Artem Case Studies

The Man Who Fell to Earth - Large Scenic Props CBS Studios

The Man Who Fell To Earth is a television drama sequel to the Walter Tevis novel and 1976 Nicolas Roeg cult classic film, which starred David Bowie as an alien, Thomas Newton, visiting Earth in search of water to save his dying planet.  Written and directed by Alex Kurtzman, this new production is set in the near future, with Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) as the latest arrival, Faraday, descending on Earth at a turning point in human evolution. Faraday must confront his own past to determine our future…

Artem were asked to make some large scenic engineered props, which were key both to the plot and the production design – The Wedding Cake, The Glass Slabs and a Quantum Fusion Machine:

The Quantum Fusion Machine (QFM) and Faraday Cage

Central to the action, and most spectacular both in size and complexity, was a prop cold fusion power generator - the QFM – which comprised several elements. At the bottom of the inner structure was a ‘boiler tank’, complete with pipes, tubes, vessels, a large gate valve, pressure gauges and a fuel canister arrangement – all made or moulded from lightweight materials and art-worked to resemble aged metals. A central column with discs and sections led up to a one-metre-wide, segmented torus, made from clear plastic with a mesh covering and ribs, housing a two-part removable canister. (We also made a spare central canister and a broken-down version and components for bench-top work shots.)

The QRM inner structure was enclosed in a 6.1m wide spherical Faraday Cage structure, spreading out from the apex of the central column and partially disappearing under a suspended steel floor. The dome structure had eight ribs, with a hexagonal geodesic mesh linking the steel framework. Production electricians fitted 688 bulb fittings onto the cage for a truly spectacular effect.

The Wedding Cake

Faraday finds his predecessor’s work hidden in the ‘Wedding Cake’ in a deserted building. Artem designed and built a cylindrical display unit c2.6m diameter with ten double-skinned clear acrylic screens, arranged on a carousel that was rigged to rise up out from a suspended steel floor. The whole unit was fitted onto a telescoping base tube, mounted onto the studio floor c4m below the set. The screens could be rotated by hand and two of them were mounted on sliding mechanisms, so that they could be pulled outwards horizontally, away from the hub. Art Department fitted the ten screens with LED strips pointing inwards along the vertical sides. Artem made 240 dummy bolt heads to fit the top and bottom of each panel.

The Glass Slabs

The ‘Glass Slabs’ prop – a sort of steampunk/alien whiteboard - comprised eight 12mm clear acrylic screens approximately 1.8m tall x 1.4m wide, mounted on easel-like steel support structures with castors on the bases. The bases were designed to fit together quite closely so that all eight of the screens could be arranged in a line. The slabs had LED edge lighting along the tops and bottoms of each screen and a clutch lock swivel at the central pivot allowing at least 20 degrees of movement forwards and backwards. One of the screens was modified to take sheets of toughened glass for breaking on set.

Sixteen folded steel boxes with attached angle brackets were mounted on the tops and bottoms of the Glass Slab units. The boxes had an opening at one end for an aerial to protrude and were designed to house a set of batteries and remote control unit.

All three props were designed, built and art-worked on site at Artem, before transport and installation on set by Artem technicians.

The Man Who Fell To Earth is available on Showtime in the US and on Paramount + (direct or via Sky Cinema) in the UK.


  • TV
  • CNC Machining & 3D printing
  • Mechanical Rigs
  • Props
  • GRP & Composite processes
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