I was hired on “X-Men: First Class” specifically to work on the Submarine/X-Jet crashing on the beach sequence.

After receiving a digital model of the full undamaged Sub from the London Art Department, one of the first request was for me to ‘space plan’ and see how set pieces from the script would logically fit into our sub.  Below is an image with internal overlays showing rooms inside of the Sub in scale.

Sometimes I find the decisions in Hollywood to be funny… such as the request here to put the Engine Room in the front of the sub. I would have though the Engine Room would have been in the back! Well, that’s movie magic for you!

Next, we needed to beach the Sub.

An overall drawing of the Sub is released to all of the different departments on the show to keep everyone on the same page as to the size, shape, and function of what the Sub will be – and how much is going to be physically built.  It is useful for all departments to have this drawing for discussions as shooting is approaching to keep everyone moving towards the same goals.

Now we needed to know where each set piece was to be placed.  The Art Director had a section of beach surveyed and this data was built into a digital model.  I used Rhino3D to help me accurately place a digital model of each set piece into the digital model of the beach.  Now we could move the Sub and parts of the X-Jet around digitally to explore options and quickly and accurately find the best placements for shooting purposes.


Another use of making the digital models is that it can be a great starting point for Illustrators to draw on top of renderings from a 3D model.  This can give an Illustrator a head start in their drawing.  It can also help keeping all people on the same page (Set Designers, Art Directors, and Illustrators), by providing accurate lenses and distances between objects in the illustrations.  For this sequence I worked with Illustrators Jamie Rama, and Jim Carson. Both are top Illustrators working in Hollywood today.  You can follow the links on thier names to see their work from “X-Men: First Class”. (Note:  Not all of their work used this process, of drawing on top of digital renderings.)

One of the large disscussion points as we worked on this set, was how much tilt/roll the Sub should have on the beach.

Something that was realized was that if you tilted the Sub on the beach, that when we shot the interior hallway sequences on stage (separate set), they should have the same tilt to them.

One of the final challenges of this set was to figure out the damage to the Sub.

We often research existing images to see how things naturally are, and use them as a starting point for design in Film.  There were many images studied, such as the example shown here.  This reference image showed a Submarine ripped in half, so we tried to mimic some of the details when Magneto rips the sub apart in the movie.

 More images are released to keep everyone (on the crew) on the same page as the design develops.  After input from several departments, we are getting closer to a final design for what will be actually built on the beach.
When approval is reached, final drawings of the Sub Set are released.  For this set the section of the Sub was very important for the construction department.  Many of the parts were pre-built off site and transported to the beach for final assembly.

The Hatch of the Sub was realized to be needed as it’s own set piece on a Stage.  This would allow more control while shooting.  Cast members could climb out of the hatch.  The Image to the side shows an early proposal to show what might be need to be built for the set.

The construction department did a fabulous job in building all the sets, and all the work by all the departments showed in the final work for the film, that you see on screen.

Here are a few pictures that i found from around the web, of some ‘Spy Images’ that people took as the set was being built in Georgia.


I hope you enjoyed the movie, and seeing a little bit of what my part in the film process was.



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