place. You may also notice the crappy looking "Big Boards". These were place-holders and were essentially light-boxes with graphic acetate strips that were replaced later with CG overlays I put together to bring them to life. They were originally supposed to be real displays but the quote for the build came in at £36,000. Goodbye Big Boards!

We used some of Clint Mansell's other music as a place-holder as we were wanting to get him in to do the score and fortunately everything went according to plan. Just shows how perfect he was for the job that his other score's fit right over Moon. Having said that, this piece of music as about as perfect film trailer music as you could ever hope to find. As long as the film's not "Wet Christmas".

I think one of my favourite things about this is that Duncan is the voice of Gerty. The weird thing is that his voice is also in the "real" trailer put out by Sony. There's a shot where Sam is driving the rover away from the base and we hear an automated woman's voice informing him that he's leaving the Sarang base perimiter. This is actually Duncan's voice too - pitch-shifted to make him sound like a woman. You have a woman's voice my lord! If that makes no sense to you watch this. If it does make sense to you watch this anyway - you'll like it.

It's quite nice to watch this trailer retrospectively as it's got much more in it than we would really have wanted to give away in a theatrical release. When Sony were cuting the actual trailer, we were gutted when it had two-Sam clone shots in there as we felt the jig was up and nobody would get into the story. Fortunately, we were so under the radar I don't think anybody even saw the trailer so it didn't sem to matter in the end. I never saw one "in the wild", if you did I'd be interested to see what you thought of it having seen the trailer in a theatre and then watched the film afterwards. Did it spoil it for you?

Just for comparisons, here's the official trailer that Sony put out. Pip pip.

Get In The Car

I thought I'd show you something on a bit of a different tack today, so here's my favourite photograph that was taken during the making of Moon. It was shot by Mr. Phellim O'Neill, who also did our behind the scenes EPK for the DVD and press packs that went out when the film was released. Phellim is a very strong and handsome man and can lift very heavy objects right up over his head. You might have read his words of wisdom in the Guardian too. This is the pair of us on the Moon miniature shoot set which looks a bit weird in this context. I love this photo, it always makes me laugh. Look at our thinking faces. 

Anyhow, concept album covers aside, the picture below is the one I actually wanted to show you that Phellim took during the rover-cab green-screen shoot between the end of the Sarang shoot and the start of the miniature shoot. Actually, thinking about it, as this photo was taken, armoured folk-lift trucks were violently smashing the Sarang set to pieces. I wish I'd got some film of that as it was a very wrong-feeling thing to watch. Anyhow, check out the photographic skills of Mr O'Neill going on here capturing a moment during a setup with a sneaky camera-phone pic defying the almost blanket on-set photography ban.

As you can see, the photograph is of myself, Duncan and Sam (wearing his space-baby-bonnet), and was taken towards the end of principal photography. We have the rover-cab set off the gimbal and mounted in the post-crash orientation so it's up and slanted at an angle. The rover set had a bolt-on rear wall, which we attached when we were filming so the set was completely enclosed but every now and again we had to cut a hole in it to point a camera through. In this picture we're blocking out a shot and I'm talking Sam through the escape procedures for the vehicles' occupants. I just like this photo because it shows the three of us in the middle of a pow-wow taking care of business and as we had a photography ban on-set during the whole production there aren't that many pics like this. This is a very honest picture of us actually making the film and I like the way you can see both parts of the set, the nicely dressed interior part but also the rubbish wooden supports round the back. The whole film is painted wood with plastic glued onto it but when you watch the film as an audience member you're not supposed to realize it. This is my job, to put something in front of you and try and make you believe it is something else. Gerty is not a plastic box with me lying on the ground wiggling it left and right. It is a robot and it loves you. But it might kill you.

When I was working out the designs I put all sorts of little details into them and so I tended to spend a lot of time explaining things to people pertaining to how all this imaginary stuff actually worked. Escaping from the Rover would be a bit tricky as a rollover would have blocked the hatch leaving the occupant with no way out. I put this into the design to try and add a little bit to the sense of opression and danger of Sam driving around on the lunar surface, as I didn't want it to be too comfortable. As soon as that rover started rolling, Sam would have been freaking out, as he'd know how bad things might be about to get. Current lunar exploration plans have the astronauts driving around in a pressurised cab in shirtsleeves and this just didn't suit where we were coming from with Moon.

Despite looking like an upended graden shed filled with techno-junk, the rover set was actually the most dangerous set we filmed in. The surfaces were covered in fine grey dust, which made them incredibly slippery. There wasn't much solid to grab hold of either and a fall against a wall would likely send you right through it. Plus, there was quite a lot of knobbly stuff to bang your head on. Quite dangerous pretending to drive a car on the moon. Especially when you're wearing a pretend space suit that kills your hearing, balance, peripheral vision and any tactile senses from your hands and feet. And you can't bend your ankles. Hard work being a space-man.

The rover-cab interior was a particularly interesting set if you're an aviation buff. We had a few parts in there from junked vintage RAF aricraft. The dual joystick-type controls in the centre of the console underneath the monitor were bomb aiming equipment form an old Royal Navy Vampire, there was a panel from the original Trident (Nuclear Missile) launch unit, and the big round unit on the roof smack in the middle is a gyroscope from an RAF Vulcan Bomber. I've always loved these beautiful aircraft and one day I hope to be able to travel to work in one.


Designing Sarang: Robotic Space-House Of The Future

One of the most satisfying bits of work I did on Moon was designing the set. I had free reign to come up with a moon base concept that we were actually going to build in it's entirety, so it was an exciting prospect. Duncan and I had been chatting general moon base stuff whilst getting the script together so by the time I started the actual design process I'd already pretty much got it in my head. So I went straight to 3D and started boshing it out. The only thing Duncan really wanted was a main corridor that was kind of shaped like a key so I took this and incorporated a split-level roof. I knew I wanted to have the facility white and lit primarily with bounced light rather than direct light sources. The image below is the first render I did of the Sarang set.

I usually start a design with a key shape or detail and as I had the bulkhead pressure-seals in mind for the entire base it felt like a good place to start. I was lighting the CG set with real-world equivalent lights right from the beginning in an attempt to get a clear idea of what we might eventually end up with in the studio.

I then worked a bit of detail into the walls to try and make it look a bit more industrial. I put the padded units on to soften things up and give it a slightly "furnished" hint, so it suggested a degree of comfort and of being somewhat of a living space. The lights in this render were becoming a bit pinky so I dialed them down a bit to see what it looked like.

Bingo! This was the first render I did where I was sure the design was going to actually work. You can see the light-source in this image which is suggestive of a skylight. The intention is for a large, diffuse light to bounce down into the set and give everything a soft light with no harsh shadows, It's quite a gentle light. As the light in the base was designed to bounce, this was one of the main reasons I wanted the bulkheads in there. My thoughts were that we could light each bay individually with it's own "skylight", and the bulkheads would act as baffles for the light. This way we could pretty much contain the light to a single bay and step the next bay into darkness.

I put some more detail into the background and duplicated the entire bay with the skylight and got the image above. You can see how the lights are alternately on and off in the different bays down the length of the corridor. I thought this would be a nice visual device to use when we were filming as we could make the set look quite dramatic and also make it seem bigger. I really wanted the corridor to feel like a large space. Also, by moving the camera in and out of darkness we could really establish a mood. We could have Sam walking into darkness and becoming silhouetted or do things like having Gerty emerging from the shadows at any point. Can't hurt having these sort of framing options when you're shooting.

This is what the view looks like with the camera in a dark bay. You can already get a sense of mood, even at this early design stage. I think we could have taken this further in the film but as time was so short I was trying not to bother the DoP too much by constantly asking him to turn this or that light off or on.

I always intended the set to be lit with indirect light that was bouncing around off the surfaces. As the set was to be enclosed it was important for all the light sources to be designed in there rather than the normal style of filmmaking where every setup has re-positioned lights being moved around off-camera. This also gave us the bonus feature of being able to move onto other setups really quickly as way less kit needed to be moved.

The ladder to the Monitor Room was originally supposed to be more of "an event" in the base design but as we ran out of money it ended up being a metal ladder painted orange with tennis racket grips wound round it. I remember when these grips were being applied; the art department was getting pretty down about how tight our resources were. It didn't help that I'd stolen their vacuum cleaner and plaited it orange for the Gerty hair-cutting scene. Everything was getting grabbed and pulled to pieces or being used to dress the set. You can see how with the ladder, I originally went for something much more substantial as I wanted there to be a bit of a climb that was very brightly lit. I liked the idea of this ladder sat in the darkness with a bright light beaming down and framing it in a kind of spotlight.

The nice thing about the design language of the corridor bulkheads are that they translate nicely into tasty-looking pressure doors that are clearly Science Fiction. I love the look of these sorts of things in Sci-Fi. This is the view of the rec room whilst it was just a white space. The main corridor was designed first, then the airlock, infirmary, sleeping quarters and finally the rec room. In the render above it's just a placeholder white box to give the impression of an illuminated space.

I did briefly play with the idea of having the monitor tower illuminated all in red light, kind of like the emergency lights in Aliens. It totally broke the clean design I had going on and so I abandoned it immediately. Goodbye shitty red light! I hate you!

Here we see some 3DSMax bipeds standing in for our hero for scale. We could tell from this image that the space was going to be quite large and nice to film in. This was good as we needed to get a Motion Control robot and associated track and support kit in there for some of the scenes.

Originally I had the return vehicle as a series of silos in the floor that Gerty would use the big arm to load the canisters into. As the rail gun was underneath the base this made sense but when the script developed and Sam needed to get into the return vehicle this complicated things massively. So we changed it to more of a lift that he could load up his kit and lie down in. In the film we see Sam lift two modules out of the lift mechanism to make room for himself. These units each held two HE3 canisters and weighed an absolute ton. They were solid wood and barely liftable and everybody hated moving them around.

I always liked the look of the two big doors open next to each other. We got a couple of shots into the film with this framing and I always liked the way it ended up looking. Sci-Fi-doorey = good.

I originally had this design on the back wall of the infirmary. A big cross. Because he is in hospital. What a cock. I get annoyed at myself when I do something that's very literal. I don't know why I didn't just make the whole base design look like a giant space-helmet. I surpassed myself with this next image.

Ooh, look, it's all bathed in green light now because green is the colour of operating theatres and also tends to be associated with wellness. It's also a massive pharmacy sign. What the hell was I thinking? Goodbye Forever!

Originally the greenhouse area where Sam grows his plants was going to be a disused airlock. I designed this into the base but we needed more room to film it and so we opened it out into a vague grey area walled with bread crates spray painted with some stickers on and lights behind them. That's movie magic!

This is the initial design of the airlock and pretty much stayed as it is shown here. The placeholder space suits hanging up were me testing out what bright orange suits would do to the ambient light in the set as I wasn't sure how much it would bounce. Nothing to worry about. I still wonder if we should have gone with the orange suits.

I tried the same thing with the HE3 canisters. This is a reworked version of the cargo-loading machine and is closer to how it ended up in the film. 


Most of the base design changed very little from my original designs as I just sort of blurted it all out straight into 3D. In the images above we see the corridor to the "return vehicle" (clone-burning-box). This part of the set always used to annoy me as the sloped floor was made of wood and it used to flex and creak a bit as you walked up it. I tried to get it stabilized but as it would have meant ripping quite a bit of the set apart to get under it we just had to leave it. Always annoyed the shit out of me though. If you look at the graphic on the floor right in front of the door on the set as it appears in the film, you'll see a grey shape which kind of looks like the Millennium Falcon. I painted this on there as a shout out to Ralph McQuarrie, one of the greatest Science Fiction artists that have ever lived. Ralph Rocks.

This is the view approaching the infirmary with the "night-time" lighting scheme on. We had two lighting configuration on-set, "Day" and "Night". I'm not sure how clear this comes across in the film but I think touches like these really help establish a mood behind everything else and are worth putting in. I'm not quite sure how the sense of geography came across in the film, or if the layout of the base is particularly clear in the final edit. The diagram below is an outline of the base hi-lighting the Gerty rail apparatus. As you can see, there are areas of the station that he actually has no access to. We never see him in Sam’s' bedroom even though one of his jobs is to clean-up after the "removal" of an expired clone. Exactly how he achieves this is simply a space-mystery and definitely not because we forgot or overlooked anything.

Even though this was just a quick screen-grab of the 3D layout of the set, I ended up re-purposing it and using it as a lightbox graphic above the main terminal as the "Fire Control" graphic.

The animation below is a CG fly-through I did to give more of a sense of space and to show how everything is connected together (sorry about the file-size). These renders went down really well at meetings and the whole CG design sequence turned out to be incredibly useful as the construction department could take the 3D models and immediately start working with them. Also, when we came to pre-light the set we had of a blueprint for light placements and a decent idea of what it was supposed to look like as reference.

Here's a few images of the final CG base model from my folio. It was a weird thing designing this base and then having the thing built for real as walking around it was like being inside my own head, it was a real "Being John Malkovitch" experience for me. The design process took around a week when all said and done, with most of the work being done up front and then a few tweaks and "finishing off" being completed a couple of weeks later over a day or two. It was really nice getting to spend a few weeks in Sarang whilst we were filming and strange how I wasn't upset at all when I saw the set being smashed to pieces at the end of the shoot. I'm not sure exactly what this says about me or how knackered I was at the time but at the end of all the violent destruction it made a hell of a big bonfire. 

Get your Logo on

One of the most important pieces of graphic design work I had to do on Moon was the Lunar industries logo. As the film was designed to be remiscent of vintage period 70s and 80s Sci-Fi films, we had to have an evil corporation at the heart of our story. It was really fun making up an evil corporation for Moon, this subject area is something that Duncan and I have been dabbling with for a few years now and it was great to bring one of them to life and realize it on-screen. Evil corporations are great screen baddies.

