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Construction can learn from cutting edge Hollywood technology

Long-running soap EastEnders has announced it’s looking for someone to rebuild its 30-year-old Albert Square set to bring it firmly into the 21st century.

In an industry where cameras can now pick up the smallest mistakes, how can the latest trends in construction and the film industry help rebuild the Queen Vic and laundrette to an accuracy that even the most die-hard viewers wouldn’t notice?

The big challenge is how you recreate a set that will last well past the show’s 50th year in 2035, whilst faithfully maintaining the details that millions of viewers know intimately, from the many hours Dot Cotton spent in the laundrette, to Ian Beale’s café, and the Queen Vic, as well as the many fights, romances and fires that have taken place since 1985.

“Use of this technology is becoming more prevalent in construction because of the relatively low-cost implications and ease of use of industry-leading laser scanners”

The original set was largely built using wood and plaster techniques and whilst it’s lasted a lot longer than many thought the programme itself would last, it’s now ready for new long-lasting materials and maybe a new approach that better caters to some of the dramatic storylines that the programme is famous for.

Cutting-edge technology

Modern techniques of capturing reality through laser-scanning are already used across the sets of TV programmes and films to help with maintaining continuity, as well as providing digital sets for special effects companies. The use of this technology is also becoming more prevalent in the construction industry because of the relatively low-cost implications and ease of use of industry-leading laser scanners.

Within a few minutes, construction professionals can get a highly accurate 3D model that can be used as a reference for the design and has much more detail than a traditional survey.

By using individual scanners to capture the structure of Albert Square, as well as scanners on as cars, backpacks or even handheld devices, the makers of the BBC hit show could easily pick up every single detail of the set.

3D design

From there, these 3D models could be converted into meshes, allowing them to be manufactured by subtractive manufacturing techniques, like CNC machines, or by the latest 3D printing technology.

This would allow near-identical reproduction of some of the more difficult plaster moulding around the entrance to the Queen Vic.

Adopting construction techniques like modular building could also allow for easier replacement of buildings parts, perhaps for filming cutaways of buildings or simply just to help with set dressing after the next car crash, fire or building collapse come Christmas Day.

Whilst construction is generally seen as a way of building something to last, these new technologies could help bring the flexibility needed in the ever-evolving world of TV, so the next time you hear the famed theme tune kick in at the end of a cliffhanger episode, cutting to a satellite image of London, you might just be witnessing TV’s first ever cutting-edge smart city.

Lee Mullins is construction technical lead for Europe at Autodesk

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