‘Resident Evil: Afterlife' Set Visit: Cal Loucks, Set Decorator


Shooting in 3D doesn't seem to be much more intensive than shooting in 2D -- except for the set dressing.  Sure, you have to attack a set with a critical eye in 2D, but in 3D it's absolutely crucial.  The wrong colors can actually wipe out an entire image; improper depth management can scramble your brain.  On the set of the upcoming Resident Evil: Afterlife, set decorator Cal Loucks told me how she balances an apocalyptic atmosphere with today's technology. Read what Loucks had to say after the jump.

"The main thing to consider as a set decorator is that the brain is trying to understand what it is seeing with these glasses on.  It's very important for a set designer and decorator to think about foreground, midground, and background.  It's something we've always thought about, but it is more important than ever now because the brain is trying to gauge distance and dimension.  By dropping chains in the foreground, your brain is absolutely able to understand how far away that signage on the wall is.  Then, when something comes at you, you have a sense of how close it is getting to you because your brain has gotten used to sorting it out.  If you don't have any foreground dressing, your brain will have a hard time.  We have been very careful to give you visual clues in every set.  When they are resetting the cameras, you can get a 'brain buzz' because your brain is sorting out all this information that it would normally do with the eyes naturally.  This is an artificial imposition on your brain.

"We've had to deal a lot with texture and colors.  With 3D, the cameras cannot pick up anything shiny.  Stainless steel does not react well with these cameras.  They strobe, they flare... anything that you see as silver is actually paint.  It is not an actual metal finish.  We have a special paint that we will use to take out all its reflective quality.  We've added in just enough for you to be able to identify it as stainless steel, but it is an artificial effect.

"The saturation of colors is also different.  The cameras are slow to pick up information -- it's new technology -- so we have to pour a helluva lot more light onto a set than we normally would.  Our color palette had to be much more careful.  Resident Evil already has an established color palette: the reds and the blacks and the silvers, the grays and the black and white.  It's a very restrictive color palette.  For example, in this warehouse scene, we saturated the floors in a dark, dark charcoal, and we thought that was enough, but then the cameras showed them as still being too light.  So we had to add more and more black.  The reason I say it's too light is because we are putting more light onto these sets than we ever have before.

"It's been a learning process.  When we first started, we had some tutorials and camera tests, but our DP told us that it's really an on-the-job learning experience.  Every time you put something on camera and you change the ocularity of the lens, how your brain accepts the information is a little bit different than what you might expect."