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The World according to the Blaine Brothers: Set Extensions

Rather than use digital set extensions in their feature film Nina Forever, the brothers extended their sets in other inventive ways.
So, Nina, in terms of set extensions, we didn’t actually do any. In terms of making sets for your reel, we did a lot for that. But it wasn’t quite the same, in the sense of going, we need to create a city. It was much more a case of we need stuff outside of the windows, so it feels like it’s a real space. And so we did that by pointing this way are the windows and that way are the windows basically. Shot this big panorama, so you can be able to change the perspective of exactly where you’re looking at. And so shot that by three cameras. Obviously, it’s the single camera.
So I just put up a five day and did three plates melded together. And so then you’ve got this really nice wide shot, so that whichever way the camera’s pointing, you’re able to point.
It’s a three wall set. And we knew that the risk of that was that it would look very fake. So rather than doing anything CG to that, we went down to the coast, and we found a hotel. And we shot a window. And we have a moment where Abigale comes through, and she draws the curtains on the window. And then you come around, and no one’s ever questioned. Yeah, the reality of that space. And that is just by going, how do you make it feel reel? Well, you shoot a little bit of something real. We had two B&Bs in the film for two shots, one of which is great for watching them go up the stairs to the room.
The carpets look really similar. Yeah, had a carpet, and a wall painted. It was paint, wasn’t it? Pink paint on the walls there. And then a different B&B for the shot looking out at the sea, where the window feels like that could be part of that set. And just those two things help create the sense of this being a real space, rather than a three wall set, which could feel a little bit. And if course, the sound, as well. There’s a lot of sound design as well, which you hear the sea. And you hear the birds. And you hear a brass band playing down on the beach. And it hopefully, again, it’s all of those elements across the film.
The VFX is one element that’s tricking you, but there’s so many other things that are equally working to hold you in the moment with this fantasy.

The Blaine Brothers’ films use VFX to make their sets feel real, and their approach to set extension is more sensory and suggestive than digital.

Because they knew they were shooting in a three wall studio set the Blaines realised there was a danger of realism being lost, so they used editing, VFX and even sound to build a picture in the viewer’s mind of a very different space. As you’ll hear in the clip above, there is no digital set extension in the interior shots for their film Nina Forever, but instead there was a more subtle use of a panoramic photographic plate of the skyline that was digitally wrapped around the set and was revealed through the different windows on the set.

The Blaines also bring a literal meaning to the definition of a set extension by travelling to the coast to shoot a window at a ‘bed and breakfast’ hotel to cut into the shots of their studio set. Of course, many people would choose a greenscreen solution instead, but the Blaine Brothers’ quest for authenticity was their primary concern, and getting the best performance from their actors.

Can you think of an occasion when you might use a panoramic image (apart from as a skyline), to allow yourself to move or rotate a camera viewpoint in 3D?

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Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers

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