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