So - I hope you enjoyed #RedDwarf - as promised… here’s how the art department did all that. I’ll be doing these tweets in the order that we shot it, as opposed to story order, as that makes it easier to explain how things went together. Let's get out there... and tweet it.
I started this the day I wrapped Fast 9. Literally packed my desk on the Monday morning at Leavesden, drove 22 minutes to Pinewood, and started on Dwarf, with 2 weeks before shooting. The first day was going to be filming in Starbug.
Starbug was in pretty rough shape, having gone through two series of filming, being pulled out of storage (more on that later) for the AA ad, and then being stripped down again. Much of the hired prop fittings had gone to other shows, or just broken over time. #reddwarf
The set would need to be re-commissioned - which would be hard at the best of times, but the skeleton was delivered from storage into Pinewood’s TV3 stage on the Friday morning - to be shot on the following Monday. #reddwarf
To make matters harder we could only work in TV3 until 6PM each day - because TV3 is also the cutaway studio for the National Lottery draws, and for security reasons we couldn’t be in there when they were, so we had to work to their time #reddwarf
And yes, being outranked by a National Lottery Ball Machine is absolutely peak Red Dwarf #reddwarf
There were changes I’d wanted to make to the graphics, that I’d hoped to do on the AA ad, but ended up working remotely on that so I didn’t have the chance. I’d only get a couple of days to revise the set this time around.
As the parachute sequence was specifically mentioned in the script, I took this opportunity to update some of the switch panels in Starbug’s cockpit. The centre console was a pair of salvaged aircraft switch banks, placed either side of an old 4:3 flatscreen #reddwarf
I traced the outlines of the original switch banks into illustrator, to be laser cut from opal perspex by Elaine @amalgammodels. I had a box of switches and buttons from a prev. job, so holes were drawn to mount these. Finally, lettering was added as an etch layer #reddwarf
Once assembled, light passes through the etched area giving a bespoke, backlit console that has all the scripted functions so the actors have something to work to. The antique flatscreen was refreshed with a laser cut surround, and vinyl stickers serve as mini-radars #reddwarf
I designed these data plaques on Series XII, but back then they were printed on inkjet foils. As an upgrade, this time around they were actually engraved from stainless steel with a black ink infill. The camera dept stole most of these at the end… #reddwarf
The backlit panels barely survived XII, but going into storage, out for the AA ad, & then back in, meant they were definitely past their use-by date. The originals were designed in a day, and used a lot of repeated elements, so I updated them with some new details #reddwarf
Somewhat against the wire as always, these arrived on the Friday before shooting on the Monday. Each one of these had to be heavily clearcoated to provide protection from *unanmed actors* putting coffee cups and their feet on them, which was difficult on a rainy saturday.
New details include a start button, more tech-y elements to break up all the rows of dots and lines from before, and some different outline views of Starbug. #reddwarf
The script called for a ‘moon screensaver’. Initially I designed something more in line with the rest of panels, more wireframe-y. But, Dwarf is a still a sitcom, and it doesn't tend to do closeups or cutaways, so the graphics have to be a bit more obvious and immediate.
I gave @mundaytom some rough notes on what it should do, what should flash etc, and he - maybe suspiciously quickly came back with this lovely lovely thing. #reddwarf
So, Somehow, in less than 48 hours, @domroberts and @Gregglecakes managed the set being rebuilt, repainted, rewired, the sliding door fixed, holes were filled, soggy bits replaced. Lizzie scoured all the prop stores trying to find the same - or similar - dressing pieces #reddwarf
Overall, between the new dressing props, the improved practical lighting, and new touches of paint and (faux) distressing, the set scrubbed up beautifully. #reddwarf
A temporary mid-sectjon was put up for the stuff filmed in TV3, just give a bit of depth to the set. This was be the first of three mid-sections we’d end up making for this show.
With the set (almost) complete by our 6pm kick-out on the Sat, I celebrated by.. going to see one of Craig’s live shows with @jamessharpe? I very rationally worked out that if the set wasn’t finished, we could just lock Craig in one of the loos until it was. It was a classy night
Sunday was spent crying.
