Props to the designer

We’ve read about the real world of LA getting a coat of grime to become apartments and the allure of both sexes in appropriate headwear but in the third instalment of L.A. Noire‘s behind the scenes feature, Team Bondi’s production designer, Simon Wood, speaks of the challenges to populate the video game world with authentic retro props. And it’s not just about making sure a mug or painting are true to the era. Wood had to chose the right kind of light sources for art director Chee Kin to place around the characters to compliment the visuals: “We were always mindful of the game’s super life-like conversations and the need to light them correctly. Chee Kin had to have something to justify the way people were lit, so just like in film, we placed practical lights in the locations.”

Rare 1940's props were invaluable in set dressing in-game scenes with original authentically styled items.

Who says video games aren’t art? Read on to find out more on the production design of L.A. Noire.
Production Design

Before any case was written or any dialogue fleshed out, Wood had to create a prop list of all furniture and set dressing items expected to be seen in the game. “It was a huge undertaking but our core reference was great and we knew we’d have a great mixture of residential and commercial locations in the game. So I laughed and started with the word ‘Chair’ and the list grew from there… actually it grew quite a bit.”  Wood and the team had an extensive photo shoot over four full days in L.A., “We hired almost every conceivable vintage prop from the biggest Hollywood prop houses in the business. Ben was photographing items as quick as the Prop Men could get them off the truck.”

The team would then begin to dress the locations based on the Production Bibles, carefully placing items to ensure they worked well for gameplay and for the realistic encounters in the game. “We were always mindful of the game’s super life-like conversations and the need to light them correctly.  Chee Kin (Team Bondi Art Director) had to have something to justify the way people were lit, so just like in film, we placed practical lights in the locations.”

There was of course particular attention paid to vintage props collected specifically from the 1940’s. Font typography, brand and product styling is very distinct from decade to decade, so it was key to make sure original items that appeared as part of set dressing accurately recreated the period. As you play through L.A. Noire, whether you’re rifling through a murder suspect’s home, grilling a bartender at a neighborhood pub, or examining a stick of lipstick at a grisly crime scene, the game world items have been designed in believable period style.

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