December 18, 2019

How to Build a Convincing Subway Set with Practical Effects

Need to shoot a subway scene but don't have one anywhere near you? Find out how to build a convincing set using great set design and practical effects. 

Subway scenes are incredibly common in film, but you know what's not common? Subways. If you live in a big city, you might have access to some kind of metro station, but they're busy, noisy, and expensive to shoot in. If you don't live in a big city, well, I guess just tack on travel expenses to your budget.

So, do you just rewrite the whole thing? What if your script specifically calls for a subway scene?

Well, maybe there's another way. Maybe you can build a set at home. 

Recently, the music licensing platform Artlist gave a behind the scenes look at how they built a fake subway set and used sound design, practical effects, and lights to make it feel real. You might've seen the commercial before, but if you haven't, check it out below.

Now, let's look at how they did it. 

How to Shoot A Subway Scene Inside a Studio

Let's talk about that amazing subway scene. 

Aside from all the other tidbits we got in the BTS footage, it's one of the more genius builds we saw. Here's how Artlist explained it on Reddit.

"Basically, we built a set well with a window cut out in the middle, added some plastic chairs, a metal pole and some posters to add realism and depth, then we placed a TV screen behind the window with a looping video clip playing. This was much easier than using a green screen, we would have had to fight with compositing and keying and also just setting up and lighting a green screen would have taken more time and effort (and money). To top it all off we moved around some HMI lights and physically rocked the entire set back and forth to mimic the actual movement of the subway cart."

That's all...pretty easy? 

Sometimes the best explanation is the simplest one. Think of it like the Occam's Razor of set design. 

So, how can you capitalize on stuff like this? 

It's all about the pre-production.

Plan everything. Think about your shots first. 

A shot list is a must when you want to venture into these waters. 

Why? 

Because if you know the angles you need, you only have to build those subway angles. If you're pressing in tight, you only need to build the section with the window. If you want the wide, better build enough for a wide. 

Got sets you've made that you're proud of? 

Send us the links in the comments!      

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