Monday morning we were on set before dawn had even bothered to crack, applying the finishing touches to the set.
Other bits for the first day of filming included Rimmer’s charging port in Starbug. Printed as one of the rest of the backlit panels, this had holes laser cut to fit off-the-shelf cigarette lighter ports as well as some indicator LEDs. #reddwarf
Sometimes in scripts, a simple line can lead to a disproportionate amount of work. I knew when I read “Starbug User’s Manual” that this was going to be one of those times - luckily I love writing spaceship manuals #reddwarf
The version on set that first day had just a cover and one spread, as we reshot over the rest of the year it gained more and more pages, and more and more editions as various ones got dropped/torn (I can’t imagine it’s easy for @bobbyllew to turn pages in those gloves) #reddwarf
Things like the laser cut files for the parachute controls were re-used as technical illustrations, along with photos of the set. The rest was drawn, like the images of Starbug and the cockpit illustration, with @mikeokuda’s TNG Tech Manual as a visual ref. #reddwarf
If you’re going to work in the Dwarf art dept, then you’re going to print a *lot* of Leopard Lager cans. #reddwarf
With the first day somewhat in hand, the panic nozzle was aimed at the Iron Star stages on H Stage. I think this might be the biggest set *built* for Dwarf - @domroberts designed a ring of corridors around a central room, with smaller side chambers #reddwarf
The giant set served two purposes - 1), because so much of the script has the gang walking around corridors on the ship, we could do long tracking shots, & get away from the cliche of plonking the camera at one end of a straight set & turning it around every take #reddwarf
2) the Iron Star would be partly redressed to serve as Rodon’s Feral Cat ship, with his throne room being built across the corridor from the holo-suite. @Gregglecakes designed modular door arches that that could be dressed & lit in different ways to disguise the redress #reddwarf
It’s hard to demonstrate how big the set was, as it was too big photo as it was put together, but this walk round shows maybe half of it as a complete unit. To the far end of the set (behind the screens) is where Rodon’s throne room was being made. #reddwarf
(I think there’s a set plan in this month’s @SFXmagazine )
Early drafts of the script suggested a Soviet background to ship, which led me down the path of designing logos and symbols based on brutalist sculptures of that period. Lots of orange and Helvetica Ultra Compressed adds to the punchy period vibe. #reddwarf
I put together a kit of different graphics for the floors + walls, and infills for @Gregglecakes modular doors, which meant corridors could be quickly re-dressed to look like different areas of the ship. We ditched deck signs pretty fast as that’s a continuity nightmare #reddwarf
(yes the Nostromo reference is strong, we’re only human)
For the central room, I designed these backlit panels to provide background detail as well as a soft light source. I looked to lovely old 70’s computers for inspiration on these - these shapes could maybe be physical cards or drives that slot in and out #reddwarf
Going back to the Nostromo for ref, I wanted to give these panels a bit of depth, so I made them into cabinets by: sticking the lid of a plastic crate over the front of it. This gives a nice bit of diffusion and a sense of physicality to the graphics #reddwarf
For the screens above, we looked at mocking up big hefty CRT screens, but we didn’t have the budget. In the end, 5 were static lightboxes, with one single key screen which was beautifully animated by @mundaytom The prints were a bit washed out, but they add a nice light #reddwarf
If you looked closely you may have noticed a couple of Nostromo easter eggs in the shape of a dippy bird & a krupps coffee grinder (not an [intentional] DeLorean ref…). The technology of the smart cutlery also inspired another hidden gag…
In terms of props for that set, the key one was the design of Rimmer’s extension leads. @domroberts designed his plug based on an old Apple charger in lovely Iron Star Orange, and I designed laser cut cladding to go over off-the-shelf reels (with tiny Iron Star logos!) #reddwarf
