Saving time with Adobe Photoshop

A very important part of the final look of any film is the colour grading process. This tends to happen at the end of postproduction where the edit is locked, all VFX shots are complete and the films colours are tweaked and finessed to enhance beauty and mood. It's a crucial part of any film and ours was no exception. Anticipating this, I took some frames from the film and used Adobe Photoshop to work up several versions of colour adjustments that we could use as a basis for a grade. This was a really nice bit of work to do as grading tends to be a quite enjoyable as all the hard slog is behind you and you can just sit and polish. However, it's not automatically guaranteed to make everything look brilliant and it does take an eye for tone and colour. The image below is a photograph taken on-set just before we started filming. You can see Sam is sporting his space-trucker look with his mighty beard whilst relaxing with a delicious Lunar Industries cup of space-tea. Sam actually did drink tea as we were filming although brews do tend to get cold pretty fast when you're shooting if they're not in a thermos. I guess sometimes you have to suffer for your art.

You can see that this shot was taken in the Sarang Monitor Tower and at this point we were still intending to have the shutters open and so you can se the green screen through the windows. One of the design details I was excited about seeing on-film was the graphics I put on the glass windows which were basically safety warning about explosive decompression. They're hardly noticeable in the final film. I'll put them in something else in the future and make sure they're nicely in the way of the camera.

Moon was actually shot looking like this and only took on its' final appearance at the last stage of post-production where Duncan and I spent two weeks in the grading suite at Molinare working with the colours to give the film that final polish. Up until that point we were watching version after version of the film with these flat colours and it always used to bother me how ugly it looked. I started on these images whilst we were filming as I was always trying to get ahead a bit to get some pressure off. Not that it ever panned out like this of course. Making Moon was like walking from John o'Groats to Lands End carrying huge pile of heavy books. As you walk, people keep putting more books on and even when you can't see any more and keep stumbling forwards with achey arms more books keep getting piled on. Eventually you finish your journey just before you're about to die, and just collapse and drop all the books over the cliff into the sea. Then a helicopter flown by Michelle Rodriguez comes and picks you up and flies you off to the pub for a burger and chips. Then bed for 32 hours straight sleep. That's what it was like making Moon. Pretty much.

The original version I did was heading towards de-saturated cyans and light blues with some greens in there. I always liked the look of vintage photographs where the darks fade out over time and the whole thing takes on a period look. As we were essentially doing a period piece with this film I was keen to explore anything that could age the end result in case I stumbled across something brilliant. I liked it for about fifteen minutes and then felt it had its' strength washed out a bit and so I tweaked it to put more solidity back in there.

I made the blues stronger to see if it brought a mood to the room and made things look a bit more "night-time" and "computery", but went off this one pretty much straight away. It was all going too blue and so I lowered the saturation and dropped a copy of the original colour back on top to crush the blacks down a bit.

This now felt like it was starting to get somewhere but still had too much of the legacy blues in there which had now given the image a pinky/purplish hue. I quite liked this but didn't like the way it had changed Sam’s' flesh tones so much. So I used this piece as a reference and went back to the original image and came at it again without all these legacy changes I had in the image. I find this can be a useful way to work as it often give you some nice results and in this case I came right in on this version which I was starting to like. When you're grading film, you really need to sort out the skin tones first. Then you can look at the rest of the image. So my major consideration in these images is firstly "what does Sam’s' skin look like?" and secondly "do I like the look of it overall?"

From here I thought that since I was exploring vintage looks and I'd backed away from the blues, I would start moving in on the sepia tones and see what happened.

I quite liked the look of this for a bit but wanted to see if I could put some more drama in there by increasing the contrast.

This left the image in a place that I was really starting to like. We eventually settled on a mid-point between the two images above for most of the film. Although it looks a bit different in some places, this is mainly due to the amount of white in the Sarang set. As I originally had envisaged the monitor room tower with submarine "war-room" type lighting I thought I'd have a go at something along these lines and did this massive headache-inducing nightmare.

Imagine working in this tower all day with this light, it'd make your nose bleed. It's good to try things like this though as, if nothing else, it clears your head so you can put it behind you and get on and get the job finished. I thought the grade on Moon came out really nicely in the end and the prep work was really useful as we could style-match. So when we got into the actual expensive grading suite for out two-week allotted time, we could just rip into it without spending the first couple of days finding our feet. This was really important as it meant we could focus a bit more tightly on the lunch menu.

So what's on television in the Sarang Facility?

Early on in the production of Moon we decided to build a complete 360 degree set to shoot in as we wanted to capture the feeling of enclosure and allow the camera to roam around the base without running out of room or suddenly finding itself out round the back of the studio. This added a lot to the experience of shooting as we'd enter the base through the airlock and pretty much stay in there all day. It was especially weird for me having designed and built the base in 3D first as it was like being inside my own mind made solid. Quite strange at times. This fully enclosed set meant that we had to design and dress the entire base which ended up being lots and lots of work, all done with very little time and resources (spot the recurring theme in these posts). It was important to me to get as much detail around the place as possible to try and make it genuinely look and feel like not just a Lunar Mining facility but also Sam’s' home. See how he has loads of scrunched up used tissues around his bed? He didn't have a cold. That was one of Sam’s suggestions.

All together we had 17 active flat panel screens built into the set in various locations to give the place a legitimate "techno-hub" feel, but we were keen to keep the technology "old-school" and keep away from any Minority report data-glove style lightshows which we couldn't afford anyhow. All the monitors protruded from the back of the set and were attached to £20 cheapie domestic DVD players running a bespoke disk for each take. We'd get back from the studio around ten and after shoving some Mexican food into my mouth-hole I'd spend the next few hours getting the next days' graphics ready to arrive at the studio at seven the next morning with a wallet of shiny new DVDs. This led to a few weeks of 2-hours of coma like sleep per night which was hard going but at least I'd got most of the design work done by then and was mostly just refining the vehicles prior to the model build. I remember falling asleep all over the place, grabbing cheeky 15-minute naps whenever I could. There was one instance where we were shooting the scene where Sam 2 puts a very ill Sam 1 to bed and we needed a stand-in to get dressed up and lie in the bed with the hat on whilst the real Sam does his performance as healthy and concerned Sam 2. I must have been looking like I was about to die as Duncan suggested I step in and put myself to bed. So, being happy to help, I got dressed up as poorly Sam 1 and got into bed whilst Sam Rockwell did his thing. As soon as my head hit the pillow I fell into a mild coma and I must have been looking so knackered that when the scene was shot out they left me there whilst Sam went off for a makeup change. The Cheesy Loaf woke me up shouting at me that it was time to go home as they were closing the studio so I blearily shambled out of bed very confused and disoriented to find everybody staring at me and pissing themselves. I had been out cold for two hours and they just left me there whilst they were filming the scene. I remember it being incredibly cosy and nice and I just immediately flaked out, even though there was filming going on right next to my head. If you look in the background of those shots it's actually me fast asleep in there.

When we were shooting any specific shot we'd just look through the DVD wallet (which had hundreds of them in by the end of shooting), put the disk in and press play ten seconds before they were due to call "action". It was all very high-tech as I'm sure you'll agree. Duncan and I chatted about the look and feel of the monitor graphics early on and decided that it would be nice if it kind of looked like the old BBC Micro computer game "Elite", which was a favourite of ours when we were both tiny eggs. I set the style very early on in production and quickly worked up a template of design elements that could be used throughout the sets and anywhere else it might be needed. The choice of Green Mountain/Microstyle font was an easy one because it looks beautiful and has such a nice weight to it. There's a nice mechanical solidity to it that sold us as soon as we tried it out.

One of the functioning screens was located above Sam’s' bed and served as his entertainment suite so he could lie in bed and watch TV. I'm pretty sure none of this is readable on-screen, but here's the graphic that features in the sleeping area showing some of the entertainment options available to him.

