Last week we saw how the structure of Ren‘s medieval village set rose from an empty car park in Cambridgeshire. Today we’ll see find out how paint, texture, thatch and set dressing brought the village to life.
Designer, co-writer and actor Christopher Dane is back to talk us through the second batch of photos by Michael Hudson.
Well, last time we had a glimpse of this particular building, we were putting on the tiled roof that is now complete and, as you can see, suitably crooked. The next stage was to get the OSB Board boxes to look like real buildings. It was important for us to get a sense of a certain uniformity without every building looking the same – the challenge was that we knew each building would probably have to double up as several different places in the village so we needed a ‘blank canvas with personality’… go!
Another huge part of the build was the market itself. We wanted people to be walking around trading from baskets but the main part would be a series of market stalls. Rather than just having tables we started constructing these stalls with tent like structures – it was a design that Kate came up with very early on – and the construction was put in the capable hands of Gerd, one of our great volunteers from Germany.
Now, here’s Michael testing out the first of the stable doors that was actually made out of a stack of discarded floor boards we found in a skip. As you can see it works really well but, I’m sorry to say it Michael, it might not make it into the final cut 🙁 Another thing this picture highlights is that there’s nothing beyond the first wall of the buildings… a problem we had to solve a lot later.
Driving through a small village near Caxton we spotted a house being re-thatched and got in touch with the Master Thatcher himself… no, that’s not him in the picture as you can probably tell 🙂 We got a whole Van (Morrison) full of old thatch and began to make long boards with a single layer of thatch so we could at least in some shots give the illusion that there were roofs on the buildings.
Okay, we return to the ‘Baker’s House’ to have a look at the third stage: beams. Kate and the design team had early on looked at various styles for the buildings and decided on a European Medieval style, which meant that the house would have been built with a timber frame. We ended up using various methods but this was an early test where an old garden fence was dismantled.
This is actually a really cool picture because you can see the various techniques we used to make the flat OSB boards look like real buildings. First we painted the boards with a mixture of paint and sawdust – as you can see it gives the illusion of the wall having been rendered or made of mud and straw. Then we added the beams and windows to give the house character and finally we have started to add dirt to the walls – it’s something you don’t really think of but ageing a building makes such a huge difference – and the skills for that particular process were brought to set by Amanda, who became known as the Queen of the Van Dyke Brown.
Here’s another look at our stable block where we needed to make sure it didn’t just become a long wall in the background. We added the gate early on and, when we found more fence panels in a huge skip, we were able to clad part of the building indicating that some of it was made of wood and some was stone/clay like the rest of the village. The crate with straw was made out of pallets and was used to hold all the discarded thatch… it helped give the build a more three dimensional feel.
Okay, so now things are beginning to take shape. This is the ‘Fisherman’s Cottage’ and was the first to get thatch on… actually this was our test house for most of our designs and you can see a different approach to the beams as well as a test of what the ground would look like eventually… we actually ended up spreading close to a ton of dirt mixed with straw/hay on the concrete… looked great but was hell cleaning up 🙂
The great thing about the design process was that once we had come up with the concept for, let’s say the thatching, it was simply replicating and adding to as many houses as we could. The thatch in this picture is actually first attached onto a Plywood board on the ground and then placed on the rafters… and even though it looks very professional here, more often that not a few adjustments had to be made on the fly 🙂
A closer look at our paint process where you can clearly see the difference it made to add a handful of sawdust to the paint before applying it… here demonstrated by Andrew our professor volunteer from Cambridge.
…and here’s Amanda in full swing trying to add about a hundred years of dirt and dust to the ‘Baker’s House’. The technique is to add a small amount of paint to a near dry brush and then very loosely and swiftly add it where dirt would normally gather… try to take a closer look at any old building you come across and note where the dirt is and you’ll find that any corner, ledge, doorway is a virtual dirt-magnet… oh, and you also need to add a hell of a lot of patience to the process, right Amanda?
It was quite important to make sure that all the buildings did not look the same to avoid it looking too much like a set. We decided that a few buildings should be more farm looking that others and began to use these old fence posts as beams… it really created a more organic look to the village and added the sense that this was a collection of houses built over a longer period of time. In this particular case we also added a very different looking door that indicated that this could be where farm equipment or even smaller animals like sheep or pigs were kept… which ones it is will be decided in the sound edit!
Apart from a lovely view of Kay spraying the roof of the ‘Baker’s House’ to make it look older you can also see that the dirtying down of the walls behind her is making a huge impact… try to scroll up and compare this with the pictures of our OSB boxes… it’s quite remarkable.
I have really no idea why there’s a spirit leveller in this picture, as nothing was even remotely straight anywhere on this build, but it has clearly sparked a debate between myself and Jonathan, one of our Kickstarter Executive Producers, who came up to lend a hand on several occasions.
From the panoramic shot you really get a sense of how the layout of the village square is shaping up… and also a good look at the very modern backdrop 🙂
And now to the Keep… you can really see that we’ve been going full out on the dirt and weathering on the walls and beams and now we’re adding this stone effect to the plinth the building is resting on… don’t know if you remember but we built the Keep on top of an old concrete loading ramp. The ‘stone’ is actually large sheets of plastic (the blue stuff you can see on the platform) that you then cut to size and paint in the style you want… the reason we chose this particular design, both when it came to the paint and the stone, was to make it look very different from the rest of the buildings… almost as if this was the first building and the rest had shot up round it.
And finally this is where it all comes together: the buildings have been painted and weathered, the market stalls have been set out with all sorts of goods and, as you can see from all the cars in the background, we’re just waiting for the last but by far most important ingredient in this transformation from concrete car park to medieval market: the extras!
Thanks Chris! Check out the trailer for a glimpse of how the village looks on screen.