Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 by Peter Sciretta
I visited the Toronto set of Guillermo del Toro‘s Pacific Rim on March 28th 2012. While on set, we toured the art room, watched filming, saw a bunch of the sets, and interviewed Guillermo and some of the cast. You’ll be able to read those transcripts over the next week on the site, but after the jump you can read a writeup of over 80 things I learned on set (3,685 words worth, and this is one really worth reading) alongside a video blog I recorded with Steve from Collider giving our thoughts on what we had seen.
80 Things We Learned On The Set of Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pacific Rim':
Pacific Rim was shot at Pinewoood Studios in Toronto, which is where the remakes for Total Recall and The Thing were also filmed. All 8 stages in the studio were used for the entire production. 101 sets were created for the film. One hallway in the production office features posters from every one of Guillermo’s movies including different variants.
The film was shot over 103 days on the first unit, and we visited on day 83. They also filmed 56 splinter unit days. Shooting began on November 14th 2011, a whopping 606 days before the July 12th, 2013 release date.
Only 3 real life locations are being used, but even on those location shoots they added so much production design to it that you wouldn’t really recognize the real location. The three locations are a Toronto street turned into Hong Kong, an old hydro planet called The Hearn which has been turned into the Alaska construction site, and the beach from the beginning of the film where Gypsy Danger fights a sea battle and crashes. For that sequence, they constructed a piece of a robot head which was 30 feet by 30 feet and that’s only still a half of one side of the Jaeger’s head.
When we were on set, they were confident that the movie would be a 2D release telling us that it was highly unlikely it will be post-converted. Guillermo told us that he didn’t want to do 3D because large scale battles shot far away don’t present much depth. He thought that if you tried to force depth into those kind of sequences, it would look like miniatures.
Del Toro decided against shooting the movie in 48 frames per second because he thinks the experience only enhances 3D films, and he didn’t plan on releasing Pacific Rim in 3D.
At the time, del Toro was still considering shooting one of the final sequences in full IMAX. The cockpit of the robots is so confined that he was very hesitant to shoot IMAX in these sequences. The sequence they were considering shooting on IMAX was “perfectly suited for the format.” The visual effects for the IMAX sequence would’ve had to be rendered at 4k. Traditionally CG is rendered at 2k. More processing time, more rendering time, more hard drive space, and most importantly the extra detail required to make it look more real. I don’t believe this actually happened. Guillermo instead ended up seeing a post converted 3D test and loved it enough to change his mind.
Guillermo del Toro shot both A and B unit, often spending 20 hours a day working on the movie. Ron Pearlman thinks that Guillermo is “the closest thing we have to Leonardo Da Vinci” today, and he feels like a complete slacker when in del Toro’s presence. He says Guillermo will do a 12 our day and then edit the movie when production stops. Guillermo admits he never sleeps more than 4 hours a night.
About 1/6th of the film is created entirely digitally, and the film features between 1,600 and 1,700 visual effects shots. ILM are doing the effects for essentially half the price, and able to do that because Guillermo is providing footage so early so that the animators can work on normal hours instead of chasing a deadline with overtime hours later in the production.
Guillermo had to edit while he shoots to approve the shots he needs to send to ILM. He edits every Saturday, and shoots “hands pressing buttons” (ie insert shots) on Sundays. He also edits on his lunch breaks.
This is the first digital movie Guillermo has ever made. The movie is perfectly suited for shooting digitally. Guillermo says he couldn’t have done Devil’s Backbone with digital, but this film’s aesthetic calls for saturated colors, which benefit from the high definition look.
This movie also has more dialogue than any of his other movies. Guillermo says the key is to blast through dialogue with drama and make it compelling.
Guelllimo’s office is located in the art department and has a shelf with toys, including an Akira figure and bike, Pixar’s Tin Toy and a couple funny statues from The Simpsons and The Flintstones. There are some Godzilla toys and mechs to inspire the design team. A lot of books. While the collection might look massive in most geek’s homes, they are only materials that del Toro has recently bought. None of the materials have been brought here from del Toro’s home, all of the collectibles were acquired by del Toro while in production in Toronto.
Every time they make a maquette for any of his productions, Guillermo personally pays to have a second maquette made so that he can personally own one in his collection. This is part of his contract.
The working title for the movie was “Still Seas.” Signs around the studio and even production artwork in the offices featured the fake working title. It was hard to find a mention of “Pacific Rim” anywhere, even on the schedules and paperwork.
The backstory is that in 2013, a inter-dimensional portal opens in the sea unleashing massive monsters. The Jaegers were designed by a United Nations-style partnership between all the coastal cities/countries in an effort to kill the monsters and protect the cities. This story takes place in 2025, when the monsters have begun appearing more frequently. The world is coming to an end, and they’re leading the last fights to keep humanity alive. In Alaska they are trying to build a 300 foot wall across the Pacific Coast as the government is starting to believe that Jaegers aren’t working as a solution.
15 artists worked on the production.
The mech robots are called Jaegers, and are 25 stories high and require at least two pilots to function. look like a mix of Transformers and more practical Real Steel-style bots, but 250 to 280 feet tall. Striker Eureka is the largest.
We got to watch the ILM audition tape which was put together in just 9 weeks. The short clip features a massive mech robot fighting with a Kaiju, knocking through buildings in a big city. John knoll worked on the test footage.
Guillermo wanted the robots to feel and move more mechanically, like robots, which is why they chose not to use performance capture.
Gipsy Danger is the name of the hero robot — A Mark III, the oldest of the robots in the film.
Gipsy Danger is armed with a plasma gun and a sword.
Kyoto Tango, Crimson Typhoon, Striker Eureka, Tacit Ronin, and Horizon Brave are the other major Jaegers.
Crimson is a red robot with three arms and three pilots.
Each robot his different fighting styles.
The robots sport markings on their exterior armor, indicating how many monsters they has killed and other stats.