I imagine there's a few things you'll recognize in there which I put in as a homage to a selection of things you'll find on my DVD shelf at home (apart from the Flintstones - that was referencing a piece of licensed footage we had available). Just for the record this list features two of the best and most under-rated comedy shows from British Television in the last ten years and both of these feature a Moon cast member. Fifteen Storeys High stars Benedict Wong and Snuff Box stars Matt Berry who collectively feature in Moon as Thompson and Overmeyers. If you haven't seen either of these two shows I'd advise going out right now and buying them on DVD, I promise you won't be disappointed. Here's a bit of Matt showing how to treat a woman properly in Snuff Box;

...and here's a bit of the amazing Benedict Wong as Errol in 15 Storeys;

I had to put "Look around you" on there too as it's one of the best observed and most original comedy shows I've seen in ages and if I was getting shot into space I'd definitely make sure I had both seasons on DVD in my bag. The Judge Dredd reference is to a future version of the film that it always seemed inevitable they would make and now (huge surprise), it's in production so it's sort of like a joke that's ended up coming true. The weird thing is that we had meetings with them at one point and more recently Duncan was offered the script but turned it down. The original Dredd movie was like watching a car crash in slow motion, so this is really just a shout out to all the old-school 2000AD fans out there. Put your hands up!

The other references in there are related to friends of mine and Duncans and a severe beating issued to a trivia machine on a night out in the Phoenix Bar with Mr Stockton, McEvoy and Mr Jones. The trivia machine was cheating and eating all our money and not letting us answer questions we knew the answers to. This is a picture that Julian Stockton took of us just as we were starting to suspect the machine was mocking us. Dodgy touch-screens are not good in a pub when money is at stake as the four of us make a formidable entertainment trivia team and so we administered our own swift brand of justice. Street style. That machine's gone now. Goodbye forever!

Ed and Aaron, if you're reading this, sorry to put you guys in porno films. Actually I'm not sorry; you'd have done the same thing to me.

LUNAR INDUSTRIES HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR ENTERTAINMENT CHOICE

Mexican Wrestler in Sarang

If there was one single scene in Moon that made us the most anxious in the run-up to shooting it, it was the fight scene. We had a few tricks we were hoping would help us out, especially spending some time working with the edit. Before we actually shot it, we weren't 100% sure it was going to work. As with many things on this project we just ran at it and tried our hardest. There were a couple of things that were stressing us out; making sure we could cut together a good looking, convincing sequence, and tipping the model over. We only had one model and the little houses are actually plastic painted up to make them look like wood. They were actually little model railway houses and people and we weren't sure exactly how delicate they were. We knew that when Sam actually tipped the board up with the model on, it would go violently flying all over the place and we were stressed out that the little houses would be destroyed as we needed them later for some close-up shots of him working on them. It all turned out okay in the end as our art department geniuses Hideki Arichi and Andy Proctor filled them with biscuit foam which is kind of like cavity wall insulation but sets rock hard. Cheers lads, nice job!

Sam had a tendency to really get into the anger side of Sam Bell, which gave us a fantastic performance but also left us with a few holes in the set at the end of shooting. On one take in the rover interior he actually punched out the monitor in the cab and smashed the screen in, it was completely knackered. It was a 17-inch flat screen telly and he just put his fist right through it and smashed it to bits. This was when we were filming the scene where he calls Eve Bell and is understandably upset. Mind you, so were the Art Department when they had to change it out double fast as we got setup for the next take. Another bit of set damage came when he does his tour of the base looking for the secret hatch. There was one shot that made the cut where you see him punch a padded bulkhead. These were actually quite delicate, they were Styrofoam blocks cut to shape and covered in a thin layer of plaster and then covered with fabric. When Sam punches it he hit it so hard it actually made a big divot in the Styrofoam. I think we got away with this as it was only a bit of background set dressing but it was pretty beaten up. Sam’s does a lot of boxing training to keep fit and the speedball in the Rec Room was his idea when we started filming. Originally it was black and white but we painted the white bits orange so it would look more "Lunar Industries". Painting a stuffed leather object that's going to get punched is not the easiest thing to do and we gave up re-painting it orange, as whenever Sam was on the speedball he'd actually punch the paint right off the ball. If you look closely at it in the film you'll see it looks pretty dirty, this is the remnants of the orange paint in all the little cracks in the white leather.

Most of the fight scene was using Sam fighting a double, and we were trying to pick shots where you could only see one Sams' face in any one shot. There was an exception to this, which is the shot where Sam2 has Sam1 in a headlock. We shot this using a double and gave him a chroma-key balaclava with some tracking markers on it so that it would help us replace it in post.

The thing about this is that when we were shooting, it looked like a Mexican wrestling match, which was quite funny to watch. The balaclava itself turned out to be a huge pain in the balls for me as the production office initially refused to hand it over to me. I needed to shoot some tests and prep it for the actor/stunt-man and I got into a bit of a barney over it. It was quite an infuriating position to be put in as I even ordered the thing in the first place. The "problem" was something that I've run across before and is inherent in some people when acquiring kit for a production. It's all to do with perceived value that people can understand. Our budget was super-tight and as this balaclava was made from special chroma-key material it happened to cost £80. It was really important for the shoot and so I got it ordered from the production office and that was that. When I needed it a few days later, I checked in with the Wardrobe department and they didn't have it. They told me it had been taken to the production office and so I headed there. I then proceeded to get in a massive barney trying to get it out of a locked drawer and into my hands where it needed to be for the tests. The problem was that the balaclava came as a solid material piece and I had mentioned earlier that I was going to be fitting it to the stunt man, which involved cutting some eyeholes in it. This should have been pretty obvious as it came as a solid hood with no holes, the idea being that you are supposed to modify it to fit a specific individual. Anyhow, the production team weren't having any of it as they didn't understand the process or really what it was for despite my explanations. They just saw an eighty quid balaclava and me standing in front of them with a pair of scissors in my hand saying that I needed to cut some holes into it.

The problem with things like this is that a balaclava costing eighty quid is an easily quantifiable thing. I doubt anybody I know has ever actually spent eighty quid on a balaclava, so this one must obviously register as valuable and hence keeping away from scissors. If I had said I needed a Hassleblad camera body at fifteen grand nobody would have questioned that, as it's unquantifiable to most people. But an eighty quid balaclava isn't. Goddam you, expensive special effects clothes.

A couple of weeks later we shot Sams' head of himself choking as he's being strangled. This looks pretty weird as a clip and you can see this on the Moon DVD Extras where Simon Stanley Clamp talks about it a bit more.

Here's something you'll not have seen before which is a clip of the fight rehearsals. We only rehearsed a couple of bits of the film as our resources were so tight but the fight was one thing that we had to work out before the main event. This was shot in the Sarang set a couple of weeks or so before filming started, you can see that everything's lit by construction lighting and things are still being built and painted. There's no graphics on the walls and the floor is covered in brown paper to try and keep it clean. If you listen you can hear me starting the camera running and 1st AD Mick Ward calling action. Sam is in the green t-shirt and very hairy and his fight-partner in the blue top is Robin Chalk. Robin was Sams' double throughout the film and you see his back quite a lot in the film. The funny thing about a double is that you don't actually want somebody that looks identical, you want somebody that looks identical from the back/side as you're never going to point the camera right in their face. Sorry about the size of the file and thanks for hanging around whilst it loads. I hope it's worth it. Who knows, you might get some tips on pretend-fighting. I'd still like to see a Directors Cut where we keep the original wrestling mask in. That'd be ace.

What's For Dinner Gerty?

One of the things we really had fun with in Moon was designing Sam’s' daily living routine on the Sarang facility. Originally we were going to have him eating all his meals in pill form like a proper space-man of the future, but we also wanted to do a shot where we showed a massive amount of stored food, and a cupboard full of pills just isn't that dramatic. We opted to put this into the "clone-room" shot, where. if you look closely, you'll see one side of the corridor is stored Sam clones in drawers and the other side of the corridor is full of stacked food containers stretching off into the distance.

