In Time: Designing a New Kind of Future/Retro LA
Most of these influences are from the early '60s to late '70s, with a touch of hip-hop '80s thrown in. Plus many vehicles used for the film are actually '60s and '70s models, but heavily modified to make them look futuristic.
"So we took pieces of LA and imagined a future that went from wasteland to wasteland," McDowell continues, "and used that as a connective tissue, whether it was inside the LA River, which was a conventional way of dealing with desolation, and then down to Vernon, Maywood, Florence and then Rosemead and San Gabriel. And then we cut that in with the desolate town under the runways of LAX. The LA River becomes the dividing line and there are a series of toll bridges that you have to cross and they get more and more expensive for the time rich. The upscale world was a combination of Beverly Hills mansions and Century City with bits of high rise downtown. They were all pieced together into one town.
"It's a very segregated society that serves as an allegory about the loss of the middle class. It's pressing home the idea that the time poor run everything: there are no vehicles, there are no skateboards. They're just running to keep up and the electronic money boards for pricing are constantly changing, while the wealthy hide inside their vehicles for protection against the outside world."
McDowell worked with supervising art director Priscilla Elliott, Chris Farmer, Todd Cherniawsky and digital art director Vlad Bina. Key illustrators/modelers included Igor Knezevic, Harald Belker (vehicles) and Ron Mendell (vehicles). The set designer was Andrew Reeder and Martin Charles worked on graphics.
In Time had a small amount of stage sets. Most of the design work was done around existing locations that were brought in 3D through a very simple process. They used Lidar scanning only in one case, the rest of the locations being rapidly blocked using an ad hoc ortho-stitching pipeline from nodal scout photos and in some cases Google Earth data. They also used off-the-shelf stitching software such as PanoTools as well as Maya camera projections. That was enough to assemble in Maya almost all of the locations both in LA and in Century City and then proceed to block set extensions, set dec proposals and in some cases render simple light studies accurate to geographic position and current date.
This centralized 3D database proved essential both for design and camera decisions. It was used by set designers (imported in Rhino) for construction documents and design details, by VFX (Luma Pictures) to assets the scope of set extensions, by Set Decoration to quickly calibrate cost and specifications of their work and last but not least by illustrators for correct spatial representation.
"On the whole, though, it was a lot of compositing for every citizen who has clock on their forearm," McDowell adds. "It's a combination of florescent paint makeup effects, a couple of prosthetic arms with backlit panels just for close-ups. But when you see it up close, it's digital and post composited."
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and editor of VFXWorld. He has a new blog, Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com), and is currently writing a book about the evolution of James Bond from Connery to Craig, scheduled for publication next year, which is the 50th anniversary of the franchise.