Behind the Scenes of L.A. Noire’s Painstaking Production Design: Part One – Locations & Set Design

Posted on January 31 2011, 3:48pm | Author: R* Q | Filed Under: Games

L.A. Noire aims to immerse the player in a deep, dark and extremely faithful recreation of 1940’s Los Angeles, with painstaking steps taken in development to assemble and reflect a digital world as accurately as possible. Years of involved motion-capture, groundbreaking MotionScan facial recognition technology, as well as passionate research and production design have been just a few of the efforts employed to help make this one of the most original and epic interactive experiences you’ve played yet.

Over the coming weeks and months leading up to the game’s May release, we’ll be lifting the veil to show you different aspects of how L.A. Noire was created by the talented folks down at Team Bondi. This week, we offer just a few glimpses of the detailed wardrobe and set research that went into the production design of this very unique game – often the last step for most major motion pictures before principal photography, these were among the earliest steps taken towards creating L.A. Noire’s realistically authentic digital world of 1947 Los Angeles. Read on for some detailed info and behind the scenes pics, including some insight directly from Team Bondi Production Designer Simon Wood on the creation of the game's locations and characters.


Part One - Locations & Set Design


Left: Authentic paint swatches from the 1940's were sourced to determine the game's color palette; Middle: From Team Bondi's extensive Los Angeles locations photo shoot - a Hallway from the landmark Barclay Hotel; Right: That direct reference material transformed into one of L.A. Noire's shadowy and dangerous locations.

The team at Bondi traveled to L.A. to tour all sorts of historical locations, relics of old Los Angeles still standing more or less as they were over 60 years ago – collecting countless reference photos in a shoot that informed many places you will visit in your tour of duty as LAPD Detective Cole Phelps. From glamorous restaurants to the dingiest skid row hotels, Simon Wood and Team Bondi Lead Artist Ben Brudenell found reference locations perfect for the game. A great example being the run down apartment building that appears in the Traffic desk case "The Driver's Seat" - the in-game setting being an almost perfect replica of the Barclay Hotel in L.A. which has been used as a location in many Hollywood films. "Sometimes there's no better substitute than real life," says Wood. "Ben photographed every square inch of that hotel."

The final product of in-game locations, both interior and exterior, wound up an amalgam of carefully researched reference material and artful inspiration.  Wood explains, “Some were designed from the ground up as we couldn't find what truly matched the needs of the gameplay or the original script by Brendan (McNamara, Team Bondi Studio Head). But other locations are interiors that we inserted into wonderful existing buildings. The Art guys in the team did an amazing job, as you really can't tell what was made up by us and what was an original fabrication." Additional reference material that wasn't photographed was sourced from rare items such as vintage magazines from the time. "I bought from eBay old House & Garden magazines, along with Architectural Digest, Sears catalogues and Interior Decorating guides from the 40's. These were invaluable as not only did it show you the best of how they styled their homes, but it showed you how they lived."

"We created ‘Production Bibles’ which are like production design style guides for all the locations in the game,” said Wood, “The bibles have floorplans, material, dressing, graphics and signage, lighting details, and any other reference images that are needed to create the locations in the game.  We made over 140 of them altogether.”

This was particularly challenging considering the sheer amount of locations and the need to keep each one unique, yet accessible to explore and investigate. "I had a checklist of which styles of architecture and colour palettes would work well with the characters Brendan was writing, so that their persona was reflected in their personal surroundings."

Look for Parts Two and Three of our series on L.A. Noire’s Painstaking Production Design throughout this week, along with much more in our Behind the Scenes look into the production of L.A. Noire in the weeks and months to come...

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  • R* Yon May 9 2011, 3:28pmReplyFlag
    @RamzKilla @samuraix98 There won't be a collectors edition, but pre-order bonus content will be available as DLC at some point following launch.