At the start of the shoot we wasted a couple of hours one morning trying to get a shot with the practical Gerty small-robotic arm lifting a box out of the fridge but it looked rubbish as everything was wobbling. My biggest pet peeve in films is wobbly props, I hate them. I absolutely love the film "Starship Troopers" but there's one bit in it that annoys the shit out of me. During the funeral scene where they eject the casket into space, watch the conveyor belt. It's wobbling all over the place and it looks cheap and rubbish and shouldn't be in there. It's supposed to be a dramatic, sombre moment but the "Prisoner Cell-Block H" level of set-building totally ruins the whole scene for me. I really didn't want anything wobbling in Moon and puppeteering the practical Gerty Arms was the main area of risk for this. The arms weren't built to be moved, only positioned and then left alone. We got quite a bit of movement out of these using simple fishing-wire puppetry, but some of the things we tried simply didn't look good and we burnt through quite a bit of time trying to get extra shots out of these prop arms as we couldn't afford any more CG.

In the original script, all of Sam’s' food interactions and eating happened in the rec room. I designed in a pair of food dispensers into the original CG base concept design, which then evolved into the stacked food units which we see in the final film. You can see from this concept image that the kitchenette-area was also different and a bit more sleeker. Bits and pieces of the base were tweaked as we started physically building it but generally you can see the final set was very close to the CG designs.

Duncan and I had a take-away around the corner from where we were living in Chelsea called "Mexicali" which is up on the Fulham road about five minutes walk from the house. It's a little restaurant that does Mexican/Californian food with the idea being you can stuff your face like you're eating Mexican but feel healthy like you're living an "ideal" Californian lifestyle. When this place opened it was a great source of excitement and protein for us and we used to get take-away quesadillas and burritos probably three or four times a week. When we were shooting, we were getting back from the studio very late and as neither of us could be arsed cooking we'd just go to Mexicali. So it quickly turned into a routine where we'd rock up at half nine every night and order the same delicious and actually quite healthy food. Cheese is healthy right? It's full of vitamin C.

The Mexicali takeaway cartons were these nice, cardboard-segmented boxes and Duncan liked the look of them so we started saving them to use in the film. We started making a pile of them in the kitchen to use on the set. They ended up appearing in the two fridge units on the kitchenette area and also downstairs in the clone room. This is the photo I took of the first time I took the boxes we had from home and stacked them in the fridge unit to see what they'd look like.

As we started designing the clone-room set it became clear we were going to need a few hundred of them so we asked the Mexicali guys where we could get some and put in an order. So Sam’s' space food was served in our favourite take-away boxes. When the Mexicali guys asked us what we wanted the boxes for and we explained we were making a film and wanted to use them in it, they were really chuffed and started refusing our money when we went up for food. This was an unexpected turn of events and Duncan and I used to talk about how guilty this made us feel even though we'd just put the money we would have otherwise paid in the tip jar. Funny how people being really nice to you can make you feel a bit weird sometimes. If you find yourself in the area, pop in and say hello to Cesar from me. If you look at the credits at the end of the film you'll see him in there, and this is the reason why.

When I was designing the graphics for the food-modules and boxes, as usual, I was making it all up as I went along. I thought I'd have a bit of a play and put a couple of jokes in there and so these are the labels I designed for the fridge/food storage area. When I was designing the logos for the actual food containers I didn't have much time, and so I used outlines to describe the food. I was happy with the end result as the graphic design language and conventions that I had established around the base tended to use quite simple shapes and so I didn't want to go into too much detail on these little illustrations in case they started to look out-of-place.

I didn't think they'd be especially visible in camera and were mostly intended for background detail but a few things like this around the base got picked up and became easily readable which made me laugh when I see these references come up in trivia forums on the net. As you can see, Sam’s' food is supposed to come in six different flavours. Although if you actually watch him eating in the film you'll notice that he only ever eats beans and trifle. No wonder he's in such a shit state at the beginning of the film. Imagine eating only beans and trifle for three years. It'd be like being stranded at a three year olds birthday party in space and you're the only one that bothered to turn up. We wanted to hint at him being "stuck in a rut", and this is why when Sam 1 is recovering from the fight he's spoiling himself by eating all the trifle. When you're shooting with things like this you have to actually stop the crew from eating things you're going to need for shooting as if you don't keep an eye on them they'll simply vanish. I shouldn't admit this, but I actually had some of the trifle myself. Don't tell anybody. It was raspberry and cream and it was delicious. Space food totally rocks.

We had a brilliant little machine on-set that we used to seal all the food into little packages. It had a kind of transparent plastic pipe that sealed itself into segments with a heating element and we used that to make all the space-food portions. The plastic tubing was quite hard to come by and took a few weeks to get delivered so once we started shooting, if we ran out of it we had a problem as we wouldn't be able to bag any more space-food. We just managed to get the footage we needed, and we used up every last piece of this tubing on takes where we see Sam opening a packet on-camera. It might seem trivial, but this was actually quite stressful as every time Sam opened a packet it felt like another step closer to impending doom. When you make ambitious films on insanely low budgets you'll find that all sorts of seemingly trivial things will become a big deal and start stressing you out. But at least you can always just kick back and put your feet up on the moon base with some delicious beans and trifle.

People from the Moon

I'm pretty sure this image hasn't been seen in the wild yet so I'd like to show you the official Moon crew photograph. This picture was taken three or four days before we finished shooting in the Sarang Facility set during a lunch break; if you look closely you'll see Duncan's down the front actually eating his pud. We were both like this all through the shoot; neither of us really got the chance to sit down to eat as we used the hour lunch break to get extra stuff done so we'd always be eating lasagne and chips walking down corridors and bringing random plates of food into meetings. The catering on Moon was actually really good, but there was always the constant, easy allure of lots of chips. I love chips but I don't think it's a particularly bright idea to have a massive plate of them every day for lunch. I was so distracted with the actual making of the film that I was just shoving food into my mouth-hole and I was a bit gutted that I'd got a little potbelly at the end of the shoot. I know going to the gym can be a bit boring but it was great therapy when we finished shooting and got into postproduction. To try and get some time in my own head away from the constant worries of not getting the film finished and running out of money in post, I got into this thing where I'd just get on the treadmill and try and run like Robert Patrick from Terminator 2 into the mirror for as long as I could without showing on my face that I was about to burst. I got pretty good at doing the Terminator 2 run. So be warned; films will try to make you fat. You're stuck on a studio lot with very few options for eating other than what you bring with you or what the production decides to feed to you. And it's going to be with chips. The deserts were amazing though; the catering chap had this special strawberry syrup that he brought over from Spain that was one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten in my life. Wish I'd gotten the name of it. It was so nice, you could actually put it on chips and it'd make them better.

So here are most of the people who made Moon. There's a few faces missing, as we never had everybody in one place. Notable omissions include Bill Pearson, Hideki Arichi, Barrett Heathcote, Matt Berry, Benedict Wong, Kaya Scodelario, Dominique McElligott and Kevin Spacey. Try getting that lot together for a photo on a day when you're not working with them!

It's tempting to start writing about all the individual people in this pic but I'd literally be here all day. We had a great crew on Moon and there was a lot of hard work done for very little money to bring this film to the screen. I was really glad that I made some really good friends over the course of the shoot. One person who was instrumental on getting this film made was the 1st Assistant Director Mick Ward. Mick's the chap in the blue jacket kneeling down at the front of the left hand side. He had an incredibly tough job to do keeping us on track with shooting as at one point we were a day and a half behind schedule and we simply had no wiggle room to make things up at the end. It got really stressful having the feeling of driving your car full speed towards a brick wall. I know this might sound a bit dramatic but that's what it feels like when your shoot starts slipping and clawing it back takes extreme effort and focus of will. Mick was sort of like our big brother as it's the first AD's job to run the set. He did some tough things that really ran the risk of pissing people off which was necessary as he was only doing it for the good of the film. On the third day of shooting he got fed up with everybody asking him what we were doing next and so he called everybody together and told everybody who had a call sheet in their pocket to put their hands up. Three people did. If you're unfamiliar with shooting, a call sheet is an A4 printed document a few sides in length that outlines the proposed days' shooting. It contains a running order of things to be shot and any associated information such as crew details, safety risks, locations, and any specific details that may be occurring on the individual day. They get drawn up the night before and handed out in the morning so all the information on there is current and they only ever cover a single day of shooting. So Mick gave everybody a bit of a bollocking and made sure people were carrying their call sheets and looking at them before they asked a question. This was all on day 3 and we'd already slipped by half a day at this point. Two days later we'd made the half-day back. That's how you get stuff made.