I didn't have much time to get the graphics work done and so, as usual, the design for the logo was done very quickly. I spent about a morning working it up and went through some pretty bad designs really quickly, left it for a couple of days whilst I had other things to do that superseded it in priority at the time, then came back to it and finished it off in an hour and a half one evening after a pre-production meeting. When you're working like this, sometimes you just have to sit down and start moving your hand around making shapes and trying out fonts as there's no time to sit on a roof in a hammock watching the sun go down waiting for inspiration to strike. Consequently these original Lunar Industries logos are pretty bad but again, in the spirit of honesty and to show you what we really did behind the scenes here are a few of my initial rapid attempts at trying to get a handle on the Corporate Graphics.

Originally I was thinking I might go for something that looked kind of like an aerospace company so I was looking at working some flashes and little arrows and things into the design.

Then I was having a look at making things look a bit techy by drawing white lines through and breaking the fonts up to make things look "fast". I also worked in a round logo at the left, which is a circle within a circle. This is intended to be a graphic representation of the moon with the earth behind it to symbolize the companies' lunar mining effort. I imagine the first company to get up there and set up an operation like we see in Moon would be pretty keen to brag about it. Apart from the production line cloning and murdering. I'm sure Wikileaks would get hold of it sooner or later.

At this point it looked to me like there was a bit too much going on in the design. With the "fast" arrows, white streaks and the earth/moon logos all in there it was saying a bit too much so I thought I'd simplify it and try out a new font whilst I was at it. When you're trying to hone in on something it's usually better to change one thing at a time otherwise you can quite easily spin off into the weeds. I did that here and this one's pretty awful. Thing is, it was still valuable in the design process because it made me change the font again.

And that's where Green Mountain/Microstyle came in. I love this font. We'd used it a couple of times before and I thought I'd give it a go and we both liked the look of it. I was also trying to separate the lettering from the background with a box out here. This one doesn't work too well but it got me thinking along those lines of using negative space for the lettering, which I ended up coming back to later.

Next I tried this, which is just awful. I wanted something to frame the writing and thought I'd go for something that looked a bit "imperial" (which this doesn't really anyway). This was actually a worthwhile design to try as it scared me a bit. I thought this would look pretty cool in my head and as you can see it doesn't. This happens from time to time and I find it genuinely scary. This is always good motivator as it's guaranteed to make you review your previous versions and hone in on something you are confident you can get to work. Being scared is good for your focus, as long as you can hold your nerve. As an artist, the fear comes from doing a rubbish piece of artwork and essentially failing.

So from there I decided to have another look at the earth/moon graphic, as I liked the simplicity of the circle within a circle. The thing is, it didn't really have much common graphically speaking with the actual copy describing the name of the company. The two things tended to want to seperate from each other on the page. There is no design unity here and this makes it just look wrong.

I then tried another version where we see the Earth with a ring describing the moon rotating around it, which is also a Helium2 (regular Helium) atom. I like trying to work things like this into designs but this just doesn't work as a logo. It's not really got any strength or solidity and it's a bit scrappy and in cohesive.

I then proceeded to try and bring some weight and relevance to the double-circle logo as I felt it was worth pursuing. I do think it looks better darker and it's starting to sit a bit better with the text in this one. Giving priority to the word "Lunar" also felt like a step in the right direction and it was also really useful in getting the text to fit more into a block, as it's a more pleasing and tidy geometric shape. It still left me with the problem of getting a rectangular block and a cirlce to sit nicely together on the page though. I was trying to get back to aerospace/speed again here by putting the ghosted versions of the round graphic in to bring a sense of motion and speed, which didn't really bring anything to the design.

I like logos that also have an abreviated, smaller version and I was keen to have this in the film, as I wanted to brand everything to create a corporate atmosphere. I really needed something pretty non-descript that worked as a little badge that I could put all over the place on clothes, props, walls, video graphics and everything. I had a little look at how the "L" and "i" could fit together and you can almost see my brain working in this "scrapbook" image above.

This is the first graphic I worked up to try out on the walls of the Sarang facility set we were building in Studio K at Shepperton. Incidentally, this is half of the massive studio they built for Lost in Space, which was a single space then but now has been split into two and comprises K and L stages. To give you an idea of how big they each are, we were shooting with the full-size complete Sarang set in K and "The Boat That Rocked" were shooting in L with a full-size mechanical ship mounted on a gimbal. Pretty big spaces. So as the set was being put together by the construction crew I was in there with our sign writer Julian Walker trying out bits and pieces of graphics on the walls whilst they were still painting it. This is the first sign I ever did and it was intended to be on the wall next to the main airlock so you'd see it as you exited the facility.

The writing at the bottom "003 Selene" is the original name of the Moonbase. Duncan had "Selene" in the original script but changed it to "Sarang" just before shooting. This means "Love" in Korean as he was seeing a Korean girl at the time and he was really missing her as we were getting Moon made. I put the "003" in there just as a little indication that there might be many more bases up on the Moon, each unaware of each other, each cut off from the rest of humanity and eagerly beavering away keeping our personal robots and electric hover cars charged up with delicious electricity. They would even be staffed with Sam Bells. I put the two zeros at the start of the number to imply that there might be as many as 999 other bases, each operating within it's own jamming field and each completely unaware of the others' existence. I did this on the clone room drawers too. Sam 7 (the one in the drawer they open) is numbered "0007", suggesting that there might be up to 9,999 clones in that corridor. This also makes him the "James Bond" clone. At one point Duncan and I talked about the possibility of a shot right at the end of the film where they all wake up and are trapped in the corridor. So there are 9,993 Sam Bells' all crowded into the corridor stretching off into the distance going mental. I think this could have been pretty cool. It would have been a hell of a suprise for the "rescue" team when they arrived. They'd have probably just blown out the airlock and de-pressurised the whole base and then got Gerty to clean everything up whilst they had a space-beer.

Next I tried putting in a bit of colour to see what happened. I've always liked the look of grey and white with an orange accent so I tried incorporating a little bit of colour into the design to see what happened. I liked the way it was sitting but it still looked a bit light and floaty. I also tried putting the rounded-off border in as a way to tighten things up and allow the graphic to sit off whatever surface it appeared on and have it's own space.

This next one was a little rough sketch I did to see how it looked going back to using the negative space. I felt I was onto something with the weight and finally decided to seperate paths from the round shapes. From here I went straight to the final design.

And there you have it. The logo abbreviated really nicely to the "Li" with the two orange squares and everything just clicked. Lunar Industries was born. Lets hope Sony gets it together and let us do some merchandise so I can put it on a T-Shirt for you. Hands up who wants one.

DMP is not a porno term

Moon called for quite a few Digital Matte Paintings (often referred to as DMPs), which are essentially illustrations or photo montages brought to life with camera movement and a few tricks here and there to make them feel real and look like actual footage. We had twenty two DMP shots in Moon, and I had four days to get all of these roughed out and prototyped for the rest of the VFX team at Cinesite to then complete and get into the film. Due to the nature of these shots, I managed to get them 95% complete before I handed them over as I just basically stayed up for three days working on them solidly as it's quite rare I get to spend a chunk of time like that actually doing illustration. I had a large bank of reference images that I'd found in books and on the net, and used that as a basis for these digital paintings. Although they look quite complex they are were actually pretty quick to do. I used to use an airbrush back when I was doing my Graphic Design/Illustration degree and as anybody who likes science fiction and has taught themselves to use an airbrush knows, one of the first things you'll successfully paint is a planet. A nice, round planet with lots of graduated shading on it.

I'd been thinking about how to portray the lunar surface since the beginning of the project when the script was still being written. I knew we were potentially at risk from getting stuck in grey, boring looking areas for large chunks of the film whilst the action was taking place across the lunar surface. I can't be working on a Science Fiction film and have it look boring, not allowed. I was concerned about this and knew we would have to work hard to pull this off as we had hundreds of shots to complete and I didn't want all that work being done and people coming back to me saying it looked boring!

When we were in pre-production and working out geographically where everything was in the film, Duncan bought a limited edition light for the living room. It was a 14-inch or so "Moon" that lit up which was designed by Buzz Aldrin from his cartography from the Apollo era missions. We were having a party that weekend and were trying to make the house look a bit more presentable and so we risked electrocution by changing out the main light in the lounge and hanging it form the ceiling. It was a pig to put up as it was really solid and heavy as it was made from some kind of thick resin and was covered in little spiky bits representing the topography of the moon. Duncan got a black pen and drew an arrow pointing to the Sarang facility and marked down the Earth-facing side so you could see what was what. At a couple of points it was actually quite useful as a quick reference whilst we were lying around in the lounge eating Mexican food after getting back from the studio way too late talking about the next days shooting. It lit up really nicely, and everybody seemed to like it at the party. I hung it a bit low and every time somebody got up off one of the sofas, if they weren't aware of it, they'd smash their head on it. A lot of people brained themselves on our Moon. We left it there when we moved out so for all I know it's still hanging in that lounge. I bet the new people that moved in had no idea what it was for and just thought it was a bit weird and dangerous.

This was the first DMP image I did and I got a lot from it even though I don't think we used it in the final film. I liked the way the image keeps moving into darkness and the way the Lunar surface is defined by the rim in only a portion of the image as I think it helps give the it a sense of mass. You read the dark area at the left of frame as a big chunk of rock even though it's actually just a big dark shape. When you have very little time, it helps to try to draw smart and this was a good solution as it adds drama to the shot whilst simultaneously saving me lots of time. I know I'm running the risk of sounding lazy but I was really really tired and I always had a million things to do. I quite liked the composition of this and so I did a reverse composition and dropped some animation in there to bring it to life a bit.

I liked the way this was going and so I deceded to try a sister-shot with the earth in the foreground. Again, a quick bit of animation to bring it to life and as you can see it's very close to the final shot as it appears in the film.

It was really nice doing these shots as I pretty much had free reign to do whatever I thought looked good. Most of the DMP shots were used as spacers between scenes and so in doing these I was typically just going for a nice composition. After I'd done the reverse Earth/Moon shot I went back to an alternate version of the first one I'd done and knocked this up, which ended up becoming the shot we used for the opening titles.

I really wanted to put something more into these shots and to try and bring something new to them. Most people are familiar with photography of the lunar surface and even though in a sense it is very beautiful, there is a danger that on film when watching shot after shot in a sequence the grey palatte could easily make the film look drab. In treating the Matte Painting like just that (an illustration) whilst also keeping things photo-realistic, I had very few options to work with, so I decided to see if I could try and make things more dramatic by playing with light.

Some quick tests with gradients were all that was really needed to know that I had found something that I liked the look of. Keeping the DMP shots across the terminator where half the image is in darkness and half is in daylight gives a more interesting composition and I liked the idea of half the screen just falling off into darkness. This was good as it re-enforced what I liked about the first shot I did as I'd unconsciously established the heavy-shadowed look right from the first piece. Often when you have a series of images to do you may not realise you have solved a style-issue until you're on the thrid or fourth piece and still trying to develop things and then you start adding back in ingredients you did from the first and second and it immediately looks better. I love it when a plan comes together. Quick bit of lunar trivia here: The terminator is the line formed by the edge of the illuminated portion of the moon. Or, in other words, the edge where it falls into shadow. This was our friend in Moon as it adds drama to what would otherwise be a relatively flat shot and it saved us a shit load of work. Double win. I'm glad I worked this out early on as it would have been a painfull thing to discover later when I was going back and covering up loads of painting with big dark patches and having to admit to myself that it was an improvement. I like the name "terminator" too but I'm resisting making jokes about it which I'm sure you'll agree is a bonus.

I liked the way this helped keep some drama in the images. There's an aspect of the Moon's dark side that is often miss-understood as it's not actually "Dark". Also, there are two different kinds of "Dark". There's the litteral "Dark side" which is of course the side of the moon that is occluded from the Sun at any given time. The Moon does of course rotate and so this area is constantly moving in the same way the Earth moves from day to night in a regular cycle. However, on the Moon this period lasts for around fourteen days light, then fourteen dark, so a Lunar cycle (day) is actually 24 Earth days. Even the area in shadow is not actually pitch-black, as it would be lit by millions of stars. Without an atmosphere this could actually be really bright. At the beginning of the film we see Sam 1 up in the tower beginning his working day and checking in on the harvesters. The bright light outside is the Sun setting, which happens 28 times slower on the Moon than it does on the Earth. We put this in at the last minute as it turned out we couldn't afford to do the VFX of nice lunar views from the tower-windows and so we closed the blinds almost immediately and blamed it on the bright light. The original plan was to have these shutters open all the time so whenever Sam was in the tower we would have a beautiful lunar panorama behind him. I'd designed shutters into the set as I thought a real facility would have them and when we were stressing on-set about running out of money we just decided to close them for most of the film and then open them again at the end when the Eliza rescue ship arrives. It saved us a ton of money as each individual shot with this background in would have run somewhere between eight to twelve thousand pounds. We reconciled it with ourselves as it contributing to Sam’s sense of isolation and being closed off from the outside world and it also made the tower dark and moody which I liked.

We took a few liberties with what the lunar surface on the unlit (dark) side of the Moon might look like so thanks for not judging us too harshly on the results. I just thought the Rovers would look cool driving around in low light using their head-lights so that's what we did.

The other "Dark" side is actually "Radio-Dark" and is the half of the Moon that's facing away from the Earth. Due to the way the Moon rotates, half of the surface is permanantly facing away from the Earth and so radio signals cannot reach it. This is why Lunar Industries has to use satellites to relay the communications, as they are far enough out to receive signals directly from earth and then bounce them back down to the occluded lunar surface.

Although I was starting to like the way this was going I felt it needed a bit more so I sat down with a cup of tea for a bit of a think about it. It occured to me that the lunar mining operations on the Moon could very well, over time, cause environmental damage to the lunar surface in a similar fashion to the way strip mining affects the Earths' surface. I liked the idea of something regarded as essentially a big, dead ball of rock suddddenly appearing vulnerable to the ravaging of the big energy companies' in their relentless quest for profits. I thought this was a nice, subtle way to paint in a bit more of the canvas of Lunar Industries being a bunch of evil bastards chasing the yankee dollar and so I worked into the existing images to put some geometric shapes in there that looked like they could only have been created by machines.

