On every project, there's always that one location. That one spot you just don't know where to film, or how to bring to life. On Dorkness Rising, that one location was the medieval tavern. On JourneyQuest 2: City of the Dead, it was the City of the Dead. I try to write with places I know we can get in mind—I'd visited every location in The Gamers, for example—but you can't hold up production forever, so sometimes you have to take it on faith that the right option will emerge come filming time. And it doesn't always. That's when you wind up taping tissue paper over the windows of a dance studio and calling it a cathedral.
That one location, this time around? Was the bridge of a starship. Not many of those lying around the greater Tacoma area. Not something we can just go back to the Fort Worden tunnels for.
Fortunately, Abie knows everyone in the industry here, and she put us in touch with her friends at Raptor FX Studio. They proposed a cutting edge solution: a virtual set, like the kind they use in The Mandalorian, shot on an AR wall.
The technology uses the Unreal video game engine and a virtual 3D set to create virtual environments that react to the movements of the camera. So instead of shooting your actors in front of a green screen, you film them in front of the virtual set—either displayed on a giant LED screen or projected on a wall behind them—and the elements within the 3D set will move to match your camera movement with perfect parallax.
So that's how we—and by we, I mean Raptor FX—shot our starship bridge in a room the size of a one-car garage. It's a super promising workflow—there are no flats to tear down and store!—and it makes me wonder what other sort of hard-to-realize environments could be created for future projects. Like, oh, I don't know... maybe... dungeons?
Twelve days down. One as-yet-unscheduled day to go.