I'm pretty sure there are a couple of people to watch out for in the future amongst this crew but one in particular would be miss Suzy Willett. Suzy is sat right behind Mick and is just peeking her head round his ten-bob cabbage. Suzy was working on Moon as a spark (electrician), and is in the process of transitioning to Director of Photography. Keep an eye on her as she'll doubtless be bringing you things you like in the future. That Sam Rockwell chap too, on the extreme left. I've heard he's pretty good.

 

Hello from the internet

Hello you, I was having a chat on Twitter with Duncan recently and he posted an old-school doodle of Gerty from Moon so I thought some of you might find it interesting to see some of the working process we went through in making the film. Consequently, what's about to follow is a series of posts of me showing you all sorts of rough stuff that was either done really fast or never got finished so please don't judge me too harshly. It's basically the artistic equivalent of me standing in front of you all and pulling my pants down with my hands on my hips. In other words - don't get too excited. So please don’t judge me too harshly for showing you the rough stuff.

This original "Pac man" design for Gerty was intended to have a rim-light above the head that could glow like a Halo. The main Gerty unit would also move up and down vertically a lot more so it would move up to the ceiling and run along the roof a bit more, with a halo occasionally glowing like a little electronic angel. We decided this was a bit too high-concept and so we toned it down to something more like a load of old dirty PCs bolted together which is the look that appeared in the final film.

Originally Gertys' screen was going to be faces constructed out of ASCII art (sort of like a mashup of Robocop 2), but I managed to persuade Duncan that it might read a bit messy and so we decided on the emoticons instead. The secondary bulge on the lower edge of the unit was to be a rotating camera-ball with multiple lenses on it reminiscent of the old-school television cameras with the rotating lens assembly.

If you follow Duncan on Twitter you'll likely be aware of how originally we wanted Gerty to have a soft appearance. We got excited by the US military Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot (BEAR), and initially thought it might be a good idea to take a few cues from it.

The "Pacman" design above is my initial attempt at a cute sort of a design. Here's Duncans' original sketch too in case you missed it on Twitter. Don't judge him too harshly; he really concentrates when he draws ;)

How not to design your robot

Right then, time for a bit of a cringe-fest from me. Here's the first Gerty 3D concept that I ever did which was based on Duncan’s' initial sketches. In this image, Gerty is facing away from "Sam", who is being stood-in-for here with a 3DSMax biped. For those of you not familiar with 3D modelling, that's a bony computer man made of pixels and electricity. We moved on pretty quickly from this design once we'd knocked it up, there's a little screen on the right hand side of the image that would have been a flat panel with the face on. I could just see this moving around and looking like the robot was craning its' neck all the time and it wouldn't have looked very good on film so we binned it off and I started looking at the Pacman version. I can't believe I'm posting stuff that looks this bad but I want to give you a genuine look at what we did and that means showing you the rubbish stuff as well as the pretty stuff. Please don't judge me to harshly, I know it's awful, that's why we didn't try to refine it, we just threw it in the bin. Goodbye!

I tend to do a lot of my design and concept work directly in 3D space as it's a really good way of exploring shape and form early on in a design. I pretty much just started making the base right out my head as Duncan and I had been talking about it for a couple of weeks and I had some ideas that I thought would work so I pretty much just sat down and started building the main corridor of the base. As I progressed I was lighting the scene in VRay (an excellent rendering package), and was using real-world equivalent lights and surface textures so we could get an idea very early on how the base might eventually end up looking. It always pains me when the final "real thing" ends up looking nothing like the concept piece and working in 3D right off the bat really helps to avoid this. It's not all 3D, I will stop and do a doodle from time to time but I do spend a lot of time in 3D space and most of my final concept pieces almost always have 3D involved.

You can see the initial main corridor concept model in the background of these images of the initial design for "Pacman" Gerty (below). 

Having a basic corridor in place gave me a good sense of scale and enabled me to get an idea as to how Gerty was going to be able to move around. We had the idea of the ceiling-mounted rail fairly early on as it has a nice old-school quality to it, it's not magical futuristic engineering or anything that involves lasers and magic and I like this kind of mechanical feeling whenever I'm designing heavy things that move. I thought it would look nice if he shuddered a little bit as he crossed bulkheads and things like that as we didn't have much to work with to bring Gerty to life and I was of the mentality that every little helps. In the end Gerty was brought to life properly by Kevin Spacey so as it turns out I needn't have worried but at that time we had no idea who the voice was going to be. We only ended up getting him once we'd almost finished the film and so at this concept stage it could have been anybody. When we were filming Duncan read out the Gerty lines and so all the way through the edit we'd all gotten used to his voice, so it was quite weird when all of a sudden Gerty transmogrified into Keyser Soze. The hardest thing about working with Kevin Spacey was getting him inside Gerty as the practical effects "robot" was basically a big plastic box. Incidentally, if you've seen Moon you'll have witnessed Duncans' multi-faceted vocal talents elsewhere and probably not even known about it. He rarely shows it but he does some great impressions (his Crusty the Klown is particularly good). If you meet him don't ask him to do it though as he'll know it was me. When Sam is driving the Rover there is an automated womans voice giving him information as he drives. This is actually Duncan's voice pitch-shifted. I think you'll agree he makes quite a good robot woman.

You'll see in the above early concept render that there was a ladder at the end of the main Sarang corridor. This was originally supposed to be a free-standing ladder that went up and down a deck like on a submarine, but that all changed when we could only afford a single level (almost) on the base build. We did get a tower though. Everybody loves a tower. A big tower with a big fat chair and a robot that brings you cups of tea. Living on the Moon is sweet.

We looked at a few options for the rail system including making a little train-track above the set with a big groove cut into it but we ran out of time and money. We also looked at using real robot arms but as the set was enclosed and none of us had ever worked with robotics on this sort of scale before we thought it might be a bit risky. I must admit, even though I was up for it, I would have been half expecting them to pick me up and pull me in half. They're very cool though, I love robot arms and especially automated production lines with lots of them all picking up things and welding them into each other. I'd have liked to have more robotic apparatus around the base in general, but, (huge surprise coming here) we didn't have the money to do it any sort of justice. I toyed with the idea of dressing the set with some inactive arms folded up here and there but we ran out of money to do that too. I know I'm saying this rather a lot but it keeps coming up in every aspect of the production. In the end we decided to move away from this Pac-Man type robot as it was starting to look a bit like a 2001 pod so we went back to the original idea of a bunch of PCs bolted together and concentrated on working up a nicer design. It was the right call to make as even though I still quite like PacMan Gerty, when I see the film now I can't imagine the robot any other way than as he appeared in the film. He was supposed to look like a bunch of modules semi-forced together and I think we pulled that look off quite nicely. Also, it's much cheaper to fabricate boxy shapes than it is to do lots of bespoke curved surfaces so we got another win there. Pretty much every decision we made during the making of this film was at least half centered around, saving some money. So here's Pacman Gerty, the robot that never was.

Sir's robot looks a little clean...

Gerty was ultimately brought to the screen at a ratio of around 60-40 physical model vs CG. Modelmaker extrodinaire Bill Pearson led the team that did the model build on Moon so we'd liaise with him and he'd have his team of five or six additional model makers beavering away in his workshop on the Shepperton studio lot whilst they all got accidentally high on all the glue and paint solvents that got dispersed in the air whilst they worked. It was always fun popping round to Bills' workshop for some breathing, and, for me, supervising the model build was such a rewarding part of the project, I absolutely loved it. If at any time your work or career involves you working with model-builders all I can say is try and soak it all up and remember it all in as vivid detail as possible becasue it's such a magical thing seeing your designs come to life in tiny toy-form that it might be the last thing you think about when you're 180 years old and your robot body fails. After designing the vehicles and Gerty in 3D, it was fantastic seeing them come to life before our eyes over the course of a few short weeks. Bill had his studio on the Shepperton lot and it was very cold whilst we were filming, as it was winter. Bill had these heaters that were basically exposed electric elements dotted about his place and I was always paranoid my back was going to catch fire whilst I stood and chatted. Apart from all the excellent models lying around his studio, the coolest thing in there was the vac-form machine. It only did 14-inch square plates but we got all Sams' space helmet out of it by doing it in two halves. I always wanted to put my hand in that machine to see what would happen.