This is the same image as above with the environmental damage added. I really liked this look as it's quite subtle but hopefully it got noticed in the film. One of my favourite films is Silent Running and my childhood fondness of this story is where a lot of the inspiration for Moon came from, so I'm glad that I got a little bit of an environmental thing going on in there even if it is pretty subtle. Big shout out to Doug Trumbull. We ended up having two of these DMP shots in there showing this damage, as we didn't have the resources to work into the rest of the shots as much as we'd have liked. At least we got a couple of them in there though.

It was really nice doing the DMPs as I just got cosy at my computer and settled into it. It was actually quite nice having such tight restrictions in that the moon is essentially grey and cratered and this meant that as I had such a small amount of wiggle-room to try and come up with a new look it really made me focus. I know it's not particularly cool to blow your own trumpet but I am very proud of these environmental damage DMP shots so I'll just have a little toot. Paaaarp. Out of my system.

The Unknown Stuntman

One thing that keeps coming up again and again in this blog is me whining about how little money we had. I know this is going to sound clichéd but it does spur you on to be a bit more creative then you otherwise might have been. It also puts you at risk of personal injury or death when the budget won't stretch to a stuntman, your principal actor isn't insured (and doesn't like the look of what he was being asked to do anyway), and you happen to be the same size and build as him. That is how I came to be in this position. 

As we had pretty much no other choices, I ended up being the spaceman in Moon doing all the stuff that looks in no way dangerous at all on-screen but actually is. Sorry Mum if you're reading this, but when we were actually filming your little boy was a half-inch mis-step from falling ten feet and smashing his delicate, human face to bits on scaffold poles and the concrete floor.

We had two space suits made for Moon, and were both identical apart from an orange stripe on suit 2. The actual costume was lined with double-layered duvet and was hot as a bastard. To compensate for the way body heat built up and the lack of any naturally moving air inside the helmet, Bills' chaps filled a motorized fan inside the helmet chin-area to provide ventilation, de-misting on the faceplate and a cool, refreshing breeze. I'm a huge fan of Bill Pearsons' work but that fan was rubbish. It just sat there next to my chin, whirring quietly and blowing the most minute waft of slightly cool breeze roughly equivalent to a piece of dropped A4 paper. It was right in front of my face when I had the helmet on, teasing me with the promise of cool refreshment and never delivering. One time, whilst waiting to go for a take, I was in position and all alone and quiet up the top of some scaffolding straining to hear the shouted stage instructions to go. The fan was teasing and annoying me by doing shit-all. Annoyed by it's ineffectiveness, in a fit of pique I decided to show the puny motor who's boss by stopping its' pathetic drone by inserting my tongue into it. Which I did, and lost a little chunk out of the side of it. Cheers brain, nice suggestion. Here's what Mr. Rockwell thought of the whole thing the first time he tried the suit helmet on.

It didn't help with me having a little bit of hay-fever too as the duvets lining the suit were all made of feathers. It was very hard to bend and flex in (much like a real space suit so I'm told by the internet). The arms were hard to move too as it zipped up at the back and was all one-piece so when you took it off somebody had to come round the back, take the helmet and yolk off, then the backpack and then unzip you and you'd sort of shrug the suit forwards and let your arms slide out. The front of the suit would hang in front of you like a tired ghost and as it was unzipped there'd be a gust of air and all the feathers would go up my nose. I wouldn't mind so much but there was nowhere to stash a hankie, so I had a runny nose most of the time. I grew to feel a sort of kinship with Mel Smiths' character in Morons from Outer Space. It's a good look for getting chicks.

The suit was so hot that you couldn't wear normal clothes underneath it, which meant a complete astronaut ensemble of white leggings and baby-grow style top (same clothes Sam wears in the film), and the little cloth helmet. This particular item of clothing always got on my tits as it was supposed to have two little boom-mics coming off the cap like the Apollo astronauts wore, but the costume designer forgot to add them. We were all so busy that nobody noticed until we'd already filmed the little helmet and by then it was too late to change them. There wasn't much that got past me on this film but this is one of the things that did and every time I see that little hat, it makes me cringe. The whole point of that little helmet is that it's supposed to keep his communications gear on his head and the mics in front of his mouth. The absence of the boom-mics makes it completely redundant. Whenever I see it on-screen I can't help but think "nice baby-hat, space-man".

Funnily enough, a lot of the potentially face-changing danger that I was exposed to came from the suit itself. The combination of no tactile feedback, no feet-bending or sense of feeling or touch, no looking down, sideways or behind, being super-hot and misty, not being able to hear anything, weird extra weight on my back throwing my balance and generally restricted movement and vision made making a cup of tea a risky prospect. Adding that the set was up in the air suspended on chains, covered in scaffold poles and various other hard, knobbly bits that were slippery having been dusted down with grey powder to represent the fine lunar dust and it gets a bit more likely that my mum won't recognise me when the casts come off.

As if clambering all over that thing with no peripheral vision or feeling in ski boots wasn't hard enough, during the crash scenes it was cocked up at a 15-degree angle making it into a slippery slope of certain death. The suit had snowboarding boots painted white for the feet so you can imagine how little tactile feedback you get when you're just trying to walk and you can forget bending important bits like your ankles and toes. Chuck in the helmet base that completely prevents you from looking down and the overall numbness from thick gloves, hard to move arms and a helmet that pretty much deafens you to the outside world and you're good to do some stunts! 

This is one of the fantastically detailed animatics I did, which is a pretty straight-forwards shot of Sam getting into one of the Rovers through the hatch in the roof. We see this at the beginning of the film whilst the credits are coming up. Looks pretty straight-forwards right? Well it would have been easier if the set of the rover hadn't been mated to the rover cab interior as this put it right up in the air.

Anyway, I'm banging on a bit about the massive danger a bit too much now. It's not like I was fired across a canyon in a rocket-propelled bucket or anything, it was just very easy to fall and it would have been bad for my face if I had. I ended up doing quite bit of this sort of thing on Moon and probably the hardest bit to do was pretending to be in Lunar gravity after Sam falls over being sick in his space-helmet. It was all shot against green-screen and I had to spring up like I weighed about six stone in the complete space suit without any sort of rig or support. We got it in the end but I had to do it about thirty times. I couldn't take the suit off as I'd sweated all inside it and it was soaking wet but the studios were freezing and if I opened it up I'd just freeze in a couple of minutes and catch the shittiest cold ever, then just have to get back into the cold, damp suit and go again. I don't know who's got that suit now but whoever you are, if you're reading this; please don't be tempted to put it on. That thing must be absolutely minging and almost certainly a biohazard.

Here we all are, filming the shot from the beginning of the film that pairs up with the animatics above.

I didn't bother editing this clip as I thought you might like to get a glimpse of what it was like as we were actually working. So there you go, un-insured space stunts on a budget. Like I say, we ended up doing a lot of this sort of thing and the bit I'm most proud of is opening the rover-hatch and coming in at the end with my gun to finish off Sam 1 only to find him already dead. In the zero-budget spirit of things I just grabbed some of my paintball gear and took it down to the studio that day so the space-assassin is actually me with a bit of extra belt-kit and a couple of extra pouches with my trusty Tippman X7 with a tactical light with a tail on. If you look closely you can see the gas line that I just tucked into the belt so it looked like there was a bit more going on as everybody likes floppy cables and shit like that.

When you watch this scene in the film, don't feel too concerned for Sam 1. The only real danger he was in was getting a bollocking from Gerty for covering the inside of the Rover in little orange paint splats.

Designing the Lunar Harvesters

The Harvester vehicles were always a central part of the script and so it was very important that they look right. Duncan and I had been discussing these theoretical machines for quite a while in the pub as many of our chats tend towards hypothetical engineering projects such as manned Mars missions and Airship routes as motorway alternatives. I find this sort of thing fascinating and try to make my vehicle and hardware designs look authentic by doing a sort of "hypothetical engineering" with the design where I actually design the vehicle from a practical standpoint and place the engine, fuel source, suspension, cockpit, etc inside the vehicle and let that lead the design. It usually results in a more believable end result than it would otherwise and it also makes it more fun and gives me a starting point in the design which tends to have the added bonus of speeding things up. I had some ideas in my head so I got straight into 3DS Max and started some initial design shapes. Once again, I am about to show you some very underwhelming artwork but, in the spirit of honesty regarding the design process, here it is.

I'll usually get right into a model like this straight off the bat as it gives me a good idea of the shapes from all angles and cameras and also it allows me to get an appropriate sense of mass. The Harvesters featured in Moon are essentially unmanned automated factories that roam across the lunar surface sifting through the top layer of lunar soil and processing it via an onboard factory. The complex and compact factory module extracts the element Helium 3 from the lunar topsoil and processes it for use as fuel. This is then loaded into a pressurised, stable container for temporary storage and pickup from the local station crew (Sam). As Helium 3 is a minority element in the lunar soil, a vast amount must be processed to fill a container. To produce roughly 70 tons of helium 3, a million tons of lunar soil would need to be heated to 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit (800 degrees Celsius). Of this million processed tons this means that 999,930 tons of it will be ejected through this machinery out of the back of the Harvester. The image below is the first and only image I ever worked up of the harvesters in photoshop. As usual, it was done very quickly before a meeting and I only got to spend an hour or so on it. To be honest I hated bashing things out this quickly as I knew it would leave me with a rubbish portfolio piece at the end. The thing is that we just didn’t have any time to finish anything off properly and we just had to run at it as fast as we could. I've promised myself that the next film I do I'll be treating myself to some proper illustration time so I've got something nice to show at the end of it. At least the design translated well on film and the end result is pretty close to the original concept. 

When the solar wind and its' rapid stream of charged particles emitted by the sun strikes the moon, helium 3 is deposited in the powdery soil, accumulating over billions of years. Meteorite bombardment disperses the particles throughout the top several meters of the lunar surface. The Harvesters' booms are designed to filter out rocks and boulders and process the valuable fine topsoil. Today helium 3 is estimated to have a cash value of $4 billion a ton in terms of its energy equivalent in oil. When a container is ready for collection the Sarang base receives notification and maintenance staff must make their way to the Harvester to collect them in the Lunar Rovers. These Rovers have special equipment to allow safe transpiration of highly pressurised fuel sources.
 Once the Harvesters have been started they cannot idle like traditional Earth-bound vehicles. Their very design means they must constantly be in motion otherwise a stall occurs and the whole factory unit automatically shuts down. Re-starting a stalled Harvester in the lunar environment is a big job so the maintenance crew of Lunar Industries stations are constantly under pressure to keep things running smoothly and avoid stall events at all costs.
The machines' actual span with both booms fully deployed is 174 feet (58 metres). These massive machines would be deployed to the lunar surface in modules and assembled by maintenance teams on-site. Lunar Industries services these machines with Trans-Planetary vehicles called "Rigs" which can be called in should the need arise. Due to the great expense this is a measure of last resort. Due the nature of their Job, Rig Crews are "no-nonsense" outfits. If you look closely at the Eliza rig design it is actually able to swap out factory modules on the harvesters by landing astride them and can even recover and drop-off entire harvester vehicles.
The helium 3 element is almost non-existent on earth but abundant on the moon and is a perfect source of fuel for fusion. This technology is real world and the theories and technologies for all Lunar Industries mining operations depicted in "Moon" are being seriously considered by NASA. We got a lot of our background for Moon from the excellent book "entering space" by Robert Zubrin. It's a very sober, logical look at how we could be moving out into space and examines both the technologies are already have and those we need to develop. If you've not read this book and are interested in space travel I'd highly recommend picking up a copy. If you're feeling lazy, here's a link to Amazon:

http://tinyurl.com/3yjqhcj

On the off-chance you're interested in what we were reading when we made Moon, here's the main inspiration behind the look and feel we wanted from the Lunar surface; the amazingly beautiful "Full Moon" by Michael Light.

http://tinyurl.com/2wz9vhk

If you want to se the specific image that first made us go "That's it, that's what we want", have a look at the sneaky-peek link inside Full Moon below and have a look at pages 100-101. This is actually a wide format double page spread single image but if you click back and forth you can kind of see it.

http://tinyurl.com/2vloa8y

The overall aesthetic of these machines was one of pure function, which led itself to an impression of mass. As the vehicles are unmanned there is no cockpit or cab. The intention was for a very industrial and functional looking machine that could be quite intimidating and bullish-looking from certain angles. My original take on it was to have a go at something that's a cross between the Jawa Sandcrawler from Star Wars (lovely bit of design that, cheers Ralph :), a combine harvester and a WW1 tank. The hypothetical engineering led to a service weight of just over 800 earth tons which in one sixth Lunar gravity would be just under a hundred and forty tons.
 Lunar Gravity was something that we had quite a few chats about at the beginning of the project but in the end we couldn't afford to do a comprehensive sixth-gravity take over the entire film so we just sort of left it and it went away. Nobody's ever mentioned this to me so far which I guess is a good sign. No matter how much of a stickler you might be for accuracy, you'll find yourself making these sorts of compromises in film and it's a relief when the audience is okay with it. It would be easy to say that there's some sort of sci-fi gravity generator keeping the base under comparable earth gravity but I hate things like this as the actual engineering required to achieve this is way more futuristic than Gerty or a Lunar harvester. Thanks for letting us get away with the "uploading memories" technology too, even though it is not as whimsical as the gravity generator. It's all USB2.

As I've been showing you some pretty ropey artwork so far, I'm going to put a nicer piece in now. This is a render of a 3D model of a harvester that I did as we were doing the model build. It's still rushed as it's untextured and only has two and a half days of modelling in there but it's closer to the kind of thing I'd call an actual concept piece. So there you go. The future of Earths' energy sources in a couple of rushed bits of concept art. That’s showbiz!