    Thanks all, one week to go, and for the latest on L.A. Noire visit the official site:
    http://www.rockstargames.com/lanoire/news
    • RamzKillaon February 6 2011, 7:51amReplyFlag
      I'm getting so hyped for this game.. I needa go preorder it!

      Is there gunna be a special collector's edition or what?
      • samuraix98on February 1 2011, 7:47pmReplyFlag
        I love the in-depth looks through out the game that you as R* are offering us the viewer/gamers. One question is if some of those amazing "design bibles" will be pictured or at least glimpse at in some sort of "Collectors Edition" for the game?
        • R* Yon February 1 2011, 2:16pmReplyFlag
          @crazycat690 Yep - that's a real photo in the middle.
          • METALLICACornon February 1 2011, 1:48pmReplyFlag
            @cuzzythewolf
            I think RED DEAD REDEMPTION the best game rockstar, but it made no at pc :'(
            • Gleisneron February 1 2011, 1:12pmReplyFlag
              @crazycat690
              it's a IRL pic, it says under the photo
              And to R*, as allways all games you are involved with seems to be the only ones worth to play nowadays (not that all other games are bad, all I say is that when you go R* games you never go back.)
              • Fantastic_Mr_Caton February 1 2011, 12:46pmReplyFlag
                I'm so going to buy it! Just also hope there will be a multiplayer mode!
                • crazycat690on February 1 2011, 12:12pmReplyFlag
                  Is the middle one actually a real photo? Or is it ingame? Anyway, looks like a really solid game, can't wait to see how it will actually play :D Will there be any limited editions or can I pre-order it right away without risk of loosing anything? O.o

                  Cheers!
                  • Fantastic_Mr_Caton February 1 2011, 10:50amReplyFlag
                    I'd like to know if there's going to be a multiplayer in L.A. Noire.. Cops'n'Crooks please!
                    • LiL.A.Kingon February 1 2011, 8:47amReplyFlag
                      Sorry for my English!
                      • LiL.A.Kingon February 1 2011, 8:46amReplyFlag
                        The game will be awesome!! I hope the will have a freeroam, because it would be cooler if we could play this game with your friends!!

                        • Jortanon February 1 2011, 6:57amReplyFlag
                          Haha I just love how woods when on eBay to get 1940's magazines I don't know why I can't stop laughing at that
                          • Rock1m1on February 1 2011, 5:22amReplyFlag
                            Just love the attention to detail you guys always put. 1 question, when is the mailbag coming? :\
                            • The4orTy67on February 1 2011, 4:38amReplyFlag
                              Terrific!
                              • batik89on January 31 2011, 9:00pmReplyFlag
                                Nice article! With a commitment to do intensive research such as this, I guess LA Noire will become the most authentic videogame set in the 40s of Los Angeles. Kudos to the Bondis and Rockstar! Can't wait for the next article of these series.
                                • protofireon January 31 2011, 8:21pmReplyFlag
                                  Knowing R* people are going to be headn to the grocery store and watchn 1940's commercials on Cole's day-offs in the game. R*s the only game that can make that stuff fun and realistic!
                                  • protofireon January 31 2011, 8:16pmReplyFlag
                                    I wonder how realistic R* is going with this. Knowing them people will get to play through Cole's day-offs and sit around watching commercials from the 40's! Rockstar's the only company that makes games more realistic as they come. For example, even though there werent TV's in the early 1900's, R* still made it so you could watch old fashioned projector cartoon films that were accustomed to the time era in Red Dead Redemption.
                                    • sloopkillazon January 31 2011, 7:55pmReplyFlag
                                      I can't imagine the amount of work that was put into this game, but am thankful that pieces like this give us a small glimpse.
                                      • R* Yon January 31 2011, 7:28pmReplyFlag
                                        @SirSmok3Alot225 @bwa1985 @Joker-64 and all others, cheers guys, glad you all are liking the article.
                                        • cuzzythewolfon January 31 2011, 6:31pmReplyFlag
                                          i think gta 4 was the best game rockstar made for xbox 360
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