Set building for The Crystal Maze

Channel 4’s cult 1990s adventure show The Crystal Maze has been relaunched with a newly-designed 30,000-sq-ft set.

The series has been filmed with actor and presenter Richard Ayoade, following a successful one-off charity special for Stand Up To Cancer that was broadcast last autumn with Stephen Merchant as the guest host.

Filming for the charity special took place at the Crystal Maze Live Experience, a recreation of the series’ 90s set made in north London. However, production company Fizz – part of RDF – knew they would need a set of their own for a full series shoot.

The Crystal Maze

“The set for the new series was based on the original concept artwork,” says James Dillon, designer of the show’s original set who also worked on the rebooted full series, along with construction manager David Green.

“We didn’t want to move too far away from the familiarity of the original set design as the show has so many fans,” he tells The Knowledge. “So we used the original plans to keep that classic spirit and we came up with faithful recreations of the Medieval, Industrial and Aztec zones.”

The Futuristic Zone got the biggest overhaul, morphing from the dark, dystopian visuals of the original show to a sleek white appearance that recalls contemporary sci-fi films and TV shows.

“There’s a distinct design variation in the feel of each place in the new set,” Dillon says. “We go from dark and moody in the Industrial and Medieval zones through to the bright and clean visuals of the Futuristic.”

The Crystal Maze

The sets were built in sections over an eight-week period from early January and then moved into Bristol’s Bottle Yard Studios facility for six weeks of lighting and technical testing. 

Design considerations included making room for camera operators, including a Steadicam and various jibs, as well as fixed-head positions to offer the best views of the action.

“Production was partly about adapting the Bottle Yard to the demands of the set as we were working in an area of the facility that hadn’t been used before for filming,” says Dillon.

In the 90s series a digital map showed all four zones positioned around the Crystal Dome in the centre, which was in fact exactly how the set was laid out at the time. For the reboot, the new sets have been set up across different areas of the Bottle Yard to make production more practical.

The Bottle Yard Studios have become a key production facility for the west of England offering location filming access to Cornwall and the south-west, as well as Wales, which is only a few miles away across the River Severn.


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