The photo above is how Gerty arrived on the set a day before we began shooting in the Sarang facility set. As you can see, he is very clean and nice and has no graphics or dirtying down on him at all. You can clearly see the metal pole that was always threatening to take the end of my finger off when we were adjusting his height. This was on a dolly and we wheeled him around and then painted out the trolley in post and completed the CG "fin" on the top of his head so it fitted into the rail cavity on the roof. The wire running down the pole powered the little light that is Gertys' "eye". We originally had a little torch mounted in here but ended up needing a stronger light. The actual "eye" itself was a 35mm camera lens donated by Bill Pearson (it was actually in use at the time on his camera), operated by a remote shutter release that made it dilate when pressed in. We accessed Gerty by taking a secret hidden panel off the back and reaching inside. The entire Gerty model was articulated by people. I'm tempted to write "puppetteers" but puppetteers are actually skilled professionals and we were more just people spinning a box around on wheels whilst people talked to it. There were four of us operating Gerty at various points (two of these were me and Duncan).

I must admit that as the cameras were getting set up I had a bit of a mini-freak-out thinking that we can keep on working on the sets and props between takes but as soon as the cameras' passed over something then it's committed to film and however it was when it was shot, it's basically staying like that. As we needed Gerty on the first day of filming, there was no time to lose. I was worried that Gerty needed to look like he'd been around for fifteen years and also possibly beaten up and abused a bit through the course of living with Sam. I don't mean in a negligent way, just the same way a fifteen year-old computer might look if you dug it out of the garage and put it in your living room. So I ran off to grab a cup of coffee granules, added in a bit of boiling water to make it all mushy and started rubbing him down and putting some stray stickers on him whilst the first setup was being shot out in the greenhouse. All I'd had time to do to him the night before was put a couple of bits of vinyl on him as there was so much to still do on the base walls. So as the first scene in the Greenhouse was being set up, I was just round the corner of the set making Gerty all yellow and stained with coffee. I had a few of the crew laughing at me thinking I was being weird but I'm so glad I took the time to make him look a bit older and more knackered, you can see a bit of this on the EPK on the DVD and Blu-Ray. You'll see me kneeling down with a cup of brown muck in my hand rubbing yellowy paste all over a big white plastic box on a rotating metal stand. Who says showbusiness isn't glamarous? As Gerty was dirtied down with coffee he was actually quite sticky but smelt very nice all the way through filming. I can still smell the coffee and plastic and glue smells mixed together as when I was operating Gerty during takes sometimes I had my face pressed against part of him depending how small the space I was squeezed into (especially the infirmary; not an enormous space to shoot in).

I put the cup holder into the design as I drink a lot of tea and it turns out Sam does too. He even drinks Yorkshire Tea becasue he's got such excellent taste (I'm from Yorkshire by the way). I asked him about this and he told me Sigourney Weaver put him onto it whilst they were shooting Galaxy Quest, so there's even an Alien connection in there. How cool is that? Tea totally rocks.

When I was dirtying Gerty down at extremely high speed, I was trying to think about what my computers get like after I've had them for a couple of years. I tend to use post-it notes quite a lot and they inevitably end up being stuck all over my computers and monitor. I ran off to the production office and wrote down some notes that sounded like things Sam might not want to forget (such as servicing the boom on Rover 3), and just stuck them on him. Now it's all finished and up there on the screen it's a bit weird for me seeing my writing all over him. I also put some ripped corners so it looked like this happened as routine and it occurred to me that I would probably draw on Gerty if I was living in the Sarang base. I'd also ride around on the robot arms and make them do bucking bronco type tricks when I got bored. I did actually discuss this with Duncan and he was into the idea but we had no cash to bring it to life. I'm sure if you've read any of my previous entries on this blog that will be an enormous shock to you that we had ideas for things that we couldn't afford. All I can say to this is that if you're considering making your first film, get used to this. I reckon you need a project that still works if half of it gets cut out. Because it probably will.

I thought Sam would have his own little jokes that he played on Gerty as he'd be poking the robot and seeing what it did and didn't react to. So for Sam, him sticking the "kick-me" sign on Gertys' arse was just him being a little bit mean in his earlier, grumpier phase when he's new to Sarang. Then it just became normal and he didn't even think to move it until the end of the film. The scene where Sam essentially "kills" Gerty and then goes back to take the note off him was actually Sams' idea and he came up with is whilst we were shooting the scene. I was quite delighted about that as it ended up being a sweet little moment in the film. Funny how you can just do little things sometimes like writing a stupid thing on a bit of paper and it ends up being something that people you have never met want to talk to you about at screenings. I wish I'd kept that little note as when the set was being struck by what I can only describe as a mental bastard in an armoured fork-lift truck, we had Gerty and the two arms sat off in the corner of the sound-stage ready to be shipped off into storage. I was in a hurry as I was on my way to a meeting, and as I walked past I remember seeing a little yellow square up against the wall quite close to where Gerty was standing. It was probably the note and it probably went in the skip.

Your Plastic Pal Who's Fun To Be With

The final phases of pre-production were an incredibly busy time for us on Moon. The Sarang set took nine weeks to build and the models and miniatures were being built over the last five weeks of this period. Although you'll hear people refer to Gerty as a "robot", his is, of course, a collection of plastic boxes glues together, painted and covered in coffee. He literally was our plastic pal and he used to break and not move properly because we were using him for reasons he was not designed for. The articulation in the arms was meant for static posing only but due to our tiny and shrinking budget we decided to rig them with fishing wire and get all Jim Henson on his ass. This photo below is the first time Duncan came face-to-face with the build-complete Gerty model. You can see he's still just white, untreated plastic at this stage. Gerty originally had an extra plastic ring that made his eye smaller which we took off, you can see it in this image. This was a device that Bill added to keep the lens in securely as Gertys' "eye" was actually a remotely operated 35mm camera lens from Bills' actual camera. We glued it in tighter and got rid of the disk so we could see more of the eye. I'm glad we did this as with it in there it sort of looks like a Pelican’s' eye. 

So as Gerty was being built in Bill Pearson’s' workshop, construction was simultaneously underway on the main Sarang Set. We had to be very careful with the height of the ceiling, as there are three different ceiling heights in Sarang that Gerty has to traverse. Also, the Main Corridor has a split-level ceiling which changes height as you walk across it. When I was designing the base I knew this would complicate things but I thought the design needed the extra shape in there to look right. Bill took the printouts of the orthogonal wire-frame renders I'd done from the 3D concept model of Gerty and mounted them on thin wooden board, then cut round it with a jigsaw. We mounted this 2D Gerty on a pole and moved him round the set so we could see how high he was to the roof and work through any complications that would be coming later when we had to add a CG rail-fin.

You can see me in the photo above looking virtually indistinguishable from Sam Rockwell as I check out the eye-lines and areas-of-access with the 2D wooden cutout Gerty very late one night in K stage. When we were doing this we had to lock ourselves in and turn out the outside-corridor light so the security guards wouldn't find us and kick us out.

There's something lonely but kind of nice about these photos that really captures the mood of being in an almost-finished-set in the middle of the night when everybody else has gone home. It was really, really quiet and still as the sound stage is pretty much a soundproof environment, it was incredibly still at night. During the principal shoot, we did have issues with airplanes flying overhead and we had to re-do many takes because of this. Even with all this attention to sound during principal photography, at the end of the day we still needed Sam to do fourteen pages of ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement). When we finished on the main set in K stage and moved next door to do the Green-Screen shoot in G stage, things got much worse as this studio isn't even soundproofed. Not only this but Shepperton were building a new admin block literally on the plot next door. We were constantly running a risk as we had to shoot all the green-screen and rover cab-interior shots in G and so there was always going to be a load of dialogue going on. Our shooting was constantly interrupted with the "beep-beep-beep" of diggers and forklift trucks beavering away next door. This was really stressful as we wasted loads of takes on this but we got there in the end. If I was to give one piece of advice on shooting habits it'd be don't shoot next to a building site. Seriously. You'll have daydreams about punching people out of dumper-trucks.

