We tried to construct
the station as a complete whole, using an empty warehouse
space. Carol Clouse sketched the design in chalk on the concrete
floor, and wood framing provided the skeleton on which to build the
"layered" techno-look we were after.
We tested and applied various
materials and texture paints to the wood. Concrete-like finishes, plastics
and metals gave us a suitable skin that looked functional and believable.
We always had to weigh appearance against cost and square-foot coverage.
The sets were
meticulously "aged" and "lived-in" touches were
The gateway (above) was the
first element totally completed. It set the tone and style for the rest of
the construction. We actually began the shooting in the cabin set -
the scenes were less technically complicated and mostly required only one
actor, Paul Nolan.
We constructed the sets within
the real constraints of the station's design - hallways were barely three
feet wide, and most walls and ceilings were permanently affixed.
Although this made shooting more difficult, we wanted viewers to sense the
structure "closing-in" on them.
Many of the built-in
lights were just facades. We placed 650 or 1000 watt lights behind the
shell - this gave us greater light output that was properly
color-balanced. However, all the fluorescent fixtures were
Corridors were mostly lit with
fluorescent fixtures used within the frame. A few lighting
"facades" were placed in the center to open things up. Again,
these were illuminated from the outside of the set with conventional
"cyclorama" was created outside the windows of the observation
dome set. During shooting, we'd enhance the view through the windows with
stage smoke, fans, and a variety of dirt particles. We also ended up
creating some of the exterior views digitally.
Production designer Carol
Clouse and a team of long-suffering, under-compensated helpers worked
throughout a year to bring Ascension to the screen. Here
(below), she's wondering when it will all end.