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.