This photo was taken late one evening two days before we started shooting. We were being a bit naughty as we weren't supposed to be in the studio without a nurse (insurance - she left at six) but we had so much to do and were really tense about not being ready so Duncan and I grabbed a set of keys and did the last few nights in the run-up to principal photography. It would have been really nice to go to bed but we didn't have enough resources to get the set finished properly so I ended up doing most of it myself, as I couldn't have just bare white walls. My OCD kicked in and myself and Julian Walker just started graphic-ing the shit out of that mother. Well, at any rate we put a lot of stickers on the walls (over 3000, of various sizes).

It was really peaceful working in the big sound stage in the middle of the night. Film studios are strange places and there's a tendency to associate them with bustle. When we were shooting Moon we were the only production on the lot, which meant we were also the only people using the facilities. We'd sit and eat in big, empty dining rooms, walk around deserted roads and park wherever we wanted. It was a very cosy ghost-town shoot as it was winter and the weather wasn't great so there was a tendency to hunker down somewhere warm and dry and the production offices were really cosy and snug. They were also very old school, and covered in wooden laminate. They really wouldn't have looked out-of-place if they appeared in a 60s Swedish porno. There were rumours they were being demolished after we wrapped so they might not even still be there. In the background of the above pic you can see Duncan sat at the Comms Nook (as it was referred to in the script). In the background messing up the floor is a load of vinyl roll, which we used to cut the stencils from to put the graphics on the base walls. It got really messy in there but it was a good mess as we were getting things done.

Funny how a plastic box can come alive when you attach a voice like Kevin Spaceys' to it. We only got him signed on as were completing postproduction and had the opportunity to show him a very-nearly-finished version. The voice-over work was all done in a morning, he did two complete read-throughs and we'd gotten everything we needed. Good old Kevin. He's good at reading words.

All the three pieces of Gerty were generally supported from the ground. The main body was on a wheeled dolly so we could push it around a bit to try and get some extra footage, and the two arms each had a custom-built metal frame that weighed a ton and was perfect for making massive scrapes on our nice set-floor which was made of wood painted white. In the photo above you can see four of us re-positioning the small-arm and moving it into the rec-room. We originally had these supports painted blue as we were going to shoot clean plates and chroma-key out these areas to "disappear" them. However, each time the camera moved across one of them, even if it was just sat in the background of the corridor, poof! Another four or five thousand quid gone. After two days of biting my nails watching them appear in the playback again and again I decided to get them painted white. When they were white they just dropped back and as some shots were out-of-focus, these ones totally vanished. That's how you get your post done. You spend ten quid on a tin of white paint and save tens of thousands on rod removal VFX.

Here you can see me on the first day of the shoot dirtying Gerty down with some ever-present coffee in a shitty old mug. Making films is so glamorous. Stood just behind me is the amazing Simon Stanley-Clamp from Cinesite and on the left of frame is our also-amazing sign writer Julian Walker. You'll notice that we all have stupid little CSI blue plastic bootie things on our feet. This was implemented when the set had been painted and we were all supposed to put them over our shoes whenever on-set. It worked pretty well at keeping things clean but as the set was supposed to look worn I was trying to encourage people not to wear them to get a bit of extra muck and worn-in grime in there. Not complete filth, just the gentle yellowing and greasing of surfaces. In the end I think we got it pretty much spot on. Generally you'll hear film people talking about how the worst thing to film is a flat, white wall and you should stay away from this sort of thing. I'm not sure I agree with this as the Sarang set came out looking all right. MythBusted?

Here we see the crew prepping for the first shot we see of Gerty in the film, where Sam is running on the treadmill and Gerty crosses frame. It was simply a case of calling action and pulling the little handle on the dolly and there you go. The plastic box rolls in front of the camera and you've got yourself a shot. Science Fiction. You can see Mick Ward on the left hand side of frame watching a monitor that shows what the camera is seeing. We would often operate Gerty whilst watching these screens, wherever we could. Unless it was a shot where I needed to fold myself in half and put myself in a drawer to be able to move the robot but hide from the camera at the same time. There are loads of shots of Moon where I'm lying on the floor or whatnot just sneaking my hand behind him to turn him a bit for a free VFX shot. Good job I'm pretty bendy.

Here we see 1st AD Mick Ward wheeling Gerty into position below the rail in the main corridor. The opening immediately behind him was a removable (flying) wall, which we had to build into the set to get key props like Gerty in there. When I was designing the set, I put lots of bulkheads in there that were designed to act as pressure seals so there's lots of raised lips on all the doorways. The intention of this design is that if the atmospheric integrity of the base is breached, emergency doors would slam shut splitting the base into small pieces and sealing each one. The base crew and robots could then identify the problem area and keep the danger-area sealed until it could be dealt with. It would be bad if you happened to get your arm caught in it as the doors would weigh several earth-tons each and would close in under a second. We managed to get a bit of this into the scene where Sam cuts the pipe and we got one of the doors closing in the background. The end part of this scene where we see the lights coming on and the pressure door opening again is my favourite VFX shot of the film. I made this graphic for the doors and it pops up all over the place in the final film.

None of us are exactly sure where Gerty is any more as he was purchased at the EBay auction earlier in the year where we sold off loads of the props and models. I think he's moved across the Atlantic and is in either Canada of the United States. I hope whoever bought him is having a nice time with him and doesn't mind the fact that he's very sticky and smells of coffee. He served us well and has moved on to a new life where he will presumably need less emergency repairs with superglue.

Emergency

What I'm going to be doing with these posts is digging through my Moon hard drives every day (if time allows), and dropping something you might find of interest up here. Some of these things will be tiny and inconsequential; others will be a bit nicer. The intention is that over time things build into an information resource on the film of stuff that you'd otherwise never get to see. Anyhow, I was looking through one of my old Moon hard-drives and I came across this. It's a graphic that's repeated around the Sarang base walls in a few places and it details the emergency procedures for the unit that Sam 2 intentionally damages to get Gerty to let him leave the base. I've not checked to see if it's even readable on the Blu-Ray. These signs were all done really fast as I ended up doing over 300 designs of graphic elements throughout the base. All of the base Graphics were designed by me and put up by Julian Walker and myself over a three-day period just before we started shooting. We ended up covering the base in over 3000 instances of these sorts of designs and there were instructions for all kinds of hazards and equipment all over the place. I was just making it all up as I went along as I could pretty much do what I wanted with the aesthetics of the base and it'd have been a shame not to take advantage of that! You can tell how short we were on manpower and time as there wasn't even time to proof read anything. There's the odd typo and duplication of words that sound a bit weird to me now, it makes me cringe to read, "operating optimally". As you can see, when Sam triggered the alarms by cutting the pipes he didn't follow the emergency instructions which must have been pretty annoying for Gerty trying to help him. 

Strapadicktomie Procedure

This is our lovely Production Assistant miss Ella Harris helping us out with a special effects test in the car park outside K Stage by the skip. It might look like we're just monkeying around with strap-on cocks but it was actually a test for a scene that we ended up cutting from the film.

As Sam starts felling apart we were originally going to make a bit more of this and there was a scene in the original shooting script where we saw him have a pee and some blood comes out. We actually shot this but it ended up not really working; the camera was above and behind Sam and you could just see the end of his winkie poking out as he does his secret boys thing. His pee flow was supposed to turn to blood causing him to freak out a bit and generally re-inforce the whole concept of him dying with some internal bleeding. Everybody likes a bit of internal bleeding.

In the run-up to shooting we weren't exactly clear on how we were going to do this as we had so much to deal with it seemed pretty low-priority until it suddenly rushed up from over the horizon towards our faces. Then, one afternoon, Duncan was digging around on the Internet and he found this.

http://www.realwhizzinatorxxx.com/

The Whizzinator. Pretty special eh? It's a device sold by a US company and is intended to be used to defeat drug tests, the idea being you can literally pull your winkie out and do some wee right in front of somebody, no further questions your honour. It's essentially a strap-on rubber cock with a hollow pipe running through it that attaches to a pair of pants with a bag for pee and a tap to make it all go. It even comes with some dried urine in powder form. Isn't technology wonderful?

