Sunday, July 8

Battlestar Galactica Set Report: Part One

By Kyle Braun

"With the announcement that Season 4 will be all she wrote for the series at large, all of the invited reporters were looking for a hint of what's to come."

Source: UGO.COM

When the SCI FI channel announced they were throwing open the doors to four of their hottest shows, one set stood out above the rest. It didn't take a call sheet or an itinerary to know that Battlestar Galactica is what the online press were frothing at the mouth to see. TV's best space opera has some of the most ravenous fans in the world, and with the announcement that Season 4 will be all she wrote for the series at large, all of the invited reporters were looking for a hint of what's to come. While the Season 4 spoilers were kept under wraps, the SCI FI channel and Vancouver Film Studios showcased Battlestar Galactica in all its glory.

Delving into the darkness of Stage G, my skin began to tingle with excitement. It turns out the anticipation was well-justified, especially after rounding a corner where the hanger bay of the Galactica revealed itself like a surprise party somewhere in space. A full-size Raptor, two real-size Vipers and six empty chairs were positioned in front of the online press where actors Aaron Douglas, Michael Hogan, Jamie Bamber, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett and producer Harvey Frand took to the stage.

The Galactica Sound Stage:

Sure, it was a blast to see the cast of Battlestar Galactica, but the real fun was seeing all of the sets and set pieces. With Galactica's production designer Richard Hudolin and its art director Doug McLean as tour guides, the visit to the set was nothing short of spectacular. Almost all of the Colonial Fleet sets were housed in Stage I, and that's where Richard Hudolin explained how a sound stage sits in for the only warship left from the Twelve Colonies.

"There are two rooms here, and we're playing one of them right now as an infirmary. There's a wall hidden that just flies straight up, so we can split this room in half, and play this as a smaller infirmary or a lab. The room next door, we can play as a ready room or play all of this as a ward room," explained Hudolin. "So, in this one space, we have about six or seven different configurations. Part of the problem with ,em>Battlestar is that we that we have a limited space, and if someone wants to come in here and shoot back to back to back, we need the time to flip it over. There's a crew that does nothing but flip sets, but in here and in the room next door. The way this was originally designed, we had a space on the North Shore [of Vancouver] that was 100 feet wide by about 200 feet long, so all of this new set, plus the one next door, were all one set, so we could do these long tracking shots that we did in the mini-series."

Doug McLean, the Galactica art director, also mentioned that the small room was the true workhorse on the Battlestar Galactica set, stating, "Probably 60% of the Galactica was these two rooms and one other room." McLean also shared some of the other uses and purposes for the set. "This room plays as the enlisted bed, it plays as the ward room, it was Baltar's lab when it was that, it plays as the plotting room and next door is the ready room. We tear it all out and we use it when we're playing the Cylon containment cell. The small room we have is the lab, the brig, the enlisted quarters, as well. As Richard says, it does flip over a lot, and that's one of the challenges with scheduling."

The Many Faces of the Galactica Set:

Although the stage served as one of the main staples for the show, the one room actually serves as several locations within the show. The entire set is designed to give the sense there is a massive Battlestar, when in reality, everything is contained in one warehouse-sized building. "It's quite flexible. I think when you watch the show, they don't feel like those are all the same room. One of the ways that is helped is, unlike a lot of shows, we have a lot of corridors," explained McLean. "Initially, it used to be kind of a figure 8, but it's a little different than that now, because of different stages, and we have added a couple rooms we didn't have in the original, but it's very easy to do a tracking shot, or a steady-cam shot, where we bring a character out of one room, walk him through the corridors, bring him through the hub, take him back out into the corridor, through the hub again and into another room. You have no idea that in actuality, you've only gone 20 feet away."

The Mini-Series Philosophy:

Since the show was initially designed to act as a mini-series, and not to be a four-season masterpiece, things have changed dramatically in relation to the production. "There's actually only one large multi-purpose room in the mini-series. It served as most everything we've mentioned, as well as Adama's quarters," said McLean, "When we came to doing the series, we thought, 'Okay, we're going to be in Adama's quarters a fair bit.' That then became a standing set. The pilot's ready room became a standing set. Other rooms changed over, Even as the show developed, we started doing things like clearing the pilot's ready room out and it became a multi-purpose room."

Adama's Quarters:

The next stop on our journey through the Galactica took us to Admiral Adama's quarters. As Richard Hudolin explained, the room served more than one purpose, much like the other rooms used on Galactica. "These quarters play for Adama's, and when we're in Tigh's room, we split it: we put a wall down, and we play one side as Tigh's entrance, which will take you out of where we exit the set. We change the set dressing, obviously, but the layout is basically the same, we just make it about half the size. You can see all the detailing in Adama's quarters, because it's one of the few areas of the ship we could insert some personality. It's Adams's place, and he's got some history. The big painting above the couch is of the Cylon wars. It's the last thing our illustrator did on the mini-series, I think."

One of the reporters noticed a model frigate in the middle of Adama's room, and wondered if it was the same one smashed by Edward James Olmos earlier on in the series. Hudolin recalled, "It could be one of the them, yes. We didn't know he was going to do that, actually, when he did it the first time. It was a great scene. On set, we went 'Holy Christ! Look what he did! Where are we going to get another one that matches? Come on, Eddie, work with us.'" As for the rest of the room, Hudolin revealed how the location connects with Adama the character. "It's his history, and we're on the Galactica which is his ship, and it's traveling through time and space, and that's where the nautical influence came from. And he liked it. He just loves his quarters and this set, and Colonial One as well for Laura. They are very personal space to the actors, and they personalize them."

The Junior Officers' Quarters:

After leaving Adam's room, we were led into the Galactica's meandering metallic corridors, which gave off the feeling of being trapped in a sterile, military vessel (one without a roof, mind you). Soon we were whisked out of the hallway and into one extremely cramped room where 25 journalists looked more like a bunch of clowns exiting a tiny Volkswagen than tourists on the Galactica. Imagine our surprise when Doug McLean revealed, "This is the junior officers' quarters, and as you can tell, it's a small space." That was one heck of an understatement, though McLean went on to explain, "Almost all of the walls wild out very easily. We can even move the whole bunk piece out, or portions of them. Almost always when you see them shooting in here, you'll seem them shooting over a bunk at people. With HD, the cameras are about four feet long when you put a lens on them, which can be a problem when you get into small spaces."

McLean, the mighty art director, then revealed that the junior officer's quarters, "... used to be one of the multi-purpose rooms. We used to have a little airlock that was built off one of the doors, then we wound up rarely using the airlock and we kept coming back to this, so we set this up on its own. This is actually a big space compared to Tyrol and Cally's quarters, which appeared for the first time last season and will appear again this season. It literally is 8 feet deep by maybe 12 - 14 feet wide."

The Cylon Jail:

As we all nearly fell out of the junior officers' house, an ominous jail cell came into view. Slightly larger than the previous room, the (real) metal bars and Doug McLean let us know it was the Cylon jail cell on the Galactica. "In addition to this cell, there is also the holding cell built back in Season 2 to hold Sharon. After she shot Adama, they thought it was a good idea to not keep her in a normal jail cell, so we built this heavy duty cell. That cell plays again this year, and it has someone in it, though I won't say who. You should know who just from the season ending last year."

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