Inside the Moon Model Shop

During the making of Moon there was a place that I'm sure many people would have loved to visit and so I thought I'd try and give you more of an idea of what it was like there. The place is Bill Pearsons' model shop on the Shepperton Studios lot and depending on your viewpoint it is either a cramped, cold, messy shed that stinks of solvents or a magical cave of tiny science-fiction wonder. 

The photo above is the prototype Moon space-helmet built at one-sixth scale and made here to fit an action-man. We also used this as a prop on the motorized action-man torso that drove the sixth-scale rover but you never really see it in the film. The plastic shapes behind it are early pieces of the helmet fresh out the vac-forming machine. The greenish piece in the background is the front-chest part where the little light was mounted. This was actually one of those lamps that mounts on ones' forehead that makes one look rather foolish. We pressed loads of everyday practical lights into service on Moon as we couldn't afford anything bespoke. The rover miniature headlights were little Maglite torches and the light inside Sams' helmet was a bike light. When the other clone finds him in the crashed rover and his helmet light is flashing it looks like an emergency light but is actually just a setting on the cycle-lamp. You know the ones that flash and are intended to stop cyclists getting their fragile bones smashed to bits by stupid drivers in low light. Those ones.

There were lots of other normal lights all over the place, including our round Ikea eight-quid lights from the lounge. The lamps on the front of Gerty were little florescent tubes that were only six inches long. 

Duncan had one of these on his desk for years because it looked really cute and it actually got used for all sort of things we filmed over the years. At one point I was working on a little commercial for a friend of ours, Aaron Stewart-Ahn. I was dressed like a futuristic ghost-in-the-shell-on-zero-money-in-a-basement type scientist with these big goggles on. The light was inside the goggles making a slit on the front of them glow, and giving the appearance of me being very much from the future. Those lights get around. As we were dressing the set with stuff from home we grabbed it one morning on out way down to Shepperton as we were nearing the end of the model build and just trying to get things looking good for free wherever we could. It ended up just sitting in the production offices for a few days. When we were doing the reccee for the pre-light (walking around the set discussing how and where we were going to install all the lighting), Gary Shaw suggested gluing the light to the front of Gerty to make him stand out a bit. It totally worked so we managed to find another and that’s why Gerty's got those lights on him. You'll notice they weren't in my CG design renders, nor in any pics of the model build. I think it's really important when you're doing things like this to be completely honest with yourself and take good ideas wherever you find them. In my role as designer I could have got all stroppy that somebody was trying to "interfere" with my design, but the Cheesy Loaf was right and I knew it. The lights made it look better on film. Nice job Reverend.

I know this pic isn't in the model shop but it does have one of the models in it and I wanted to introduce you to a few of the faces behind the models. I talk about Bill quite a bit as he was a key figure in the making of Moon and so here he is in all this Glaswegian glory leaning on the edge of our lunar surface miniature set. Bill is a very gregarious and charismatic man and is full of excellent stories about his life and times working on small, forgettable productions such as Alien. Bill's also a DJ and at the time where we were wrapping on Moon he was contemplating shutting up shop and returning to Scotland to his previous career in radio, as nobody wanted models anymore. I remember telling him that we were going to do our best to bring them back and make them cool again as I knew that miniatures that had been fed through a contemporary VFX pipeline could look really good relatively cheaply. He's a busy chap right now.

I think that Bill was pretty cynical when he first met us as we were just a bunch of guys that nobody had ever heard of with zero money trying to do a space film here in Britain and to be honest it's not unreasonable at all of him to expect our ambitions little film to fall flat on its' Moon-shaped face. It took us a while but you could see as we were proceeding that he was starting to come round.

By the end of the project everything was pretty cosy and, speaking for myself, we had a stressful but enjoyable and pretty much controlled miniature shoot. It was quite funny when we started out working together and I mentioned how cool it would be to get in Cinefex magazine. This was more a general (lofty) ambition of mine, the same way I always wanted to get some comic art in 2000AD. Perhaps I should send some samples off to Tharg. Anyhow, Bill totally poo-pahed the mention of the magazine in relation to our film explaining that they only cover "proper" (as in proper budget) films, and we basically had no chance. I couldn't disagree with him really. However, when we got the film finished, Bill called up a couple of people and all of a sudden we've got Cinefex on the phone wanting to talk to us about Moon. Turned out they'd shoved us into an issue at the last minute and moved their other stuff around to fit us in. Apparently we nicked a few pages off Star Trek. Too bad JJ Abrams. Recently we did a Moon Q&A at the BFI on the Southbank in London to mark Moons' first theatrical anniversary. Afterwards we got a bit mobbed (which always takes me by surprise), and somebody asked me to sign their copy of Cinefex. It did occur to me that if I could have travelled back in time to my original conversation with Bill and told him this information he'd have laughed and told me to fuck right off.

In the background is model maker John Lee who's been working on the harvester model. You can see by the missing front-plate on the model that he's been inside it fiddling. The miniature set was really mucky, dust masks and kneepads were pretty standard as there was a lot of cat litter sprinkled around the place and it hurts like a bastard when you go down on one knee onto a stray nodule, it's like some kind of Lego-kneel super-pain. To be avoided. 

Here we see Bill in his workshop working on Gerties' heavy-lifting arm. You might have read in my previous posts about the scary red heater with the exposed element that I was always terrified would set me on fire when I had my back to it. Check out the red glow on this pic. You can almost taste the danger. I secretly suspect that the model team liked having dangerous shit all over the place as it made them look like they were living on the edge all the time whenever anybody came to visit. Bill was one of those guys who tends to have trademark clothes and I don't think I ever saw him were anything apart from Denim. He's sort of like a Scottish cowboy but with massive knowledge of paint and glue. I loved talking to the model guys about their materials as there was so many combinations of glues, plastics and paints that worked differently and if they were put together wrong, who knows, they might give off a poisonous lethal nerve-type gas. I'm not actually joking about this. There's a whole science behind model construction that you won't find in any book and if you get it wrong you may die.

Here we see another of the modelmakers, mr Steve Howarth. Steve was the guy who built the Harvester model and also the main Gerty unit. In this picture we can see Duncan holding up the partially built rover model in the same scale as the harvester model. We built the miniatures at two main scales, one-sixth and one-twelfth.

These scales were really useful as they were immediately recognisable; Action Man and Star Wars figures. We built all three rovers at one-twelfth scale and also the harvester. We then built a single rover at one-sixth scale which had interchangable rear components and ID plates so that it could be dressed as either of the three. We also built a section of the lower side of the harvester so we could do the rover post-crash with the nice sixth-scale rover smashed into the ground. The jamming tower was built complete at one-twelfth so we could crash the harvester into it and a close-up of the base section at one-sixth.

The jamming-tower base had some really nice detail in there that the model team put in and I'm not sure exactly how clear it came across in the film. The structure featured an airlock door identical to the locks inside Sarang, but it was harshly welded shut with a big bar across it to prevent access. You can also see a trashed door-code type box on the left-hand side that has had the face ripped off and has wires hanging out. Nice bits of detail going on here. Nice work lads.

The main Sarang base exterior was built at one-twelfth scale and there were a couple of other bits and pieces that had indeterminate scale as it just wasn't important as they were filmed in isolation and later composited into shots. These were the satellite and Eliza Rig models. Duncan became very attached to the Eliza rig and it disappeared for over a year when we wrapped. All the models got taken and put into storage and when we went to retrieve them it had gone. We searched around for months but couldn't find it. Then, one day, it just turned up in a random box. Perhaps a ghost moved it.
In these images above, you can see the twelfth-scale rovers in various stages of construction. You can see in the last image that the rover has wooden placeholder wheels on. Bit of a tip for any aspiring model builders out there; look at all the stuff lying around on these work-surfaces and take some tips. The rovers didn't have to do too much but they did need to be pulled quite fast over a rough surface over and over again so the wheels and axles needed to be incredibly tough. The twelfth-scale proportions and intended lunar gravity meant that we needed to shoot at 137 frames per-second. Given that film is 24 frames per second, the action would slow down by around five and a half times. So to get the rover speed we needed to pull it across the set at five to six times faster than we actually wanted it to look. So, pretty fast actually. As the lunar surface was maximum 24 feet by 32 feet we ran out of table pretty fast.

I got such a kick out of seeing all these models being built at Star-Wars figure scale. When I was a puppy I used to love my Star Wars figures and ships. There's something just so right about the scale. Seeing these rovers come together so loyal to my CG concepts was amazing and the scale felt so right. I'm not sure if it was becasue I've spent so much of my life mesmerised by Star Wars toys but I used to annoy the shit out of the model builders becasue I couldn't help picking them up and playing with them. Sorry lads, but it's your own fault for doing such an amazing job. Make some shittier models and I'll leave them alone.

The gallery above shows build progress on the single sixth-scale "hero" rover. This is the main model featured in the film as it was the most detailed and we could get closer in when we were shooting.

The lunar landscape was pretty generic and typically filmed at a low angle so we didn't need to do anything with this, we could just swap the models out and go from big to small, as we needed. We also mixed the scales on a few shots too which was a bit naughty but nobody seemed to notice, especially where we see a rover pulling up at the crash site. We'd put the large rover in front of the camera and keep nice and low and we totally got away with it. It looked really stupid from round the side though as the incorrect scales were immediately apparent.

I grew very fond of the sixth-scale rover and I ended up taking it home with me after the shoot. I really need to get round to making a nice case for it so it can sit with all the stuff in my office. The model team were amazing improvisers and Bill had a lot of bits and pieces to hand in his workshop. It would make me cringe a bit inside, as he'd be grabbing stuff from his shelf and snapping things off to hold them against bits of models to show me what they'd look like. He had all sorts of excellent things lying around, some were famous models from shows such as Red Dwarf and others were just as beautiful but from unseen pilots or dead projects and so may never see the light of day. One afternoon Bill said he had something to show me and came out of his back room holding a black bin bag. He pulled out this model from the bag and handed it to me and asked me if I recognised it (which I did immediately). It was the miniature of the Nostromo engine room window from the wide shot of Ripley trying to set the self-destruct sequence from Alien. From my perspective this is pretty much what a churchy person would experience if a vicar said he's got the Ark of the Covenant down in his cellar and do you want to come and have a look? As amazing as this was, I did actually beat this when I got to play with Vasquez' smart gun from Aliens. Close-run thing though.

Part of the external base design was the "return vehicle" clone-incineration unit that was disguised as a rocket. John Lee from the model shop just turned up one morning with this beautiful thing. 

Look at it. How gorgeous is that model? It's not been properly painted and dirtied down yet but look at the form. Scratch built overnight. This is what the exterior of the clone burning room looks like and it pains me a bit that we didn't get more coverage of it in the film as it's absolutely beautiful. The figure in there is a little Doctor Who man that Bill used for scale reference and was always lying around his studio, so technically David Tennant was kind of involved in Moon. At least a little tiny slightly plastic version of him was.

Animatics now, sleep later

As we didn't have much in the way of resources to prepare for the shoot, I ended up doing a lot of the prep work myself. As you are probably aware, storyboarding is an important part of the pre-shoot agenda. It can get be quite expensive and time consuming though as hiring additional artists for weeks on end can run up quite a tab. We were also locked into shooting dates as we only had the studio for a narrow window of time and so we had to proceed full steam ahead and just push problems out of the way as they popped up in front of us. We ended up getting three scenes storyboarded "traditionally" (with pens), which must have run to about two minutes or so of the anticipated length of the film. When you consider that the final cut runs to 97 minutes, that's a big hole we were staring into that currently existed only as words on a page. The rest of it was kind of hanging so I got nervous and jumped in and knocked up some CG assets so I could get a load of animatics together. An animatic is a motion graphics sequence (usually 3D) and is a rough version of the shot intended for the film, so essentially I was making rough versions of big sections of the film on my computer using rough placeholder graphics. I was primarily concerned with the VFX sequences as we had a lot going on. We had CG, miniature work and a lot of green-screen shooting coming up so I decided to forgo even more of my already minimal sleep in order to get our set up for the approaching VFX onslaught. You need to prepare for these things otherwise you will fail and this is not allowed to happen.

The animatic work was quite peaceful actually compared to the stresses of the rest of the shoot. I did most of this work in the evenings so I'd just get cosy in my bedroom with a cup of tea and some cake and bury myself in my little 3D Moon-world. Duncan would pop in and out and hang out a bit to check out what was going on whilst I was working and we'd just talk bollocks together whilst I boshed the shots out. I really enjoyed this as I got the assets together really quickly and then was into the animation and camera positioning and could concentrate on framing up the shots. I love playing with cameras in CG, it's so nice being in this little world and just hunting around with cameras playing with narative and composition and finding the shots. I'd say I could do it all night long but this turned out to be just as well really. The animatic work was ongoing even when we started shooting, and led through into a VFX animatic breakdown for the green-screen and miniature shoot. All these animatic scenes were being refined right up to the night before they were needed for shooting. I don't think a single aspect of this animatic work was done in daylight.

The image above is a still from a shot of the aftermath of the Rover-crash. Time constraints meant I had very little time to work up any of these assets so they are very rudimentary but they're enough to get the idea across. This is why all the vehicles have clearly visible numbers on them. We did a lot of that in Moon, on any specific piece I'd do just enough work on it to make sure I got the point across and then move swiftly on.

Here's something you'll never see anywhere else; four harvesters mining a patch of lunar regolith especially rich in Helium 3. This was me just trying things out really and was never anything we were going to shoot. I just like seeing lots of the same vehicle together; I always think it just looks cool. I do think this would have been a lovely shot if it had come about for whatever reason, imagine how it would look with the four harvesters chucking all their muck out and emerging with their lights cutting through the dust cloud.

