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Set Design: Dune 2021 Spaceship Bridge – Part 1

For this unit at the Wimbledon College, we are to design a set for a film of our choice. The challenge is to design it in such a way that it fits the style and are encouraged to think outside the box and twist the genre if we want to. However, I like challenging my creative and technical skills within a set of limitations and will try to match the style of the film as close as possible while coming up with something new. The submission and final design must include concept art, 3D model, technical drawing, studio setting plan and a dynamic exploration of the set through a story board.


This is a collaborative project, and we are paired up with another student from the Technical Arts course. Initially, we were told we had to decide on a film set for which the Technical Arts student has to design a prop. I was really excited as this meant we would need to make sure the style of both prop and set matched.


My partner is Jack, who is very enthusiastic and bright. We spent 2 days choosing a film set and put together a top 3 list with the new Dune film directed by Denis Villeneuve, Star Wars and Harry Potter. I wanted to draft a classic architectural set for Harry Potter using traditional elements from stone masonry and woodworking, but Jack is more attracted to science fiction, so we settled for the new Dune film. I read the original book by Frank Herbert and have just seen it in cinema, falling in love with the new interpretation of the source material. We decided on 2 sets, either the command bridge of the spice miner or the strange spherical ship of the Herald of Change. In the afternoon of the 2nd day, we presented our results and were told that we don’t need to have the prop in the same set I would be designing. So, there is not really a need to collaborate beyond choosing a common film. Now, Jack and I only chat a bit and bounce some ideas around when we see each other in the lectures.


For the set design, I researched what kind of function the set would have in the universe and the style the artists chose for the film. In Dune (1965) by Frank Herbert spaceships remain a mystery. Space travel is managed by the nebulous Spacing Guild, who employ navigators to steer their ships through time and space. They can only do so by consuming the drug known as “spice”. These navigators are kept in secret and very few know what they look like. However, in Dune (1965), two make an appearance and are described as “fat” but human looking. Dune: Messiah (1969) expands on the navigators. They consume large amounts of spice or are continuously suspended in an orange spice gas, leading to a mutated, fish like appearance. This description is one of the pillars of my design. I want the bridge to have a tank with a navigator in it.


Further, I looked for concept artists who worked on the film and their influences on the style. This was not easy as the film has just come out, but I managed to find an interview in ScienceFocus. In which the production designer Patrice Vermette states the film took inspiration from French artist Nicolas Moulin (https://www.sciencefocus.com/future-technology/dune-patrice-vermette/). Moulin’s work focuses heavily on brutalist architecture, which is reflected in the film across settings and vehicle designs. The ship I chose is round, so I would need to adapt the hard angles of brutalism to a rounder shape. That is the second pillar of my design.


I started putting together a mood board and did some quick thumbnail sketches.





Initially, I wanted the shape on the front of the spaceship to be a window. However, it is large, almost the size of a basketball court and I struggled to fill the space behind it.



Instead, I decided to go the route of the mysterious navigator. With the navigator being such a hidden figure, they would have a secret chamber to operate in. The window and other light sources I replaced with monitors to cast interesting shadows.


I sketched out some design ideas, all of which took too long, and I found boring.




My solution was to make a rough model in blender, measure it, rebuild it precisely in SketchUp and the draw over it to add details. This sounds long but took only a day (2 if you count the hours it took me to learn basic SketchUp).



And this is the result for the first proper draft.



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