So we got some make-up on it to bring it to life a bit and hooked up a couple of bags so we could run some fake wee through it and switch to blood by flicking a tap. It didn't really look all that when we filmed it as the blood was pretty diluted and so you couldn't really see much of a change and it just looked like a visit to the little space-clones room.

Ella was brilliant fun to work with on Moon, she's got a bit of a potty mouth and it was always hilarious when she'd say rude stuff over the walkie-talkies. Randomly, we'd just jump onto the public channel and do comedy dictionary definitions of the rudest things we could think of but make it sound like proper production chat. It was hilarious watching somebody working over the other side of the set with their walkie on their belt and this very straight-sounding comedy filth just come out of their radio as if they weren't concentrating they'd not even notice. The game became trying to say the rudest stuff and say it so straightly that nobody would actually notice. If you've not been on a film set before, quite a few people have walkie-talkies on them and they are usually worn on the belt. They tend to be on quite loud if there's no shooting in progress and so there's a constant chatter of radio talk going on around you all day. I can never help but press them into service for comedy value because I just think they're excellent fun.

Lunar Industries hope you enjoy your space-penis.

I am a space clone and I sleep in a drawer...

One area of the set design that Duncan and myself were kind of putting off for the most part was the clone room corridor. There was so much to think about with the rest of the productions' incessant needs that I had it in a box in my head and was trying to clear some time to get down to sorting it out. The rest of the base was designed and under construction by this time so there was already an established design language to use to get a hook on. This part of the base was never really explained very clearly in the shooting script and Duncan just wanted a long corridor that just seemed to stretch on forever. The idea was to have one side lined with stored clones and the other with piles and piles of space-food racked up like a survivalists' Christmas wish list.

I knew there was no way we'd be able to come close to getting a complete set built and as I was trying to loose VFX shots wherever possible set myself the challenge of ruling out any additional spend and set out to get the whole thing done in-camera. Sounds quite simple, and we had some space allocated for whatever solution was reached. The picture below shows a part of Shepperton K-Stage. We can see the Rec Room in the middle of the picture and the pressure-door to the "greenhouse" service area where Sam grows his plants is open. This area hasn't been constructed yet. You also can see through the open roof of the Rec Room and into the kitchenette/dining chair where Sam eats. This photograph makes the studio look quite narrow, as most of the set is obscured from view. I took this from up in the reds (the overhead gantries) and you can see the suspended metal walkway on the right hand top side of the pic cutting off the rest of the view of the studio below. The floor-space we had to build the corridor set in is in red at the top of the image.

So not much room then. Today’s Sci-Fi Challenge: Make an infinitely long corridor for as little money as possible in a small corner of the set. My idea for this is a bit tricky to explain but it basically an infinity room that traps the light using mirrors. The diagram below is how I endeavored to explain to everybody.

Nice and complicated. It's actually quite a simple concept; it's just tricky to explain the concept of how the light was going to be trapped. I thought this was a good option though as we would have complete freedom with the cameras and the room would literally stretch into infinity. We did have the down-side of the reflected portion being a literal infinite repeat but as that was the intended design anyway it didn't seem to really matter. The mirrors isolated Sam, crew and cameras so as long as we took precautions against accidental reflections we should be good to go.

The downside with this design was that it needed a couple of pretty big mirrors. By pretty bit I mean about twelve feet wide by six or seven feet high in one piece. These would have been expensive but the illusion would have been perfect. In the end the glass would have cost a bomb so we had to re-consider. This is where our Mr Tony Noble proposed a forced perspective set, which was a really good idea for keeping the costs down. He'd done one previously on a Sainsburys ad where a little carton of milk walks down a street and so we sat down and had a watch and agreed that it was a good solution. It's probably easier to show you what we did than to explain (as with any optical illusion), so have a look at a few pics from the construction and I'm sure it'll make sense.

So you can see that we were building a section of "real" set for the Sams to walk around in with a pyramid-on-its'-side type shape at the end where we'd bring all the perspective lines together over as short a space as we could get away with. This was a great illusion although it did restrict our camera coverage quite a lot. it didn't seem to matter at the end of the day as we got the footage we needed from this clever little set but we did have to watch how much we moved the camera as the perspective was always trying to give us away.

You can see from these pics how well it worked from the right angles. We had the food stacked down one side and the clone-drawers on the other. Although this set looks like a good result, beware suggesting solutions like this if you are going to have to actually work on the thing. Getting the detail to follow across the real-size areas into the forced perspective areas is a complete ball-ache. We had a chap cutting out ever decreasing versions of the food containers out of foam for two weeks. Poor bastard. I hope you'll agree it was worth it in the end though.

This pic shows the side of the "real" portion of the set where we can see the stored clone-food of lots of delicious trifle and beans and the ladder leading up to the roof of the set. In the film we see Sam descend this ladder from the "return" vehicle floor panel but in reality the two areas were in diagonally opposed corners of the studio. There was actually nothing above this ladder and Sam had to stand on a bit of decking and just lower himself down. We're such tight-arses we didn't even spring for an elevator. You can see on the left-hand side of this image how abruptly the set stops so we really had to be careful how we moved the camera. In the end it was unavoidable that we would be covering off the edge of the set, and so the cheesy loaf got a couple of plastic palettes we had painted grey from the greenhouse area and just propped them up to plug the end of the set. Worked for Red Dwarf. Worked for us.

This is Duncan disturbing Tony whilst he was having a nap. We all used to sleep in the clone-drawers, as they were incredibly comfortable being made out of luxurious bare wood.

This is the first time the clone-room set appeared as it was in this early press photo. I think this was in the first three or four official images to come out from the film and was also one I did initial colour grade tests on the establish how we would have the injured Sam 1 look. It was always a balance of desaturating his skin whthout taking too much out of the blood so it stayed red and didn't go too black. I've got some better pics of this set but I'll need to have a dig around to show you how nicely it came out. One of the things that I particularly liked was the light at the end in the far distance. For some reason I found this very creepy and would have had to go down there to see what the hell was going on and why it was all lit up. It was never in our original plan to film but I would also have loved to see Gerty down here at one point in the film just doing some menial stuff and perhaps getting the clones artifacts out of the drawer. If any of you spotted how it was done or thought it was done some other way leave me a comment as I was always curious to see how people would take to this particular optical illusion. By the way, I wouldn't recommend sleeping in a drawer, my arse is still killing me and sometimes you can't get yourself out.

Getting the set finished

Home. K-Stage, Shepperton Studios. Where the tea urns never run dry and you're always no more than two minutes away from industrial strength solvents or a plate of chips. The Sarang set construction period was a really interesting time for me. Seeing this place become real that I had constructed in my head was such a weird thing it's hard to describe. The final set was so close to my designs that it was like being inside my own head. I know this might sound a bit arty and wanky but it honestly did.

Duncan and I would visit the set whilst it was under construction a couple of times a day and sometimes spend all day in there if we were needed for anything. As the base became more complete there were endless little tours checking out where we were going to site monitors, light boxes, could we get some dolly track in here, a light in there, etc. The construction crew would play old school dance music really loudly from a ghetto blaster at the side of the studio whilst they worked giving a tour of the studio a weird party vibe.

One of the things that really surprised me was how much paint the construction crew got through. The set would be sprayed and it was closed off in sections with transparent plastic sheeting as this work was underway. It looked just like on the TV show Dexter when he's doing his murdering business. We had this thick brown paper on the floor, which was supposed to keep the place clean, but was really annoying and slippery to walk on. It's funny how you come to associate things together as now, whenever I hear thick, brown parcel paper being wrinkled it takes be right back to walking around the base with a pencil in my mouth drawing little marks on the wall where I wanted graphics to go. 

Gerty wasn't the only robot on station in Sarang. R2D2s little brother used to show up on the set and just stand there, staring into space. I guess it's tough trying to break into showbiz when you're got a more successful older sibling.

In the pic below you can see a chat occurring around the comms console. You'll see the overhead lighting recess areas are covered in transparent plastic.

