Our amnesiac bunch on Dark Matter may have a really cool ship to fly around in, but they’re going to need to stop for supplies, maybe have a nice rest, a few drinks, get into some fights – the usual shore leave antics. Planets are fine, but you can’t exactly drop a gigantic ship down on a planet and taking a shuttle uses a ton of fuel, plus there could be pesky hostiles waiting to shoot you out of the sky. The practical solution? Space stations! No ridiculous use of fuel on a dangerous reentry or launch, just a quick docking and you can start all the drinking and fighting right away.
Well, space stations don’t grow on trees, you know. Someone had to come up with conceptual designs which could then be turned into CGI models and fleshed out to create believable environments. This is where the artists come in, beginning with former Stargate Production Designer, James C.D. Robbins. Robbins created the design and produced concept sketches that were then handed off to the VFX team led by Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson.
The following is commentary from Joseph Mallozzi, Robbins, and Bancroft-Wilson summarizing the process of creating space stations from concept to rendering. The commentary is accompanied by photo galleries showing the evolution of the design.
We wanted a uniform look for our space stations suggestive of a single architectural vision – but one we could play with, making changes to background and structure to vary the looks as our crew visited different locations.
We went out to our former Stargate Production Designer, James C.D. Robbins, who came back to us with a terrific concept…
James Robbins: “The first concept drawings that Joe & Paul wanted me to work on was for a space station. I was forwarded a handful of images as direction. The PD was looking to make the whole structure compact- still incorporating modular elements but more like a series of steel geodesic mushrooms radiating from a central column.
My first pass at the space station was well received, but the idea of modular pods attached in an organic cluster was nixed as the physicality of shooting the ‘ins and outs’ of sets that all have a different direction for “up” was deemed impractical.”
James Robbins: “So I developed a single axis column design topped with a “pod” that was the size of a small city. After a few notes, the final version that went to VFX is below.”
Once we’d locked our design, it went to our VFX team lead by Visual Effects Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson.
Lawren Bancroft-Wilson: “When it comes to building a space station (of which our team has done a great deal over the years) we know it always comes down to how much detail can we add to sell just how immense the scale needs to be. We were lucky to have a good deal of lead-time to really hammer out the needs of a civilian inhabited space station model. Communication relays, habitable sections, docking bays, etc. Being able to look down the road we also knew that we would be required to create variations on these deep space outposts that were build from generally the same principles and resources. The design we took from the concept had to be modular in a way that a space station on one side of a galaxy would be reminiscent of another, but different enough to reflect the economics of what that particular pocket of space could support.”
Lawren Bancroft-Wilson: “Through the various iterations of the grey scale models, you can see detail being built up and scale being accessed (as seen with our ship in one of the docking bays).”
Lawren Bancroft-Wilson: “Developing the light kit helped to give life on the inside of the space station, deciding what areas were habitable and which were not. One of the really nice details of this particular build was how much of the interior of the docking bays we were able to create so that once our ship is inside we can actually see out the windows to the realistic 3D interior of the bay.”
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Dark Matter premieres Friday, June 12 at 10/9c on Syfy