What you may note looking at those designs is that it doesn’t actually allow Rimmer to wind the cable without also twisting his own - a mistake this big is pretty much why I’m not an art director any more. I drew up a solution which @amalgammodels overnighted to me…
…the end result was something that actually looked a little bit more futuristic, and was much easier for Chris to work with. The plug holes are oversized with a strong magnet behind it, so the charger snaps itself in with minimum hassle. #reddwarf
With the Iron Star established, it was now time time to dig the Red Dwarf ship sets out of storage, a task which is at least 300 times harder than it sounds like it might be. Meanwhile, Starbug was literally driven down the road from TV3 to it’s normal home in TV2. #reddwarf
Contained within the Secret Storage Facility was pretty much everything from the last 2 decades of Dwarf. But in a very… compressed, scary way. We set about working out what bits of wood and paint were from what set #reddwarf
Obviously, being around all this Dwarf history was quite a special thing, and we treated this moment with a solemn and dignified respec-
One thing that I think we’d all forgotten is that the last thing we’d shot on XII was Skipper, where we remade Series 1 Dwarf, ie - painted the thing grey. The team would have to factor in repainting loads of the flattage as part of the rebuild. #reddwarf
There are also the kind of problems you don’t expect. These sets were made for X which was… a long time ago. In that time, things like these IKEA ice cube trays that we used for pipe dressing had stopped being made, and to remake is surprisingly expensive. #reddwarf
Anyway, while the moving team loaded up the Dwarf sets on to *several* Very Big Trucks, it was back to L stage to work on the Cat side of the L stage set. At this point, it’s fair to say, we were all pretty knackered.
I had nothing much to do with the throne room, so all I can say is that @domroberts @Gregglecakes, Lizzie and the rest of the art team did a ridiculous job of making something very grand and opulent-looking on our budget. It was a genuinely lovely set, & DP Ian lit it beautifully
The gorgeous Book of Cloister was entirely the work of the hyper-talented @Slippery_Jack, whose work you will know from: everything good. He redrew - perfectly - the original S1 illustrations which we then bound into a leather scrapbook. I’m so glad it was him & not me #reddwarf
One set that was a running sore was the Cat Escape Pod. With our budget pretty much exhausted, there wasn’t much to make a bespoke set. One idea was to remake it from X’s Drive Room set, but that didn’t seem to exist any more. #reddwarf
It had to be of a certain size/layout to let the scripted back and forth action happen, so @domroberts & @gregglecakes assembled something pretty amazing from… spare bits. The side wall is part of XI & XII’s Ship Of The Week set #reddwarf
I think you can kind of see one of the walls in it’s M-Corp form here. Textured pallets made up the back wall, and any dressing pipes we could pull from previous sets were repainted gold and pressed into service. In the end, I think it was one of our best sets. #reddwarf
For the wall of consoles, I had to come up with a fourth graphic identity of the show. Iron Star was orange, Starbug is green, and Dwarf is red (I’m a design genius, me). It had to be separate to those, and the usual go-to is blue, but, you know… #reddwarf
As ever, @mundaytom created these animated versions of them. A very rudimentary model of Dwarf was built, and he created this lovely sensor screen suggesting locking in a course for the ship. Designing tech screens for a *sitcom* is a very specific skillset… #reddwarf
Purple and yellow seemed like a weird choice at the time, but at least they were different. Our printer Paolo from my Doctor Who days can cut perspex as well as print directly on it, so I designed the consoles as pre-printed & cut layers to give a some depth to them #reddwarf
I put in unpainted sections which let light through, and glued fluorescent EMA half-domes into the holes which would glow in the light. Not high tech, but at 30p a dome, definitely cost-effective.
Ultimately, due to printing issues and not having the time to test them, they looked kinda blue anyway.