When we were shooting, these areas were covered in a couple of stepped layers of tighter fitting film to diffuse the light and had light-boxes mounted above them. One afternoon whilst we were shooting, quite a loud buzzing kept interrupting us. It would stop and start and we had to stop shooting to locate the sound as it was interrupting takes. After ten minutes of scratching our heads we realized a fly had become trapped between the plastic layers and was slowly cooking to death in the trapped space. Occasionally it would summon the will to live a little longer and make another noisy but futile bid for freedom. We couldn't get to the fly to either release it or put it out of its' misery, so we had to keep shooting with the threat of interruption and hope the fly died sooner rather than later. Turned out it took a couple of hours to bake his little insect brain. Cheers Mr fly, you really slowed us down for an afternoon with all your noisy dying.

This is the padded bulkhead sections before they were moved into the set. You can clearly see on the floor the areas where various bits and pieces of the set have been sprayed white before they got taken into the main set. There was loads of spraying going on throughout construction and the whole set got painted time and time again. Like my lungs.

This is the poly-board layout that was put together by the drawing team prior to construction. I've always loved these little models and it pains me a bit that they are so temporary and fragile. It's essentially a paper model held together by pins so it's really delicate. These things are always falling apart in the offices from everybody poking at them. Probably got binned ages ago.

The Infirmary overhead section was suspended by chains and used to drift and sway if it was touched. It used to be pretty annoying sometimes as it had quite a bit of inertia so if it got knocked it'd take a while for it to stop moving.

One part of the set that still annoys me is the harvester-interior section. I'd always wanted this to be "more", and generally have a more cool stuff going on but in the end we could only afford a little three-wall-and-door type set. It's actually the reverse of the Airlock door and we doubled it up in the film. When you see Sam leaving Sarang at the beginning of the film to get in his Rover is this same door as when he's inside the Harvester. The tape over this door is restricting access as this door was one of the main ways into the set. We'd enter through here in the morning and stay in there until lunch, then back in again for the afternoon. This door was one half of the tiny airlock room, which had a door at each side with the pressure suits hanging left and right. If the set had just been sprayed and was slick with wet paint we'd have to tape areas off so that people didn't keep walking through. They did anyway. Nobody used to obey signs and notices like this. When we were shooting, Sam used to hide in the airlock and close both doors smoking rollies, which was properly naughty of him. Funnily enough, I only ever caught him doing this as Sam 2. Thinking about it, it might have been Sam in character. I'd never made that connection until I wrote it just then. You'll see R2D2s little brother edging into this shot again. He's so attention seeking. I think he might be on drugs.

This is what the Sarang set looked like under the studio lights once everybody had gone home. It was pretty spooky and really quiet and still. I used to like wandering around the set when there was nobody else there and just sitting in the corridor nice and still and zen. It was really peaceful and a great place to get away from the pressure for a little while which was weird as this is technically right in the middle of it.

This is as close a picture as there is of the entire Sarang set and I had to lean right out over the scary gantry to take it (which is why it's as a bit of a rubbish angle). You can see here how the Monitor Room tower was up on scaffolding hanging off the end of the main corridor. We built the decking around it to provide access to the outside of this part of the set as there was all sorts of electrics for lights and monitors up there. I always found this part of the set pretty annoying as if you were inside the tower and somebody was outside working the monitors, the walls were that thick that if they were crouched right down you had to shout really loud for them to hear you. I spent a lot of time shouting instructions to people across noisy sets on Moon, as it could be a very noisy place to work. In the top-right corner you can see a part of the clone-room food-storage wall leaning against the edge of the set next to some smaller scale bulkheads for the forced perspective set that are being worked on. You can see here how the main corridor ceiling was hung from chains from the roof.

The Return-Vehicle room and the Infirmary both had open ceilings that were never covered. The Return-Vehicle cables that were hanging down were actually cables from one of Gary Shaws' old Motion-Control rigs that he had knocking around in his garage.

Do you like biscuits? Of course you do, who doesn't? We ate quite a lot of biscuits for Moon and as our budget was so absurdly tight I'd go around and grab all the little plastic trays out of the bins and use them as set dressing in our Moon base. If you look closely you'll also see printer cartridge boxes and Ikea knife-and-fork trays. The trick is that if you can apply this stuff with some sort of an eye for balance and form, when you paint it all the same colour if just looks like a new, cohesive thing. It honestly makes me cringe telling you all this sort of stuff. Bear in mind that I've been trying to make a science-fiction film since whenever and it's not been an easy ride. Of all the types of film to make, an Independent British Science-Fiction film must be the hardest. But we managed to pull it off. In my head I always imagined this moment to be a bit grander but here I am talking to you about how we stuck some biscuit trays on a wall and painted them white. Go Team Sci-Fi!!

The Mystery Of The Unclear Space-Tats

Here's a Sam Bell clone fresh out the drawer in the Sarang station, looking Fonzie cool. 

Sam had to go through quite a lot of time in makeup in Moon and we did all sorts of things like drawing on his face and putting cotton wool in his cheeks to make him look different. But we left his tattoo. You probably noticed it in the film but might not have been able to make out exactly what it is. I couldn't when we first started shooting. 

When I first saw it I thought it was sort of like an armed forces tattoo, like the SAS have a dagger with a snake wrapped round it. It has a similar overall shape and I presumed it was something like this. After a while I asked Sam about it and he explained it to me.

 It's a chicken hanging from a noose. He said he got it so he can tell girls he's "got a hung cock".

Alternate Ending - Space-Biker Sams' Tiny Package

One thing that tends to come up a bit when people talk about Moon is the ending. As we were doing everything on minimal resources we didn't have much extra footage to work with in the edit but there were a couple of small sections that got cut out and one of those happened to be the very end. In the shooting script, we had a scene right at the end, after the return vehicle hits the atmosphere, where we see a front door and Sam dressed like a biker trotting up, leaving a small, wrapped present, ringing the doorbell and running off. 

We then see Eve Bell answer the door, find the parcel, take it inside and open it. Whereupon it's a small scale model of her house.

 The idea behind this is that it's a resolution of Sam working on his model town and him making this last model sort of ties it all together somehow and him giving the present to Eve lets her know she's okay. Thing is, there's actually loads of problems with this and so we cut it from the film and a good thing too. There's just so much wrong with it. How would Eve know he was carving a little wooden Fairfield and "get it"? As she doesn't know anything about the clones of her father working in slavery on the Moon she's not going to care if he's okay or not. Also, presumably this is the house that the original Sam Bell also lives in as when Sam 2 calls from the Moon we hear his voice momentarily from across the room. What if he was mowing the lawn when Spaceclone Sam comes trotting up the driveway? Actually, thinking about it now, we should have filmed that. It could have gone completely mental. Imagine little Eve hearing the kerfuffle and coming outside to see what was going on? On a random Sunday morning? She'd have had an excellent story to tell all her mates at school about what happened over the weekend. "Daddy had one of his space-clones return from the moon to try and give me a present of a little house which was a bit weird and they ended up fighting in the garden and then the police came and didn't know who to arrest becasue they were genetically identical. I think Daddy might be going to jail".

We didn't really have the resources to be able to do this properly and we were trying to get an establishing shot of this nice house to set the scene and show how nice and rich the original Sam has become from selling his DNA into slavery. We had an idea of the kind of place we wanted but had no resources to shoot anything. I almost made up a VFX shot for this myself but the shot Duncan wanted would have taken me a week or so to get looking good working by myself and we just didn't have the time so we had to poo-pah that. I hate not getting things done but sometimes you have to suck it up and just realize that there's just no way and get over it. I also never got to use one of my designs for a cool hover-bike for Sam in this scene, hopefully I'll get to use it for another project sometime in the future.

It seems a bit strange when I think of it that the first thing we cut from the edit was the actual ending of the film, but I guess it just goes to show that when you're making films you shouldn't be afraid to cut stuff out if your guts are telling you it'll be for the best.

After making this cut, the ending we were left with was the shot of the return vehicle entering the atmosphere which sort of felt a bit flat. Fortunately, Duncan had the idea of the radio broadcast voice-over which really helped sell the final shot and give us a sense of closure on everything with the reveal that Sam did, indeed, return to earth. In keeping with our lack of resources, that last bit of radio broadcast where he's on about being a "Whacko and a nutjob" is actually Duncan. See what happens to your voice when you move out to LA?