This is an initial model I did of the Eliza rig with a humanoid in there for scale. I was pretty chuffed that in the end of the film I was the Eliza captain and came up on the crew manifest. As the time it was just us mucking about but now it's all finished it's a fun little story and I can always tell girls in bars that I have my own ship in a sci-fi film making me a legit badass space murderer. To be honest it's the closest I’ve got so far to being Han Solo and that’s good enough for me. Actually I could get a puppy sidekick and try to teach him to drive my car...

I mentioned previously that the Eliza support rig was intended to support the harvesters and could transport them around. Here we see a harvester to scale underneath the rig. The harvester booms collapse back along the side of the harvester, I think this might be visible in the film actually where you see the dead harvester "Judas" (Formerly "Luke"-no Star Wars reference) being worked on remotely outside the Sarang Facility garage. I read about a chap who had this conspiracy theory who "worked out" the harvester mileage numbers when Sam reads them out from the start of the film as bible references. He has this theory that there is a DaVinci code type of thing going on with the harvesters and quoted the bible passages as a comment of mans' destruction of the environment in pursuit of energy resources. Excellent work dude, you are bang wrong. I had an idea of how fast the harvesters were going to move on-screen and it ended up about three miles an hour. I actually had in mind them moving slower than this and covering about ten miles or so a day but we had to speed them up a bit for the rover docking sequence so they looked right. So I'm saying they generally do about half a mile an hour but speed up a bit when Sam’s' picking up a container as they're less likely to stall at higher speed. A stall with a docked Rover and personnel on board whilst transferring pressurised fuel cylinders would be bad as the actual stall event would be quite violent. 

I tried out a few helicopter-type shots like this but in the end decided to go with realistic camera angles. I find that whenever you're putting together shots like this you always get a more believable end result it you try and put the camera somewhere it could actually be if you were using real kit and the shot was full-size. You'll see that most of the external lunar-landscape shots in Moon are done from realistic cameras and are usually from the equivalent of head-height or perhaps up on a gib arm. There are a couple of exceptions to this but mostly we had the camera right down on the table which made keeping the foreground crispy sharp in-focus really tricky. You have to be careful when you're doing work like this as positioning the camera is a huge responsibility. These animatics became the shooting template for everything that involved the DMP work (Digital matte painting), lunar exteriors, all vehicle shots, rover interiors and anything with a suited-up astronaut in it. Altogether that added up to around 22 minutes of the original shooting script. I remember some of these late night being really cozy as I was working away in my bedroom and everybody else was asleep. It was winter as we were doing this and it was really cold outside. I was tucked up all nice and warm making my little space-film on my computer smashing my little moon vehicles into each other like a little kid. I remember when I was four I had to write a letter to Santa at school asking what I wanted for Christmas. I asked for a spaceship and a robot. I remember my excellent Dad got me Luke’s X-Wing from the original Star Wars toy line and C3PO and R2D2 figures. 

Moon: The Rubbish Looking CG Version

I thought I'd take the opportunity to show you a bit more about how we worked out what we were going to do with the vehicle VFX and lunar exterior shots in Moon. Particularly regarding the practicalities of actually getting them on film, as I ended up doing a lot of setup work to ensure the shooting went smoothly and it's not something you'll be hearing about anywhere else. I'm in a weird position in regard to Moon, as I have so much data from the film sat on my hard-drives at home that just doesn't exist anywhere else. When I found these folders containing all these files I thought that an insight into this process might be of interest to any of you potential filmmakers out there.

As we were predictably under-resourced I took it upon myself to block out as much of the film as I could in CG so that we could be more prepared for shooting. Shooting requires a plan and shooting VFX requires more of a plan. Until I'd got all this sorted I couldn't be 100% confident that it was all going to work, so I sacrificed yet more of my already minimal sleep and boshed through it night after night whilst we still had the models under construction. This all ended up being a bit rough and ready but I'd gotten used to this being normal Moon operating tempo by now and I was in the zone and able to stay awake on 2-3 hours per night. I really needed to be comfortable that we had a plan going into the model shoot as we only had eight days in there so this became preferable to lying unconscious wrapped up in my lovely warm duvet having my hair stroked in dream-world by a robot unicorn. Given that the first day of the model shoot was actually a test day, we really only had seven. Over this period we had to shoot a hundred and forty three setups with all kinds of combinations of models and all on a rostrum 32x24 feet that needed to be re-dressed frequently including ripping our Sarang set in and out of the middle of the table. Just thinking about all this now makes me want to have a word with myself and go put myself to bed.

Below are the original animatic block out frames that I did for scene 145 where we see Sam 2 take a dying Sam 1 back to the Rover crash site so that when the "rescue" team arrive they find the dead space-clone they were expecting. You might notice that in these original block outs things are a bit different from the way they appear in the film. This is because we were moving forwards at such a rapid rate and my work was covering so many areas that I didn't have time to keep everything 100% up-to-date. You can see the original Rover 1 under the Harvester whilst the two Sams pull up alongside in a more advanced design of Rover 3. Also, you'll notice the crashed Rover 1 is on its' side and the access is simply kneeling down and poking your behelmeted head through the hatch.

You'll see that a lot of the frames have a weirdy looking green version underneath them. This is an accompanying VFX animatic and is intended to show the crew exactly what we'll need to have ready on the set before we start shooting. They turned out to be a really good way to communicate clearly with the set-builders, as they tend to not get too deep into the technical side of VFX. They were also good for the rest of the crew to get a general understanding of what was going on. I would pin these up on a board in the sound stage at the start of every day, as they were really useful in establishing our running order. When you have your shots printed out nice and big and pinned up on the wall like this they are very easy to get an overview of and group into similar setups. This can speed you up quite a bit over the course of a days shooting.

Moon was an effects heavy production and I always find it preferable if the people I'll be working with on-set have an understanding of why I am asking for things to be done a certain way. Some people see VFX as spooky magic made of gossamer and spiders dreams but I find that if you can engage with people a bit and make them understand why they're painting these things green, etc, they'll generally get that extra bit more interested in what they are doing and give you that extra bit more. These green-screen block outs were really useful in showing stagehands and crew what we needed built, where the divides were between green-painted props and "real" bits and pieces, the kind of range of movement and weight they need to bear, etc. These things might sound obvious but they are exactly the kind of thing that will get misinterpreted and you'll turn up on stage with the rover hatch painted bright green when it needed to be realistic which will stop you from shooting that shot. Or the rover-roof won't be safe to bear a persons' weight, as the construction crew didn't think anybody would be standing there. Stuff like that. Even framing up a green-screen shot can be hard if there's nothing to go on, but with these simple references we knew where we needed to put the camera and also how much floor-space we needed, something that can be easily misunderstood without a visual reference. Working like this is a really good way of maximising your time and getting a lot of value out of a few cosy nights snuggled up with a cup of tea and your favourite computer.

The motion sequence above is how the animatic sequence for the body-replacing scene was as we went into shooting. As you can see, it's been tweaked quite a bit and has updated designs added and is generally a nicer piece. I tried to get as much time with the animatics as I could so I could spend time positioning cameras and setting up the shots to make sure they were right. This development work was pretty fraught as we didn't have much time and there was only me covering it, but you can see how closely the final animatic resembles the end-filmed result. Preparation win.

A few things changed as we were moving along. Duncan and I were both concerned about the crash sequence, as we didn't have any budget to produce models that would be doing anything specific. Our miniatures, lovely as they are, are basically toy cars with some lights on that we pulled along a big tabletop with wire. We knew we'd likely be relying on cuts in the edit to make the crash sequence work. As it was it almost didn't.

When we were shooting the miniatures, if we needed anything extra that wasn't on the call-sheet, I'd wait until we were shooting something similar and then jump in with a quick request. As we'd be al set up for shooting something similar it kept setup times down to a minimum and we grabbed quite a few extra bits and pieces we really needed to get some of our scenes working. With the Rover crash we fed the wire that pulled Sams' vehicle through a part of the side of the Harvester wheel mechanism and back out the other side at an angle. This way we could pull the rover into the side of the Harvester even though it wasn't designed to do so. I knew it would only be used for half a second or so and we grabbed it as an extra shot. It only slowed us down by perhaps twenty minutes, which, in this case was totally worth it. We got the shot of the Rover heading into the Harvester tracks and hitting it from above and behind which really helped the scene to work.

When I was putting the animaitc scenes together, they immediately showed a hole and this was the missing element that the scene needed to work. Creating the new shot in the animatic showed me immediately that the hole had been filled and so I set out to the model shoot with the agenda of grabbing a few extra bits of footage like this. It's all well and good having a plan but you still have to think on your feet and be honest with yourself. When something could be better, get off your arse and make it better. Otherwise it'll get done half-arsed and when you see it up on the screen it's too late to change it and you'll just have to live looking at it forever. Unless you're George Lucas.

The animatics were incredibly useful for these sorts of things. As we were working on minimal budget, we were only shooting things we were sure we needed . We were shooting them as fast as we were able, whilst making sure they were still what we intended and needed for the film. Consequently, we didn't have loads of spare footage lying around and so we were constantly at risk of getting in the edit and not having any options to fix things that weren't working, as we'd have no additional footage to work with. The animatics were great for this as I could put scenes together and tell immediately if they worked or not. I spent quite a few late nights in my bedroom just trying out scenes and moving shots around so I could be happy we had nice sequences and I could get my two hours sleep. Now and again it'd be clear we needed an extra shot to make the sequence work and so I'd just knock it together in 3D and re-cut it and see if it worked. It's kind of like peeking into the future to see if the sequence you intend to film is going to work out or not. When you're making films it's handy being able to save your own arse like this becasue you don't want to be in the edit suite a couple of weeks later realizing you've forgotten to shoot somthing. If you have to go back, it's going to kick you right in the bank account.

The examples below show a random scene in the Rover cockpit and you can see from these angles that the scene will cut together just fine. I was taking into accont camera setups and reset times, as one big trap to fall into with animatics is that you just re-site the camera with every cut. When you get on-set this means that after every shot you'll be moving the camera, light, etc and have perhaps half an hour or more of down time where you're not shooting anything. I was trying to not move the cameras around too much and keep them in a few similar positions, which meant that we would be able to shoot the scenes quickly, and in groups. Moving the camera really is a large part of downtime on a working set. You can see from this sequence that we'd only need to have one side of the rover removed and the camera can stay in roughly the same place whilst we shoot the whole scene. Things like this really help the AD team get the shooting organised and by you understanding what everybody else will be doing on the actual shoot you can really help everybody else out. If you're careful, you can strike the balance of getting just what you want artistically whilst simultaneously building all sorts of timesaving measures into the actual shoot itself. It's quite likely that nobody will ever realize you ever did this as people tend to assume these kind of things happen co-incidentally, so don't expect anybody to say thanks. Just concentrate on making everything better wherever you can and it will all work itself out.

Sometimes VFX issues are also made clear at the animatic stage. The following shot is from the scene where Sam 1 looks up at the jamming tower. It was clear from this that we would be having a big, reflective, shiny shiny helmet right smack bang in the middle of the frame. Not only that but you can get an idea of the kind of distortion that's going to be needed on the fake-reflection of the tower that'll be getting composited in later. So best not get the camera crew in the reflection then. Lots of big black drapes with the camera poking through sorted that one out. You really have to have this sort of thing sorted out in advance or you'll never get through your shooting schedule on time and on budget.

One thing that can always happen with rough art like this is that you might not be there to explain everything. This only happened one time on Moon and the mis-understanding was quite comedy. Have a watch of the clip below.

This shot is from the scene where Sam calls Eve back on earth. He has just hung up on her and starts punching the dashboard of the Rover because he's upset and frustrated. When this appeared on the call-sheet, the description was "Sam is frightened". Of course he is.

The animatics were a really rewarding part of the filmmaking process for me as I got to immerse myself in my computer for a few hours at a time and get some nice sequences together. I'm really happy with the way the whole thing came out and I hope this insight into how this stuff was planned was interesting. I know it's easy to look at it as a body of work and see a load of crudely made CG puppets unconvincingly animating around but for the time and resources we had available they really saved our arses and brought up all kinds of issues that we were able to solve ahead of time and hence get the film made. These little CG stick-men showed us so much of what our film was going to be before we'd even set up a camera. So next time you're at the pub have a drink for stick-man CG Sam, the hardest working pixel-person on the Moon.

 

Badass space murderers

When shooting started it was a constant battle to get the motion graphics and monitor footage ready for the next day. For the first three weeks or so of shooting both VFX Editor Barrett Heathcote and myself would be up until 3 or 4 in the morning rendering sequences that were needed for the monitors and burning them onto DVDs for the next day. All the monitor screens were shot in-camera to give us that old-school feel (plus our VFX budget wouldn't stretch to 400-odd composited monitor shots). I had to get the motion graphics sequences ready for Baz to get the disks burnt and we were in this horrible cycle of only being ready around 4am which is only a couple of hours before we had to set off for the studio for the next days shooting. This fatigue got really bad, whilst driving in one morning I actually fell asleep whilst waiting in a queue at some traffic lights on the road down to Shepperton. Woke up with someone behind me beeping their horn. Scared the shit out of me.

One of the nice things about making a film with such tight resources is that a lot of people that work on the film tend to end up being in it. One example of this is the Eliza "Rescue Crew" manifest pictures you see on Sam’s' monitor screen when he gets the message that he is being "rescued". This is of course a corporate euphemism for "chloroformed and thrown in the incinerator". Here's a still from the motion graphics sequence that shows the crew manifest.

