"Stranger Things" Season 4 - Driving Plates
Below is a synopsis of some of the amazing work done for “Stranger Things” Season 4 using the custom driving plates we shot for them. This article contains spoilers, but if you haven’t watched the show yet, what are you waiting for?!
We were lucky enough to get to work with this stellar crew to create driving VFX plates to exactly match the shots in this epic season.
On most days we shot for a few different vehicle heights which ended up looking fantastic in the finished product.
One of the challenges of shooting for this series was the fact that everything had to be period (the show is set in the 80s) which meant we got to travel to a lot of interesting locations, see some beautiful neighborhoods and towns that have been seemingly preserved for the last 40 years, work on some beautifully decorated sets, and work with some very dedicated vendors with the coolest period picture cars you have ever seen.
We are honored to have footage appearing in almost every episode of season 4.
Right out of the gate we get this beautiful sequence in episode 1:
The VFX work on this show is truly out of this world and that translates to some expertly crafted driving sequences. Here, without knowing we shot the plates for this scene, I wouldn't be able to tell you this isn’t a practical shot. The use of reflection on the glass, the noise used to add even more realism to the actual glass itself. The changes in light color and intensity on the rounded metal edges. So much craftsmanship in such a seemingly simple shot.
In the show these scenes are set in Lenora Hills, California but were filmed on location in Albuquerque, New Mexico and it was HOT. The spicy California vibe is perfectly utilized in the cinematography here using the bright exterior to create visual contrast with the shaded interior. This is not only realistic but also fantastic looking. The depth of color in the low light interior is astonishing.
Next in episode 3 we get this very exciting scene which happens to prove some of the greatest strengths of driving plates… safety and ease of shot execution.
As a connoisseur of driving sequences, this one from episode 3 checks all the boxes.
This environment and these kinds of interactions would usually be a little bit dangerous to create with the use of other methods. We have things like: passengers getting out of seats, passengers not seat-belted, and we have the driver taking their eyes off the road multiple times throughout the sequence. Because we're utilizing driving plates, because we're utilizing interactive lighting, because the shots are so well fabricated, we're able to get the sense that they are 100% driving in a vehicle going down the street doing all of these dangerous things.
I really appreciate the use of the backgrounds here again to create a lot of contrast between the background and foreground. There's always an air of tension and fear in the series as it's definitely a horror show at heart. And here through the use of lighting we get a lot of nice low light detail and a coldness to the frame that sort of describes the despair and confusion that the characters are undergoing as their friend in the sequence isn't able to tell them exactly what's going on. There's a lot at stake in this sequence which utilizes very intimate framing where we get very close up on multiple actors at once. We get to see all of their facial expressions and all of their fantastic acting in one close-up frame.
Look at the wonderful gradient from warm intense light on the left of the frame to shadow and even hard black on the right side.
LED technology has come a long way, and this just goes to show. The quality of the light allows the cinematographer the ability to create something so natural looking and yet have such precise control over every element of the composition. We truly live in an exciting time for cinematography.
In this sequence we are riding in a relatively old car which means thinner supports for the roof and a lot more glass. The glass on older vehicles has unique refractive properties when compared to modern cars. Here the nuanced characteristics of this older glass is really able to be highlighted. The thin metal lines of the window frames, the subtle inconsistencies in the glass, the slick and reflective leather interior. All of these elements subconsciously set the viewer back in time.
Because of the intensity and quality of the light and reflections we can even accomplish very visually interesting shots like this one where the interior of the vehicle is obscured by the reflection on the exterior of the window.
This next sequence from episode 6 has a lot going on.
The reflections on the steering wheel, on the glass, on the seats, on the actors' clothing, and on their skin all increase the realistic look of this particular shot.
Because there doesn't actually need to be a driver at any point. When the crew needs to get inside the vehicle to shoot the rear passengers it is much more accessible and easier for them to accomplish their shots.