These were painted & assembled in 1 day, in my lounge, which was full of stuff as the bedroom was being plastered, using solvent glue on wood floors, in winter, when paint won’t dry. Probably my most stressful day on the show. But like I said: one of our best sets #reddwarf
With our guest sets done, it was back to TV2 to finish off Dwarf and the reinstated Starbug for the rest of the filming, and the best bit - the audience recordings. #reddwarf
As well as reinstating the bunk room dressing, we had to do the scripted props for Listy’s hoarding. Top of this list was the Subbuteo Partick Thistle away kit. Simple on paper, but not to make. We were given clearance to use a vintage 80’s box (which felt ‘correct’)… #reddwarf
…so Lizzie bought one on eBay. Then she & Phoebe hand-painted the players into the period-correct Thistle strip. Then I set up a box photoshoot of said players, comped it together, had the box professionally silkscreened in the EXACT SHADE OF GREEN, and reassembled… #reddwarf
…and then on the night they went with the tiny version instead. On telly, a lot of stuff gets cut on the day, and you do get used to it, but I wanted to emphasise how much work went into that one. *weeps*
If you squint you may notice that Lister has hoarded some Self-Sealing Stem Bolts. These are JMC brand SSSBs, so I don’t know if they’re still worth seven tessipates of land. Maybe @MikeOkuda will know the answer… #reddwarf
On XII, I’d wanted to take a pass at redressing the science room. Time and budget didn’t allow it, and sadly, it was the same again on TPL, but one thing @mundaytom and I managed to do - at the last second - was to redesign the science room screens to the current style #reddwarf
The old - and crappy - SketchUp model I made to create the XII blueprint was dusted off and super-detailed to give @mundaytom something to create a wireframe. Using my usual brief of “ADD A SWIRLY THING AND PUT SOME BLINKY BITS THERE”… #reddwarf
… @mundaytom created some lovely screens that help pull the science room into line with the rest of the JMC sets. We did end up repeating these a bit too much - it would have been good to design more, but I was thrilled with the end result. #reddwarf
The Holly backup disk was one of those fun props I got to manage because it needed drawing up in Illustrator. It was a simple build - 2 layers of CNC’d foamex around a polycarbonate core, it was pretty sturdy yet very light. A rare instance of a prop working first time. #reddwarf
Holly’s boot screen was designed on the same templates as the S1 screens I made for Skipper, to give it some form of continuity.
The airlock was built inside the Science Room, off of the Dwarf corridors. Being a small set, I tried to cram in a lot of bold graphic detail - given the context of the scene it made sense to make the airlock signs a play on the 2001 space toilet instructions… #reddwarf
And so: audience night #1. I'd really missed these nights. There’s nothing else like them the in the world of televison. The hour of last-minute fettling of the sets as the audience piles in is always really exciting, and they really cap off of the weeks of hard work. #reddwarf
The man, the legend. #RedDwarf
I think the audience liked it too. I has some distinguished guest in the form of @mariajarmola, @el_paulo, @AnnieMouse81 and @Scientits #reddwarf
Return from xmas meant hitting the ground running - in prep for audience night #2, we would have to strike and dismantle most of the bunk room, wheel Starbug around to be inside it, and the build a massive S6-style midsection in the footprint of the bunk room #reddwarf
(this is much kinder on the audience than the usual Starbug-based scenes)
Most of what had survived the AA ad was used in the mini-midsections in TV3 and TV2 for the first audience night. This much bigger one meant raiding whatever flattage and props we had left, including cannibalising the Dwarf airlock #reddwarf
We pulled the screens from the Cat Escape pod to make a small video wall - we’d well and truly milked the motion graphics @mundaytom made for ‘bug in XII, so we put together some new ones! I think he now sees rotating wireframes when he sleeps #reddwarf
I designed some contextual ones to differentiate between Starbug being in one piece, and having it’s engine module ejected. Most of the ep takes place in Starbug 19, but ends in 20, so the screens reflect having a new, undamaged ‘Bug. #reddwarf
With that set done, all we had to do was drink a lot of pre-show gin and prep for audience night #2. #RedDwarf
With everything done, and nothing left to fix, I managed to sneak around a bit and actually *watch* the show happen for once. @mundaytom chose to stare down the audience. #RedDwarf
A happy team. From L-R - Me, @gregglecakes, @domroberts, Lizzie and Julie.
They turned the lights off on us.
They turned the lights off on us.
And so: it ended. As it always has to. Thanks to @domroberts for the job, @DougRDNaylor @RichardDGNaylor for having me back, and the whole art dept for being cracking. As a kid, I never thought I’d say this, but RD has been part of my professional life for years. #RedDwarf
And that’s pretty brilliant. #fin