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November 10, 2017

Transparent Green Screen Studio Solution for Paddington 2

Paddington 2 “on general release this week” is set to be one of the biggest British Family Movies ever. The trailers released have certainly whetted audience’s appetites, with many parents and children champing at the bit to see this live-action/CGI animated adventure comedy film. Couple this with Marks and Spencer’s amazing Paddington Bear’s Christmas Advert, using the exact same live action CGI animation used within the motion movie, and you can be sure this movie will be a Christmas block buster success. However, it is only now that Shade Sculpture can shout about our involvement in delivering the world’s largest all-weather transparent greenscreen studio, ensuring the films ending would be a truly visually breath-taking cinematic masterpiece.  


Background to Paddington’s Greenscreen Solution

It was back on Christmas Eve 1956 when Michael Bond “Original Writer and Creator of A Bear Called Paddington” noticed a lonely teddy bear siting on a dusty shelf of a store near Paddington Train Station. A bear which he immediately purchased as a gift for his wife. Little did he know then how this charming, yet inconspicuous toy bear would help him transform children’s lives around the world. Translated into over 30 different languages and selling more than 35 Million copies Paddington Bear is now a staple upbringing for millions of children. This is why Shade Sculpture is so proud of our involvement in helping bring the latest reincarnation of Paddington to the silver screen. 

It was back at the end of August 2016, we received a call to our offices from a producer at a company called Marmalade Films, asking if we could provide them with an all-weather covered solution that was completely transparent. At that time, they couldn’t give us much information other than they needed daylight conditions underneath; which to be honest didn’t really give us much to go on. However, our thoughts immediately turned to ETFE as this allows more natural light to pass through than glass.

Over the next few days, we sat down with them at their offices at Warner Bros Studios when the true reality of what they required dawned on us. This was truly an ambitious project with no rom for errors.   They want Shade Sculpture to build and erect a transparent Green Screen Studio large enough to fit 2 steam powered trains “with carriages” inside and high enough to operate boom lifts and tracks for cameras which could be used to track the actor’s movement on top and around the trains. The reason they wanted the structure to be transparent was to ensure the CGI animation could be created with the exact same lighting conditions and shadowing as the actors and scenery around. This was the first time any production company had had such an idea, and this would also be the first time anyone had proposed a transparent greenscreen studio. As such this was a first in motion picture CGI animation technology. In addition, the structure was needed to ensure the great British Weather could not spoil the day and delay filming on what is the most expensive element of the films production. On top of this came the requirement for the structure to be temporary, completely free standing and leave no trace after its dismantling. Easy right!!

Transparent Hybrid Solution

After in-depth discussions with Marmalade Films Production Team, their Special Effects Team and their Financiers, it was decided what was needed. With an idea of how to deliver the solution already in our minds, Shade Sculpture contacted one of our partners De Boar to utilise an already existing structures metal works, thus saving significantly on both time and budget. After working closely with our partners and after surveying the chosen installation site, an abandoned Airfield Strip owned by Warner Bros Studios, we set to work re-purposing an existing structure to meet the clients exacting needs. 

With a mixture of ETFE and a specialised “High Transmitting Clear PVC membrane” we were able to meet the light transmission levels required for the CGI animation. With this established, we were then able to focus re-engineering the re-purposed structure to meet all loadings for the site whilst ensuring the structure could be operated safely by the film crew. Part of this requirement was to develop a new type of rolling shutter door which could be used to bring the trains in and out as and when, without interrupting shooting.

The resulting structure was 41m wide X 35m long x 12.9m high. Anchor loading points required 154 chemical rebar anchors to provide the structural rigidity needed for such a wind prone location. Thanks to our partners, after only 5 days of installation the structure was complete and ready to be occupied, providing the world’s first transparent greenscreen studio.  It was quite a surreal feeling after installation was complete. To the left of us was the set where the latest Avengers Movie was being built, behind us was the set of Steven Spielberg’s new futurist SciFi movie READY PLAYER ONE with trailers and caravans stacking 50m up into the sky, and to the right of us was the ruins of a medieval castle used in the production of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, and there we were…………..a transparent structure with a steam train plonked right in the middle. After a few more days Marmalade Films production team began to transform the structure internally, in readiness for filming. It was amazing to see how these creative and highly talented guys turned what we had built into a full-on film set. 

It was only at the beginning of November this year did we see the results of Shade Sculpture’s and Marmalade Films hard work by means of a trailer showing a glimpse of the ending sequence. My hats off to these guys, they certainly know what they are doing and it’s great to know just how important British talent is when producing some the world’s most successful movies, right here in the UK.

For further information and understand what solutions may work best for you on your project, call Shade Sculpture on +44 (0)1249 811700 or email us at

Shade Sculpture prides itself on our expertise and problem solving approach to design and engineering within tensile architecture.