How Marvel-Netflix Created New York City On Set With Rosco SoftDrops®
The Marvel-Netflix shows Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all have two things in common – they’re all set in New York City, and they all used Rosco SoftDrops® to create the cityscape backgrounds of their interior sets.
When the team first embarked upon creating the sets for Jessica Jones season 1, Production Designer Loren Weeks and Art Director Toni Barton knew they wanted to photograph existing NYC cityscapes as opposed to compositing a library of stock images. They consulted with Phil Greenstreet at Rosco, who referred them to SoftDrop as an innovative, day/night backdrop alternative to the vinyl backings she was familiar with. “Phil has the backdrop photography down to a science, and I love working with him,” said Barton. “When Phil started sending us samples, Loren and I were amazed. The SoftDrops were so beautiful, and the look is awesome.”
As the production designer, Weeks oversaw the production of the SoftDrops, but it was a collaborative effort between the Art Department and the DP. Weeks always included Cinematographer Manuel Billeter in the conception to ensure he was onboard with the design so he could properly light the SoftDrop after it was finalized and installed on set. “We chose to go with the Rosco SoftDrops starting with Jessica Jones because they looked a little softer and more naturalistic and didn’t give off a glare like vinyl drops do,” said Billeter. The team has since used the SoftDrops on Jessica Jones season 2, Luke Cage seasons 1 and 2 and Iron Fist season 1.
One of the sets for Jessica Jones was Hogarth’s law firm office, which was photographed on location in Manhattan from the Bank of America Building looking south with the Empire State Building featured prominently in the shot. Rosco photographed during the day and night since this SoftDrop was going to be used for both day and evening scenes. “For day, I used the ambient light coming from the space lights hung near the ceiling to mimic sunlight coming from above,” said Billeter. “For night, I used a few gelled Cyc lights from below and Leko Source Four units cut down to light specific buildings to avoid light spilling into the sky.” Billeter was surprised overall at how little light he needed to light the night SoftDrops.
According to Weeks, one of the most impressive SoftDrops was for the Rand Corporation in Iron Fist. Also a New York City skyline, this was meant to be a penthouse level suite in Midtown looking east. The final dimensions were 203 feet long by 34 feet tall, and the backdrop also turned a corner. “It’s not unusual to alter the photographed image for a SoftDrop by adding a building to fill a skyline, changing the colours of buildings, removing signage and making more windows lit for night scenes,” said Weeks. As an example, for the backdrop outside of Harold Meachum’s apartment, the Rosco Digital team made several edits, including the removal of the scaffolding that was on the top ten floors of the Woolworth building and the addition of some height to achieve the look the filmmakers wanted for the scene.
“When you’re looking through the window of a set, and you see these backdrops, they have such a realistic quality to them – it’s just fantastic,” said Weeks. “The vinyl drops never achieve that, and they have more of manufactured look to them.” Barton agreed, “Without a doubt and as long as it makes sense, I’ll use SoftDrops on every production moving forward. They allow us to have a foreground and background and are not as harsh as what we get with vinyl backdrops.”
Read more about the SoftDrops on the Rosco blog here.
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