There's me on the left as the captain, and we have 1st Assistant Director Mick Ward in the middle and Director of Photography Gary Shaw on the right. Besides being a great DoP and the greatest blagger I've ever met he's also known as "the Reverend Cheesy Loaf". He got himself ordained to marry one of his best friends and bought the official paperwork off the Internet, so Moon was actually shot by an ordained Priest. If you have a look around on the screen you'll see all sorts of bits and pieces of writing and numbers. This is essentially a form of lorem ipsum but most of it features little jokes about my friends. If you look at the top you'll see references to jokes from "Bottom", the UK TV show starring Ade Edmonson and Rick Mayall, albeit slightly twisted around. The numbers under our mug shots are also actual things. The RAP14 under mine is my paintball call sign (The team's called the Raptors and I'm number 14). Micks is a reference to Man United football team as he's from Manchester and he likes his footy. The Cheesy Loafs' is a reference to his jeep, which he calls "the Beast". He got the personalised number plate of DOP1 which we couldn't help taking the piss out of a little bit I've always found the term "DP" to be funny when it's said on film sets because of the porno connotations. He was trying to persuade me to get VFX1 on mine but I think that might have made me look like a bit of a penis driving round the studio with that on my car.

When I was getting the monitor graphics together I was trying to grab people for ten minutes wherever I cold to get them in an orange boiler suit and stick some paper badges or a cap on them to take some mugshots that would work on film. Originally I wanted to put Duncan on this crew manifest but he went all shy so ended up not being in the film. I also took pictures of Nicky Moss who was an assistant producer on Moon. As neither of these two made it into the film you'll not have seen their Eliza crew pics so here you are: Duncan Jones and Nicky Moss (Now Bentham) as a pair of double hard murdering space bastards.

See how tired Duncan looks? Poor little monkey. That's what making a film does to you, we were both in this weird state that's very hard to describe but after a couple of weeks of shooting you could perhaps have labeled us as super-focused zombies. Don't worry though; he's all better now. And on the back end of everything I'm super-delighted that as Eliza Captain I actually get my own spaceship in a Sci-Fi film. Shit yeah.

Haircut Sir?

The scene of Gerty cutting Sam’s' hair was really important to the story as Sam is preparing himself to return to Earth and re-integrate himself with his family and former life which he is understandably very anxious about. The scene called for Sam to sit restlessly in his favourite chair stressing out to Gerty about Tess being a bit weird whilst Gerty was cutting his hair like the good robotic companion he is. The original plan was to have Gerty’s small arm operating a pair of scissors. We looked into this and the VFX budget suddenly took a big jump, this one scene was moving into a whole CG animated arm sequence with clumps of CG hair being attached to Sam’s head to be cut and all the associated lighting and animation work. We had an allocation of VFX shots for the entire film and it was a simple case of "use one here, loose one somewhere else".

We were trying our hardest to use them where they counted the most and it weighed up quite simply: If we did the haircut scene in CG we'd be losing another ten or twelve shots elsewhere in the film where we could otherwise have a full CG Gerty somewhere in a beauty shot. As our resources were so tight we felt we really needed to see as many of these other shots as possible so that evening myself and Duncan were going over all the possible options whilst digging around on the internet and he went and found this amazing gadget. It's called a Suck'n'Cut and is basically a series of attachments that fit onto the end of any domestic vacuum cleaner and is designed to be moved across the surface of any hairy thing sucking the hair up and chopping it off. It comes with the most amazing manual, which shows all the practical uses in the form of line drawings of the type of haircuts you could be expected to give your elderly relative, child or dog. I'm sure I've got this lying around somewhere, I'll have to have a dig around and try and find it becasue it's a work of art.

Our amazing Prop master Mr Simon Bailey let me paint his vacuum cleaner orange and put some stickers on it and that became Gertys' hair-cutting device. I did this a lot whilst we were shooting; need a Lunar Industries coffee cup? Just grab one from the kitchen, spray it orange in the car park and put a couple of logos on it. One of the things I love about having a realtively sophisticated robot like Gerty using a Suck'n'Cut is the juxtaposition of new and old technology. In theory it's not actually that bad of an invention, which is, I guess, why they're still able to sell the things. It cuts the hair and sucks up the bits at the same time, which must certainly appeal to lazy bastards. But it does give you a rubbish haircut. I really like the idea of old things coming back into circulation again in the future. I always find the best science fiction tends to have one foot in the future and one foot in the present and that's why things like this are such a nice solution to something that was starting to become a bit of a problem for our budget. Plus, we saved the pretty CG Gerty shots for later. We were always worried about Gerty not being in the film enough as every time the CG robot appeared in a shot, KERCHING, that's another ten thousand quid evaporated from the budget.

Sam wanted to grow a real beard for the start of the film because he's a pro, so Duncan and I grew our hair all over the place in solidarity, which is why in pictures of us shooting Dunc looks like Sergeant Pinback from Dark Star and I look like I've got a crash-helmet on made of hair. Anyway, when the flowbee turned up we were dying to give it a crack and so Mr. Jones thought he's start off with the "recent brain operation" look by just doing a patch on the back of his head. It's actually quite hard to get a decent volume of hair through this thing but I do remember crying laughing when we were doing this. It's an emotional rollercoaster doing stuff like this and breaks in the pressure can set you off in all sorts of ways but there were a lot of comedy moments whilst we were making Moon.

Sam Rockwell: The only space-clone you'll ever need

We were asking a lot of Sam throughout the making of Moon. He had to deliver two lead performances in a very demanding VFX environment and a lot of this concerned his physical movements during a take. Watching the film being shot from behind the camera was a strange experience as VFX heavy shoots often are. Sam would pace around and talk to fresh air, Duncan would call "cut" and we'd be moving on to the next setup or a makeup change without knowing for certain if we had what we needed to make the shot work. We knew we had a few Visual Effects techniques that would help us out such as stretching the timings here and there in either of the two performances to get them to fit together properly but to be honest the main reason the clone VFX works so well in Moon is Sam Rockwell. He had a lot of technical considerations to consider during his performance including his eye lines, timings and physical location in space. 

When we were filming a shot that required two Sam Rockwells, we would choose one of the clones to "drive" the performance and shoot that first. We'd then leave the camera in position and get Sam up to make-up as quickly as possible so he could get back on-set as the alternate Sam and we could shoot the other half of the shot. We'd then move onto a new setup that was driven by the version of Sam that was ready to go and keep leap-frogging like that to try and get through as much as the day as possible with minimal time spent with Sam off-set in make-up. Our amazing on-set sound-man Patrick (Paddy) Owen came up with the idea of recording the sound from our chosen first take and getting it up to Sam whilst he was in make-up. He'd drop the audio onto Sams' iPod so he could listen to it whilst he was in the make-up chair. When we started production we were assured that there would never be a make-up turnaround of more than 30 minutes but towards the end of the shoot it was taking around an hour and a half. Just another ingredient to add a bit more stress to the day and another factor in the fight against making the call-sheet.

Look at that face-hair. Just look at it. Its magnificent. When Sam returned back on-set to do the other half of his performance he'd have an earpiece in with the audio of his previous performance so he could react to the conversation and make it feel natural. Sam acts using the Miesner technique, which was perfect for this role as Sam Bell. It's a bit hard to explain but if you're interested, you can read up about it a bit more here http://www.completeactorstraining.com/about.html

Whilst I'm on about the sound department I'd just like to mention Toby who was our Boom Operator. Toby is actually in the film, you can see him when Sam is watching a message from Tess early on in the film and she holds up little Eve as a toddler. This little lady was actually Rosie Shaw, Gary Shaw (DoP's) little girl. If you watch the right-hand side of the video message frame you can see the edge of a person. Just for the record they are not meant to be there. This is Toby. Well done Sir, you got in the film. To be honest, as I was doing all the motion graphics I should have spotted this but I was doing so much and was so knackered I somehow missed it so it's my fault really. We didn't miss that much over the breadth of the entire film but we did have a few moments. We had to paint our DoP Gary Shaw out of the reflections in Sam 2's sunglasses when he has Sam 1 lying on the infirmary bed and we also had to "disappear" him from the bathroom mirror in a couple of shots. Probably they worst shot for being outright wrong was when Sam 1 does his search of the base looking for the hatch. There is a shot where we see him cross the befroom and if you pause the dvd you'll see al sorts of stuff in frame. I was sat with Duncan in the grading suite with the film being a couple of weeks from finished when we both clocked it at the same time. The scene was shot very quickly and as we moved around the Sarang set we'd tuck bits and pieces of filming equipment round the corner from wherever the cameras were pointing. In this particular shot you can see his bedroom is piled high with big brown wardrobe boxes and there's a metal step-ladder with "Walker" painted on the side of it. This belonged to Julian Walker who was our sign-writer on the set and who helped me put all the graphics on the base walls. Congratulations mate, your ladder got in the film. We did what we could by dropping a dark vignette over it to drop it back and we pretty much got away with it but if you look sharply you can see it's stil there. Incidentally, if you look at Sams' videophone when he makes the rover call to Eve, there are two pairs of numbers above the screen in black type. This is mine and Julians birthdays. I put that in there for my Mum and I think I forgot to tell her about it. I'm a terrible son.

So the next time you see Sam Rockwell in anything just consider the fact that he's not only an amazing actor, he's also an amazing VFX robot. He's exactly the kind of actor you need on a VFX shoot. He can dance too. This is the audition film from Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (which is amazing). I love the music in this clip, I wish it would start playing whenever I walk into a room. He does a particularly amazing move at 2:06. I asked him about this and he said it takes months of stretching to be able to pull this off without inverting your anus. Check this shit out.

Lunar Industries Hope You Enjoy Your Driving Experience

One of the things that really got me excited about the design aspect of Moon was that I was going to get to design some Moon Buggies. I love moon buggies. I've always been obsessed with vehicles in Sci-Fi films, from the buggies in Silent Running and Space 1999 to Wolfs' Scrambler in Space Hunter to the Light Cycles and Recognizers in Tron to the AT-ATs and Speeder Bikes in the Star Wars films. I wanted to drive around in those excellent looking, cool-sounding vehicles more than anything and when I finally got a ride in an Argo with my Dad on some trip to some safari park somewhere as a little kid I almost pissed all over myself in excitement. This WAS Space 1999. The Argo was even yellow. I remember my Dad even let me have a little go at driving, we did a little assault course thing and splashed through a bit of water and mud. Massive hi-light of my young life. So when we were getting the script for Moon together I kept banging on to Duncan about how most of the best old-school sci-fi has buggies and cool space-cars in that we get to see our hero drive around in. Space-buggies and Robot buddies. That's the sci-fi I like.

When we were first getting the project together it seemed we might be able to get around a quarter of a million pounds to do the film so we were really looking to cut costs as much as possible and get the maximum bang for our buck. I know this sounds a bit clichéd but it's true and there's really no other way to say it which is perhaps why it has become a cliché in the first place. It's very nice having bespoke vehicles made for your production but it's also very expensive. I've always loved the aesthetics of military vehicles and so I had a bit of a think about what cool-looking stuff we could get really cheaply to dress up and use in the film. I've always loved the look of the Alvis Stalwart, which is a military truck that was in service with the UK Armed Forces during the cold war and was originally intended to transport fuel to the tanks up front. It was eventually retired as the job was taken over by helicopters and it became obsolete. It's such a sexy machine, it's a six wheel drive amphibious go anywhere nuclear shock proof cabbed double hard bastard and if it had boobs I'd get it drunk and try and kiss it. I've almost bought one of these bad boys a couple of times but I've not had anywhere to keep it.

One of these days I will own a Stalwart.

I had this truck down as a contender for possibly being dressed up a bit, repainted and pressed into service as our Lunar Rover. Due to the amphibious aspect of its design, it hasn't even got any doors; you have to get in through the roof. I always loved vehicles where you have to jump in through roof-mounted hatches and you'll probably have noticed that I kept this in the final rover design even though it's not really that practical. It just felt more "Lunar" somehow and less like a truck and even though it complicated shooting I reckon it was worth it. I did a quick concept piece to try to get it down but was immediately overtaken by events when we committed to models. I'd been pushing for models for ages so it was actually a relief to bin the Stalwart off as now we were going to be able to get into some bespoke designs in our film and get to do a miniature shoot whilst simultaneously saving an insanely massive amount of money. Kerching! Win for VFX. The CG alternative that was originally tabled broke our budget by over four times our final spend and there was no way we could proceed unless we went with the miniature option. I always loved models as they have certain honesty on film and I was delighted when the production had exhausted other avenues and we were back to my original plan of doing it for real. Also, there was something about doing it old school that made me warm and tingly inside. 

As we were working things out we were both insanely busy so I started off an initial design for Sam’s' Lunar Rover. I used this in the animatic images and as things moved forwards so quickly I never got to refine the design more than this so this image below is as far as we got with the "traditional" sci-fi "buggy" concept. When Duncan and I were working out the mechanics of the base and how things would actually work we had a rover already in there which was really just Sam’s' Lunar Runabout that he'd use to pick up Helium 3 canisters and run them back to base. The original script had the canisters ejected onto the lunar soil behind the harvesters and Sam would just drive up next to the bright orange canister with a beacon on it and load it up onto the side of his little buggy, then drive back to Sarang. We put the docking sequence in to make things more interesting and also to have Sam drive through the debris-cloud on a regular basis, which is, of course, where he crashes the rover and starts the chain of events that really starts the film. It was originally going to be a little buggy and as we had zero cash it needed to be enclosed so we couldn't see him sat in it as this would complicate things in post enormously as there were so many rover shots required for the film. A dummy sat in a miniature open buggy could very easily look awful on-screen and it was clearly best to design this potential pitfall out of the vehicle. I'm almost tempted not to even call this a "design" as it was really just a place-holder that I invested very little thought in and pretty much made up as I went along. I just wanted to include it as the rovers came about very quickly and I pretty much just pulled the design out of fresh air. There really weren’t too many steps that I went through design-wise. Most of the back-and-forth was us collectively settling on the model miniature route as an overall strategy.

