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.