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Rosco SoftDrop brings holiday film to life

Jan 27, 2021

Production designer Gavin Bocquet created a fantastical version of Victorian England for Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey on Netflix. One key element of his set design was a fully-customized, day/night SoftDrop that was used to completely enclose the set.

The story is about a reclusive toymaker who finds new hope when his kind and curious granddaughter comes into his life. Set in the fictional town of Cobbleton, this movie-musical features charming songs, elaborate dance numbers, vivid costumes, and an incredibly detailed set design. The setting of the film, which is best described as “Dickensian Steam Punk,” was conceived by production designer Gavin Bocquet. Gavin worked with Rosco to create a highly-customized Rosco SoftDrop, which became an integral piece of the Jingle Jangle set.

A design rendering of Cobbleton

The Jingle Jangle art department relied on the architecture from the city of Norwich in the UK to provide the fundamental look of Cobbleton. The set, which was built on a sound stage at Arborfield Studios, featured the buildings and cobblestone streets from the Elm Hill area of the city. The set design was mostly comprised of three-dimensional structures, but it also included a 9.1m x 39.8m Day/Night SoftDrop to provide additional background imagery for the film.

In an interview for Movie Fandom, Bocquet shared the inspiration for the aesthetic of the film. He described how two of Director David E. Talbert’s favorite films were Willy Wonka and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and how those two films were used as “spiritual references” for his set design. “Both have that Victorian gritty feel,” he noted, “but with a sort of fantastical edge to it.”

Assembling the Composite Image File

The SoftDrop process for the Jingle Jangle set began with a series of photographs captured at the Elm Hill location. Working closely with Gavin and supervising art director Phil Harvey, Rosco’s Sarah Horton carefully framed and captured multiple elements from Norwich. From there, Gavin chose the elements he wanted in the drop and the team at Rosco Digital Imaging composited them together into a single panoramic image.

After the image had been assembled, Gavin identified the numerous modifications that would be needed to transform modern-day Norwich into his fantastical vision of Cobbleton.

Once all of the modifications and additions were complete and approved, the Rosco Digital Imaging team went to work creating the nighttime version of the image. The brightness of day was replaced with darkness, candles and streetlights were “lit,” and the windows now glowed with the warmth of the holidays in Victorian England.

Finally, the daytime image was printed on the front side of the drop, and the nighttime version was precisely registered and aligned, then printed on the backside of the drop. The filmmakers now had one backdrop that enabled them to not only create daytime and nighttime scenes in Cobbleton, but dusk and dawn scenes as well.

Installation of the Rosco SoftDrop on set

When the 9.1m x 39.8m SoftDrop arrived on set, it was packaged in a 60cm x 50cm x 40cm box. Even though that 45kg box arrived in May, it was a special Christmas gift for the art department who were all anxious to see what the final drop looked like on set. It was also a gift for the riggers that had to hang the drop because the SoftDrop was much lighter and easier to work with than a traditional vinyl backdrop.

The SoftDrop getting installed on set.

The SoftDrop turned out to be a gift to the sparks as well because a SoftDrop doesn’t need as much light to create the backlit night effect. This meant less power and a smaller number of fixtures were needed, which translated into a shorter hang time and fewer heavy cable runs. And finally, the SoftDrop was also a gift to cinematographer Remi Adefarasin, because the matte finish of the SoftDrop meant he didn’t have to worry about spurious reflections like he would with vinyl. Plus, its seamless construction meant that he could shoot from any angle he desired and never see a seam.

As you watch the film, note that when the camera dollies all the way around during the expansive dance numbers – there is no break in the set. That’s because the set is fully enclosed. Bocquet used the SoftDrop to bridge the gap between two of the three-dimensional scenic elements all the way at the edge of the sound stage. By having the SoftDrop create those visuals instead of actual buildings, the art department was able to provide valuable floor space for singing, dancing – and holiday magic!

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