As you can see, this as really only a little runabout and the scenes with the two Sam’s in the same rover would have been very cozy in the rover-interior set if we had to match it to fit this design. The orange cylinder on the side is a Helium 3 canister, which I originally had envisaged as larger than appeared in the film and more like a high-tech oil drum. As we kept talking about the base it seemed clear that he would have at least one backup rover and also a maintenance vehicle to help him do jobs such as repairing a thrown track on a harvester, so I wanted to put a some machinery on there and we ended up using a crane. I love a good crane, even to this day, if I'm walking down the street and see a nice crane parked up with its' legs out and its' massive boom extended I'll hang around for a couple of minutes and have a good letch over it. I like this separation in the three rovers with them having different purposes and they came in really useful in the story as we could have more driving around. I always liked the moment in the film where Sam 2 first enters the garage and finds Rover one is missing and it catches him out. Originally this was going to be a full-size set but we didn't have the money and so we had to composite a green-screen Sam over some 12th scale footage of the garage which was actually this big.

The chap behind the camera is Peter Talbot, our miniatures DoP. Bear in mind that he is actually a tiny man and so the models are even smaller than they seem in this picture. Peter was excellent to hang around and chat with. I don't use this term very often at all but I think he might actually be a genius with cameras. He was mightily impressive to watch working and full of amazing advice and knowledge. He did the miniature work on Dark Knight too so another win for team Moon. The other two Rovers also got an initial design work-up for the Animatics. Rover 2 immediately below might look a little bit familiar.


Rover 3 was originally going to be based on another UK military vehicle, the Alvis Saxon. The Saxon's a weird looking thing and when I was chatting to Duncan about the Stalwart we sat down I showed him the models of vehicles we were likely to be able to get hold of relatively easily and he liked the look of the Saxon as a basis for Rover 3. 

I've just got to say this again: Please don't judge me too harshly for these rubbish placeholder designs, they were blocked out in less than an hour and I'm including them to give you an honest account of the design process which sometimes isn't pretty.

Everything changed when we went to the next step in the rover design which came after a break of a couple of weeks whilst we were working on other things. By this point we were committed to a model build and this made things easier for me as I didn't have to worry about dressing an existing vehicle or and all the problems and compromises associated with that; I was back to having free reign. This was great as I just put the kettle on, rolled my sleeves up and finished up the Rover 2 design as it was the one I felt had the most potential. As I was doing this I started to really like the design and suggested we unify the design of the Rovers by having a common base-chassis for all three. Having three individual vehicles was starting to feel a bit scrappy and having a common chassis made it all click a bit and feel more harmonious. I designed in a flatbed type rear quarter making it more of a general utility vehicle. I then decided to put some kit onto the other rovers that would be generally useful to Sam. So, we have the boom-arm on Rover 3 and on Rover 2 I mounted a generator unit that's quite non-descript but is actually a service module for the Harvesters. The idea is that this unit is one of the more common repair jobs that Sam has to deal with so Gerty keeps Rover 2 pre-loaded with the kit so when the unit fails Sam can just jump in the Rover and he's off. I really wanted to put a Gerty arm in the garage to show that he has elements of him in action outside the base but we ran out of money. I loved the idea of robotic arms on rails silently moving around the outside of the base doing things whilst Gerty is simultaneously inside talking to Sam. We did get a hint of this in one of the opening shots where we see a robotic arm working on "Judas" (the "dead" harvester right outside the garage entrance). This shot was put in by a lovely chap called Simon Stanley Clamp who was our key liaison with the Cinesite team. He just dropped it in one time as a little bonus and when Duncan and myself turned up for our bi-weekly VFX review and the shot just appeared in front of us, we were both delighted. Keep.

The Rover design came together very quickly at this point, which was a good thing as we were running out of time. As I was working it up I tried a couple of things moving elements about and looking at potential colour schemes but ended up going back to my original plan. At the start of the project we were going to give the vehicles a kind of race-team aesthetic so Sam’s EVA suit would look a bit "Formula One" and the vehicles would have stripes on them, etc. We soon decided to move away from this as the Sarang base design came together really quickly and drove the design along a certain path that was definitely not Formula One racing. 

Ideally I'd have liked to work these models up further but at least I got to spend more time on them than most other things I did on Moon. I might come back to these at some point and work them up more just for fun as I've got all the 3D models sat on my computer. It's so nice doing concept art in 3D as I was confident that the model build was going to go smoothly as I could even provide the model building team with complete schematics and orthogonal renders (images with no perspective- like blueprints) to help them with the build. Incidentally, in Moon world, an aerospace company would build these rovers and I tried to work some aspects of this into the design. Those of you familiar with Boeing aircraft will see some similar shapes in the rover windows.

So after a couple more days of chipping away in 3D, I had final design renders done and we were ready to go and brief the model-building team. That's where these little beauties (below) came from. I must admit, I did get a bit of a kick walking into Bill Pearson’s workshop and seeing all my designs printed out everywhere, literally covering the workshop walls. If I close my eyes now I can almost smell the glue. No, seriously, it was that strong I still smell of glue.

And that's how the Rovers came about. Almost everything was done in miniature except for a couple of bits of set that we made full-size. We built the rover cab interior of course, and we also built the outside cab roof when Sam is shown getting in and out of the Rover (that's actually me in the space-suit but I'll tell you more about that later). At one point we were going to have a full-size rover built for the garage scenes but in the end we used miniatures and composited them in. Probably a good thing, as I'd have had to take the full-scale rover home with me at the end of the shoot. I always love designing science-fiction hardware and it was so great to be able to put something back out there that lots of people get to see. I was delighted at the reaction we got for using model miniatures rather than CG and there were so many people that worked on the back end of post to bring all these shots to the screen that it was such a relief to get them finished without the design straying. All of my design work in Moon came out true to my original vision and it's genuinely humbling when you consider how many hard-working people were involved making that happen. Cheers guys! You totally fucking rock!

Cutting holes in our shiny, new set

When I was originally designing the set and getting the look established, I was keen to have some visible tech in there to bring the base to life. When you're designing a set, it really helps bring it to life on the screen if you can work light sources in there. I wanted to put monitors around the place where we could run looping or bespoke motion graphics sequences so we'd have lots of little blinking lights in the background. We soon came up short on our ambitions of filling the place with monitors as we had so little cash that we were immediately into damage-limitation. In the end, our monitor total ran to twenty-two 7-inch LCD photo-frames, eleven 15-inch screens, seven 19-inch screens, one 28-inch screen and one 40-inch screen. This might sound like a lot, but it really wasn't, the set was pretty big and when you factor in the rover interior too they pretty much disappeared into the space and left the base feeling like it had a lot of blank areas. I decided to get the construction crew to cut me some holes so I could mount transparencies with lights behind them and essentially build a load of light-boxes into the set. That way we could mount colour acetate printouts in the holes and shine as much light through them as we wanted making them illuminate and look like extra monitors pretty much for free. Bargain.

This turned out to be an essential component of the base when you take in the overall aesthetic as this allowed us to put way more illuminated "screens" around the place than we actually had. Also they could be any size and shape I wanted, and all for the cost of a coloured print onto transparent acetate. Win. I'd been moving around the set as it was being built, taking photos and drawing all over the place for shapes to be cut out and screens or light boxes to be mounted.

This is an image of the comms nook where we had some of the holes cut out. Progress on this job was constantly going back and forth with the construction crew as occasionally we'd have a hole cut in the wrong place and have to cover it up. The small blue codes on the image are my own reference to the graphics I was designing to fill the space. There was so much to do that if I stopped to think about it it would seem overwhelming so I just ploughed on through it, telling myself that it would all be worth it in the end.

This is a shot of the Monitor-Tower mid-way through construction. This was actually the last part of the Sarang set to be completed and it was starting to stress us out a bit as it just didn't look right until it was finished. All through construction, as the rest of the base came together; it just looked like a rubbish dark cupboard up the top of some steps. It was a good place to have a sneaky cup of tea though. You can see in this image the original shutters partly open for painting and the hung green-screen through them which we'd use to pull a key to composite in the lunar surface outside. The construction process was incredibly noisy and when I was on-set working I'd often hide up there and use it as a temporary mini-office. You can see from this image how the light-boxes are being sited, there are some long slit-type shapes running across the lateral surfaces. The light-boxes really saved our arses on this part of the set as the tower has naturally low levels of lighting. It was also painted grey so it tended to soak up most of the light that the rest of the set bounced up there. Coupled with the shutters being closed and denying us any external illumination (and saving us VFX budget at the same time), we really needed some extra light to sell the space on film. The light boxes were great for this and totally sorted us out.

The graphics for the light boxes were really fun for me to do as I could put all these little details into them that reinforced the design of the Sarang facility as a whole. When I was doing the 3D concept model for the Base, I worked out how it would function and how all the engineering works. It was great to be able to put some clues to some of this down on the walls. The base has a massive magnetic rail-gun running directly underneath it and this is powered by pairs of magnets. When firing, these fields would produce massive magnetic pulses and in reality they would create effects such as ripping your watch from your wrist and smashing it against the floor, then, as the polarity flips, send the smashed pieces hurtling back at you faster than bullets. It's theoretical to a degree of course as nobody's built a rail gun this powerful (yet-the US Navy is trying), so I'm just going on small-scale versions and theory. If it was real, it's likely the rail would be around two and a half miles long and I really wanted to put this into the miniature model of the base but we ran out of money. I love the idea of this huge rail running off across the lunar surface into the distance, I thought it could look pretty cool. These huge pairs of magnets are the reason there are lots of signs around reading "fields present". If you look down the main corridor of the Sarang set, you'll see grey rectangles on the floor in pairs. These are the access covers for the magnets and they can be accessed for servicing through the floor by removing these panels.

One of the things that I thought would be of major concern to the residents of Sarang was the constant threat of solar flares. Space explorers of the future will have to pay attention to space weather as much as sailors do to the weather here on Earth. Perhaps even more so. A large solar flare could theoretically kill everybody alive in Sarang and also the clones in storage if there was no emergency drill in place. At one point in the early script phases we had a scene where Sam has to take refuge from a flare and his "Panic Room" is the return vehicle/incineration room. It's quite funny when you think of it as he's basically hiding from danger in a coffin.

The base itself would be powered by a pocketsize helium3 cold-fusion reactor about the size of a dustbin. It would be powered by some of the fuel Sam sends back to Earth. A portion of each load being returned would fuel the Sarang reactor and sample it at the same time so that when the return capsule reached Earth, they would also have the report on the purity of the fuel.

A big solar flare would also cause the harvesters to stall and even the base to shut down, requiring a major repair effort to get everything booted back up again. A base like Sarang is not designed to switched on and off, and getting things running again would be way more complicated than just pressing a big red button. 

It seemed reasonable that there would be an emergency boot system that could get some of the base running again from a large battery array. This would enable life support systems to function for a few days and comms kit to be re-booted. It would also allow station crew to evacuate, as all the pressure-doors would have closed automatically and then seized. The emergency doors are actually pneumatic and the rams would be constantly forcing them to stay in the open position. So if anything happened, all the emergency bulkheads would instantly slam shut. This design means they will always perform their function no matter what else happens on the base. I like the hidden threat of this design; as Sam walks round the base, every time he crosses a bulkhead actually he's stepping directly into the path of a guillotine blade weighing several tons that is constantly trying to slam down but is being physically held back by massive pneumatic pistons. He does this routinely every minute of every day and doesn't even think about it. I'd be sprinting and jumping through those bulkheads.

I liked the way these Emergency Cold-Start graphics turned out. Good to have a few orange and black stripes in there without doing them to death.

The graphic above is Sam’s' menu screen from the kitchen area. I like the idea of using chummy language in these signs, even though Lunar Industries are actually a bunch of futuristic-clone-murdering-space-bastards. I like the slightly subversive idea of putting softly phrased terms in there such as point number five in the graphic below. This is actually the first menu screen from Gerties’ manual that I put in there as a little joke and hid it in plain sight in the return-vehicle room.

Besides being one of my favourite films since I was a little egg, Outland was one of those films that we were trying to get Moon to "sit alongside". I put this "Fire Control" map of the base above the comms unit as a little homage to Outland as Sean Connery has a sign in his apartment with the same heading. I imagine a fire in a moon base would be a thoroughly trouser-changing affair. This was the largest transparency we made for the set and it ended up being a bit wrinkly as the hot lights were making it curl at the edges.

The screen below has some secret code in it and is a little joke that I put in there for Duncan.

The top lettering reads "WHTK-GNS" and actually stands for "White Hawk and Guns". Ages ago when we were working together we decided we needed to come up with some new names so we sounded a bit more hard-core. I researched my name on-line to find out the definition and amongst all the usual bollocks I struck gold and discovered that "Gavin" literally means "White Hawk". Duncans' name came up as "Warrior", so we improved this by coming up with a harder sounding name and guns are pretty hard. So we settled on "White Hawk and Guns", which I'm sure you'll agree sounds ace. So that's what "WHTK-GNS" is. There's loads of this sort of stuff going on all through the graphics. You might see JAIC in there quite a bit too. I'm not telling you what this one means.

Post-Shoot iMovie VFX Frollicks

I thought I'd share something special with you today and it's definitely something you're not going to be seeing anywhere else, the "first" VFX shot from Moon. We'd wrapped our shooting at Shepperton and Duncan had just gotten a new Mac Book Pro (these lovely little metal machines were used extensively on Moon). We were at home having some sleep and generally trying to get our heads together as we entered post and my life was about to become overtaken by Excel spreadsheets for a week or so as we rooted through all the footage and got underway with the edit. It was exciting being at home and getting footage through on hard-drives and we'd spend a lot of time just looking at what we'd just shot and generally getting familiar with it all.

Duncan decided he couldn't wait for the next few months of postproduction work to be carried out and so we decided to load a random shot into iMovie. At the time neither of us had used this excellent bit of software before and so we thought we'd take it for a spin and see what we could make it do. If you've seen Moon you'll likely be familiar with the shot of Sam driving his Rover. In case you're not, the footage shot in the studio looks similar to the image below.

