How Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Made Overgrown Future Woods in Canada

The Credits has a fascinating article about all the work it took to create the look of an abandoned California in Vancouver. Which is particularly impressive, given that Andy Serkis has said that the majority of filming took place on location, not on a built-for-their-exact-needs set.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place 10 years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with the apes living in an abundant future version of California's Muir Woods and a nearly-wiped out human population living in a similarly-destroyed San Francisco. While the scenes in future San Francisco were shot in New Orleans, Vancouver's rain forests stood in for Muir Woods.

The forests were picked because they balanced the many concerns of the production: the script required an overgrown setting but filming required a place that could support a large crew and a ton of equipment. The person behind all that was production designer Catou Kearney who told The Credits, It's like putting a ten-thousand piece puzzle together. When that last piece falls into place, there's nothing like it."

Once Vancouver won, Kearney's crew did a lot of work:

Long before cast and crew were out there amongst the trees, Kearney and her scouts were reading the script and using their deep knowledge of the Vancouver area to begin thinking of appropriate locations. "It's based on what I know and what I don't know about the areas I can access; do they allow filming, and if so, is this a place where I can support a unit for the installations we're going to want?" Another added difficulty in planning for Dawn was the sameness of forest photographs. "Because it's all forests, it becomes difficult…a tree is a tree is a tree, so you have to find something unique in each location so people can attach to that and identify it," she says. "You want to give the director or production designer the ability to say, 'What about that forest that had that beautiful green moss and that river?'" Once Kearney has winnowed down the photos to a digestible number, she posts them so everyone, from Los Angeles to New Orleans, can make their choices.

Another requirement of the Dawn shoot was finding a section of forest that looked utterly remoted and virgin but was, in actuality, accessible to cast and crew. "Part of our job was finding really forested areas that don't look at all populated—you don't want to imagine someone walking their dog through it every five minutes—but I still have a unit to support," Kearney says. "I need to find forested areas that still have trails, because you have to get your trucks in, your crew, your gear, so you're finding pockets within the forest that are reachable and attainable."

Once filming began, they also had to have a "Greens Department" to minimize the environmental impact of the production. This is both to protect the location and to hide the evidence of filming from the camera. Eventually, most equipment was placed on giant platforms in the forest rather than the forest floor. Whatever couldn't be eliminated was hidden by a combination of black fabric, pine needles, and leaves.

You can read more about what Kearney and her team contributed to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes at The Credits. And marvel at what the finished film is going to look like in the awesome final trailer below. Shit gets real.

h/t Matt Mirandi