Birmingham filming for Ready Player One

Ready Player OneFilmmaker Steven Spielberg returned to the UK to film his sci-fi movie Ready Player One, using London as a production base but also shooting in Birmingham.

The film is based on a novel by Ernest Cline and follows young hero Wade Watts in a future America where people spend much of their time in wish-fulfilment virtual-reality environment the Oasis.

Shooting was based at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, but Birmingham was used for limited location filming, with production focussing on the city’s Digbeth and Jewellery Quarter regions.

These locations were selected as they were relatively unfamiliar to cinema audiences and so made enticing stand-ins for Ready Player One’s specific vision of a mid-21st century Ohio.

“It’s difficult to make location changes on the scale we needed on the streets of London,” says Ali James, the film’s supervising location manager, in comments to The Knowledge.

“We were looking for dystopian visuals and Birmingham offered this massive, relatively untapped industrial feel.”

Birmingham’s relatively short travel time from London was also a big advantage. The city offered all the infrastructural support necessary for a production on the scale of Ready Player One.

“We found a long street on a gradient that was a good double for the kind of lengthy high streets you find in the US, and we also filmed underneath the city’s ‘spaghetti junction’ interchange,” says James. “We got key support from agencies like Film Birmingham and Highways England.” 

The production team spent a couple of months finalising permissions and prepping for a location shoot of around ten days.   

Scenes set in Ready Player One’s Oasis setting was filmed digitally using performance capture technology in a studio space known as a ‘volume’. The Oasis environment and character avatars were created by visual effects companies Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Domain.

Action set in the ‘real’ world outside the Oasis were shot on film. Villainous organisation Innovative Online Industries (IOI) had its main locations built as sets on Leavesden’s sound stages.

A story setting known as the Stacks, home to Watts at the start of the story and comprising what was essentially a chaotic mishmash of mobile homes and caravans, was one of the film’s key settings that was built as a partial set on Leavesden’s back lot.

Spielberg frequently bases his films in London and the south of England. The filmmaker is next scheduled to shoot in the UK from the spring of 2019 for the latest in the enduringly popular Indiana Jones franchise.

For more on the London filming locations for Ready Player One, click here.

Image: Warner Bros


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