I'm not sure exactly how funny this is going to come across as but by the time we were adding the sound effects we were both crying and pissing ourselves with laughter. Our first step was to enhance mood, so it had to be noir. He's driving a car so we'll have the car noise in there a few times. The car sound effect sounds a bit exciting so we knew we needed to amp up the motion so we put the earthquake thing on there just to get a bit more of a kinetic feel. And everybody likes monkeys so lets bosh that in there as well. It's basically all you need to make a film like Moon and perhaps we should have done the whole film this way. We'd have been finished in a day and a half, it's very quick to use. The xylophone effect is something that I really don't think you can have enough of. It adds tension and drama. Apparently the new Robocop re-boot is going to be xylophone-heavy. So here it is, the first ever VFX shot completed for Moon by myself and Duncan on his new Mac in about twenty minutes. Piece of piss this post-production business.

 

I know that this stupid little video isn't a huge part of the making of Moon, but the ability to muck about a bit and have a laugh when the rest of your life and career seems to be hanging by a very thin thread cannot be underestimated. We were so exposed on this film both professionally and financially that I'm not going to try and describe the constant pressure and related weird-feelings that we all had as I'm not sure I'd be able to. But at least we could still find times now and again to have a bit of a laugh whilst we were doing it.

Spaceman Sam

This is an image that I had to make in five minutes when we were dressing the set of the second Bell residence. We see this posh, expensive house in the background of the videophone call that Sam makes from the Rover cab towards the end of the film. The set itself was a simple three-walled set similar to a TV studio, with the fourth wall exposed for the camera to cover the interior. There was actually a front door built into one side of the set for a deleted ending where we see Sam 2 approach the front door in motorcycle gear. He drops a small present for his daughter on the step, rings the bell and leaves rather quickly. A few moments later we then see Eve open the door, look around and then crouch down to pick up the present. She opens it and it's a tiny little wooden house, which is actually an exact duplicate of the house she is currently living in. The idea was that the original Sam (who sold his DNA to Lunar Industries so they could create their clone army of drawer-sleeping space-miners) had this beautiful house in his head as his vision of his perfect future. The original Sam does the deal and consigns an army of his alternate selves to a (short) life of slavery and untimely death whilst he himself lives in the lap of luxury in his beautiful new house with a hot wife, jetpack and fully automatic tea making robot. So the clone Sam’s are haunted by the vision of this amazing house and so it has become included in the model village. Sam 2 brings this part of the model back as a present for Eve. Personally I would have gone and busted the steering wheel of one of the old 60s Moon Rovers that NASA left up there, but there you go.

The sets for the Bell residences were put together in a matter of a couple of days by Production Designer Tony Noble and his construction team, I think the total budget for these two sets was just over £1000. They were little more than painted walls with some stuff shoved up on them. The other Bell residence is intended to be a cheaper place where Sam and Tess lived together when she was pregnant with Eve, before he did the big moneymaking deal and they moved out into the space-Hamptons. I remember (due to us having no money - recurring theme this), Duncan and I grabbing things from our flat on the way into the studio to dress the set with. The round globe lamps that are lighting that scene are currently lighting my lounge and allowing my girlfriend to see the guitar keys on Beatles Rock Band. Eight quid Ikea lights come good. Can't believe they even ended up in a picture on the back of the DVD box. Mind you, at least it was just the lights and bedclothes this time. If any of you watched "Whistle" (the other short film on the DVD/Blu-Ray), the main character in that is wearing Duncans' clothes the entire way through. Quite glad we managed to talk him out of that one on Moon. Although during shooting we did spend quite a bit of time in the evenings on the sofas in the lounge wearing Selk Suits. They're great, it's like having clothes made of duvet, you can literally just fall asleep anywhere. You just stop moving and you're already in bed. If you value a bit of slobbing around at home hung over on a Sunday afternoon watching DVDs, you should seriously consider investing.  http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/selkbag-the-sleeping-bag-suit

So this image is a five-minute rather badly photoshopped portrait of the amazing Sam Rockwell which was mounted on the wall in the background of the shots of the new house. As the cameras were being set up I was chatting with Duncan and he mentioned it'd be cool to have an Astronaut launch Portrait on the wall. So I rushed off back to my computer in the production office, grabbed a picture of Sam off the net that kind of worked and boshed this together in literally five earth minutes. This is why it's a pretty duff job; it was never intended to be seen up close. I'm not sure if you can even see it in the film, as the coverage in the final cut was limited to Tess' videophone messages. It was intended to be like a graduation picture, when he left on his original 3-year mining mission (to see if he had the chops for the cloning gig), they took a picture just before launch just like NASA does. I know it's a rubbish piece of art but it was cool when Sam saw it on the wall when we were setting up for filming and kept mentioning he liked it. There was so much done on the fly when we were making Moon that I didn't have time to be too proud. Finishing artwork as the camera's being set up is not my working routine of choice but when you're doing all this stuff with incredibly tight resources and zero time, you just have to run at it and hope people don't judge you too harshly. Just for the record I can actually use photoshop. I've even got a degree in drawing pictures.

I can see your house from here

The design of the exterior of the Sarang facility was done very much on-the-fly as I had so much to contend with I had to fit the design period in over a couple of afternoons between meetings. I'd sit and chat with Duncan at my computer in my bedroom and just chip away at the design. He had one specific thing in mind with Sarang (or Selene as it was called back then), which was that the base was built into the ground in an excavation and the lunar rubble would be packed into cubes and piled on top of the roof. The logic behind this is that it would be a cost-effective way of shielding the habitants from space weather and radiation from solar flares. Something like this tends to dominate a design as it meant we were probably going to be having a blocky, flat roof. As we already had the interior of the base pretty much set, these two elements came together and gave me a good footprint for the exterior base design.

At the start of the project, before we'd gotten any other work done, I was originally thinking it would be nice to build the base into the recess of a cliff or perhaps inside the wall of a big crater with an access ramp leading up. I used to love the design of Moon base Alpha in Space 1999 and as a kid was obsessed with Matt Irving (the model maker who built it). If you don't recognise this name, Matt was working at the BBC VFX department and kept popping up on TV shows talking about VFX and model building. I used to daydream about one day holding the original Blake’s 7 Liberator model and I would be rudely snapped out of my fantasy to look down and find that I had involuntarily pissed all over myself with excitement. When I was nine or ten I entered what I think was my first ever competition (don't do it much), to win a part of moon base Alpha on Saturday Swap shop. I was gutted when I didn't win and I'm secretly still bitter about it now. So yeah, building a miniature moon base was something I was very much up for. To be honest, looking back at it now after having designed pretty much everything in the film, this is the bit of work that I was least happy with. I often lament the fact that I didn't come out of Moon with an amazing portfolio of images where everything was nicely worked out ahead of time. The truth is that when your artwork has to cover as many areas of responsibility as mine did on Moon quite, a lot of the job becomes very practical and you create functional pieces of artwork. You tend to have to make time to try and squeeze in a bit of nicer, more satisfying artwork in-between more functional pieces whenever you can.

So, rather predictably, I worked up another of my all-too-common incredibly undetailed initial design models in 3DSMax to block it out, which you can see below.

Whilst I was at it, I thought why not try playing around with a couple of lights? These colours are pretty awful and they make me cringe now looking at these images but I just wanted to see what an 'underwater" type lighting scheme might look like.

Then I tried working into it a bit with some other colours to see if I could get things looking kind of polluted. I know this might seem like a moot point on the moon, especially with there being no atmosphere, but I thought if there was something going on at the base that constantly put out a fine rust-coloured mist then it could look like some sort of pollution that we could recognize and subconsciously identify with. Bear in mind that at this point I was still pretty concerned about the moon looking boring and flat and grey in every shot, so I was up for having a play and trying a few things.

After spending an hour or so on this I decided to abandon it as it didn't feel particularly "moony" and also I was concerned it might possibly look a bit weird on-screen. I was generally quite concerned about how we were going to show the lunar dust throughout the film, as no atmosphere and sixth gravity are pretty weird conditions. This was important for the film overall as we see quite a bit of dust as the harvester vehicles are constantly spewing out a plume of lunar muck all over Sam’s face whilst he's driving. In the end we decided to take a bit of a liberty and just eyeball it in until it looked about right. The VFX team at Cinesite were really patient as Duncan and I sat through countless iterations of the harvester shots and kept feeding back "thicker dust and more chunks please". Cheers guys. And thanks for the tea and chocolates too.

This is the original CG model I did as a concept/animatic piece. You can see the dead harvester "Judas" lying outside the base. The vehicle at the left-hand side of the screen is the return vehicle fake rocket burny room, inspired by one of the aborted attempts at a space shuttle replacement called the Delta Clipper. This is a fantastic machine. It does this:

Why the hell would you cancel a program like this? It's things like this that make me consider going into politics, just to get a proper space program going as all this tech is just sitting around on companies' shelves. And every day we get closer to the one where a massive asteroid smashes into the planet. When we were getting the base built, the model team took my design as a starting point and used whatever they had lying around to get as close to it as they could. The final model turned up covered in all sorts of amazing detail and they did a bang-up job, as usual, having pulled apart countless cool models lying around Bills' workshop and re-gluing them back together as Sarang.

This was the final concept piece I did of Sarang, painting over my 3D concept model and generally working into it a bit. You can see from this piece the relative scale, as there's a badly drawn and rushed little space clone in there. Also, you'll notice that on these designs the tower is in a different place. At this point we hadn't started actual set construction and the tower was supposed to be directly above the end of the corridor and match up with the submarine-style deck-crossing ladder that I had in the interior base CG concept pieces. When we started building it became financially impossible to put the tower above the base and do it all as one, continuous set.

We didn't have any studio space available to build the tower anywhere else and so we just put it on scaffold legs and hung it over the end of the main corridor. The costs involved came in making the roof structurally sound to support the weight. The actual roof of the Sarang set wasn't self-supporting and was actually attached to a scaffold rig and hung from chains from the studio ceiling. It used to flex and move and the Gerty rail (which was made of moulded plaster) kept cracking and needed filling. Turning up on-set in the morning and finding cracks in the roof used to piss me right off but there was nothing we could do about it. Gerty hated it too as it kept setting off the atmospheric compromise alarms.

Build Your Own Robot The Lunar Industries Way

I was having a bit of a dig around on a couple of my old hard drives recently and I came across this set of images and thought they might be of interest. They're the actual images that I gave to Bill Pearson to enable his team to start the build of our ever-faithful robot Gerty, so they are the actual blueprints. I left these images with an overlaid wireframe to assist with the proportioning and as you can see, the robot came out pretty faithful to my original plans. At the same time I was working up paint schemes and things but I passed these on later as we really needed to get the model build underway and I was juggling so much work it was more like putting out fires.

In the image below you can see Gerty approaching the end of construction with the blueprint laid out behind on the wall. The green blocks on the lower right hand side of the image are the foam blocks that would be carved and used to pad out areas underneath the hot plastic when vacuum-forming. The Vac-Form machine is down in the lower right hand corner of the image and sort of looks like a dangerous old gas oven. Gerty was made of sheets of plastic glued together into boxes and then re-glued together into our stage prop so essentially he's flat-pack. Bill and his team did such an amazing job for us on Moon that it's quite humbling thinking that we got to hire these guys to make our robots and little space-cars. They were always really interesting chaps to talk to and I got such a massive kick out of seeing these skilled craftsmen bringing my CG designs into the real world it's hard to describe.

If you look just to the bottom of the blueprint Gerty stuck on the wall, you can see a vicious red reflection in there. This one of the electric bar heaters that kept the model shop warm and used to make me think I was about to burst into flames whenever I had my back to it.

As well as these orthographic views I also did a couple of perspective renders so the modelling team could get a sense of the overall mass and shape. I was actually quite surprised at how low-tech the model shop was at first as everything was manual. Bill did have an old PC but he hardly ever even checked his email (I think he did it about once a week or so), and none of the model team used computers in any capacity with the model build.

About the most sophisticated bit of technology they had in there (apart from the hypnotic vac-forming machine) was a portable DVD player with a 7-inch screen that could usually be found to contain a DVD of Snow White and the Seven Sexy Dwarves. As we were all based on the Shepperton Studio lot it was a simple matter for me to just pop over and hang out for a bit catching up on what was going on and breathing in a lot of airborne solvents so not being connected by email wasn't a problem and in a sense was perhaps better as it brought us together in the same room much more often than we would have been otherwise.

I also did some renders of the arms, but the heavy lifting arm was the main part of the model that had specific requirements in the script. It had to be able to load the HE3 canisters into the cargo lift that transferred them to the return pods. We went back and forth a bit on this as Bills' team built the arm and cylinders simultaneously. I'd originally envisaged the cylinders to be something like an oil drum but we had to scale them down quite a bit to get them built so they fitted into the set. In the end we don't get to see too much of this action as we ran out of money and so just left it at the opening scene where Sam bangs his arm. The Gerty arm was hollow and had very little mass so Sam wasn't in any actual danger of having any bones crushed. I'm pretty sure that nobody will have noticed this but the rover wheels have the same lifting bar on the inside as the large HE3 canisters. This is because the arms can actually move outside the station into the lunar vacuum and are used to repair and service the rovers in the garage. The heavy-lifting arm is the arm that changes the rover wheels. If you spotted that you might have to win a prize.

In the image below you can see Bill Pearson talking Duncan through the operation of the seven-inch digital photo-frame that was Gertie’s face. I had a series of SD cards with all the face graphics loaded up and had them in my pocket when we were shooting. As we moved on to the next scene, I'd grab the correct Gerty "face" from my pocket and load it into the monitor.

In the end, these screens weren't bright enough and so I made up some transparencies and we fitted a brighter light inside Gerty so it would read better on film. This still didn't crack it 100% and in the end we replaced them all digitally in post. And that's how Gerty, the Ikea flat-pack robot was made out of a few pixels, some electricity and loads of plastic and glue. If you decide to take these plans and build one yourself be sure to send me a photo.