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    The Force Awakens Stormtrooper Armor by Anovos

    We were surprised and delighted to find that Stormtroopers from the new Star Wars film attended Celebration Anaheim in force! Anovos, makers of officially licensed sci-fi costumes and armor, worked with Lucasfilm to equip members of the 501st legion with the new suits. We get up close with these replicas and learn how they differ from both The Force Awakens' filming costumes and the classic trilogy Stormtrooper armor.

    Prop Store's Original Star Wars Props and Costumes

    At Star Wars Celebration, Prop Store had on display some incredible pieces of original props and costumes from the Star Wars films. We chat with Stephen Lane to learn about some of these items, including an original TIE-Fighter pilot's helmet, Leia's ceremonial dress, and hand props. Plus, post a comment below and we'll pick a few people to win auction catalogs!

    In Brief: Anovos' StormTrooper Armor Kit for $350

    This is an unbelievable deal. Anovos, an official Lucasfilm licensee for Stormtrooper helmets and costumes, announced after Celebration that they are offering an Original Trilogy Stormtrooper suit as a kit for $350. That's with the helmet included. This is a departure from the full suits that Anovos also sells for $1200, and the pricing is only valid until May 4th. Afterward, kits go up to $650, and completed ensembles will retail for $1600. The catch is the kit ships at the end of the year. It comes with a completed helmet, holster, belt, body suit, and neck seal, but you'll have to clean-up the plastic pieces and assemble the armor to the arming suit. This sounds like a really great opportunity for a fun project and build, especially if you want to customize your own armor (eg. zombie Stormtroopers). We're definitely on board to build it out. Selling their costumes as kits is something I hope they'll do with their other costumes as well, especially since Anovos also has the rights to make the new Stormtrooper armor from Episode VII.

    Norman 14
    Steve Neisen's Star Wars Studio Scale Ship Replicas

    We meet up with modelmaker Steve Neisen to geek out over his new studio scale replicas of ships, droids, and mechs from Star Wars! Steve has spent years hunting down the original model kit components that the ILM modelshop used for the filming miniatures, and the resulting Y-Wing, Imperial Probe Droid, AT-ST, and Tantive IV Escape Pod look incredible!

    Star Wars Celebration: Meet Roxy the Rancor

    What does it take to build a life-size Rancor from Star Wars? Roxy the Rancor was birthed from lots of meticulous foam sculpting and painting, as we learn from Matt Paisley at Star Wars Celebration. The beast attends conventions and events, raising money for charity. We get up close with Roxy and see her new face revealed!

    A Visit to jAdis' Weird Science Prop Shop

    Science Friday visits jAdis, a prop shop in Santa Monica that caters to the weird science props needs of filmmakers: "The movie prop shop Jadis, in Santa Monica, California, is packed with ancient, long-forgotten technology: an Edison dictaphone, a typewriter-like counting machine and quack medical devices like the 'Hemodimagnometer.' But you might recognize some of these oddities--they've appeared in movies like The Mystery Men, The X-Files, and The Prestige." I'd love to visit this place the next time I'm in Santa Monica!

    Tested Goes to Star Wars Celebration 2015!

    We spent the weekend at Star Wars Celebration, Lucasfilm's official Star Wars convention. Thousands of Star Wars fans gathered to see new footage from Episode VII revealed and revel in their love for the films--many in fantastic cosplay. Here's some of the coolest stuff we found, including props and costumes from The Force Awakens, Star Wars Battlefront gameplay, and collectibles as far as the eye could see. Check out more photos here!

    Star Wars Celebration 2015: Props, Costumes, Collectibles

    I was at Star Wars Celebration over the weekend in Anaheim, where Lucasfilm debuted footage and information about the next two Star Wars films. It was unlike any fan convention I've attended, in its focused scope and fan fervor--this concentrated a dose of Star Wars is intense, even for Comic-Con veterans. We shot a bunch of videos at the show, which we'll start publishing later this week. In the meantime, here are some photos I took, previewing those videos. My highlights: the Force Awakens props and costumes on display, and Sideshow Collectibles' R2-ME2 art project.

    Sphero Tech Likely Used In Practical Star Wars BB-8 Droid

    After we learned that the BB-8 robot from the Force Awakens trailers wasn't a CG construct, but (at least sometimes) a practical effect, we've spent a lot of time speculating on the methods behind its design. Based on hints from Celebration yesterday, it's likely that Sphero developed the technology used in the practical version of the droid. Disney invested in Sphero, makers of remote controlled balls in 2013. I don't know about you, but I'd be shocked if a toy version of BB-8 isn't out in time for the release of the Episode VII this winter.

    Will 3
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer!!

    I'm getting really excited about this, despite my better judgment. No real spoilers here, but we do see a bit more of the post-Empire world, get a hint at villains, and finally see an older, wiser Han Solo.

    Realistic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Costumes

    We weren't fond of the designs for the most recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, but this TMNT imagining we found at this year's Monsterpalooza were awesome. Originally designed and fabricated as costumes, these mechanized sculpts are the work of an artists collective whose members work in special effects and animatronics. These are the Ninja Turtles we'd like to see on screen!

    Putting the Original Tron's Special Effects Together

    Seeing Tron when it first came out in the theaters was an insane experience. You knew by word of mouth it was going to be a major step forward in special effects technology -something state of the art, like when Star Wars first exploded - and many young filmgoers, like myself, were completely blown away. I had no idea the movie was a flop until many years after the fact, and I was completely flabbergasted to learn this.

    Even with the film initially tanking at the box office, it's remarkable how Tron still has a stronghold of fans after all this time, and how ahead of its time it really was. It took Hollywood many years to catch up with the marvels of computer technology, and Tron first opened the door for it, eventually paving the way for Jurassic Park and the Pixar films.

    From a production standpoint, Tron was a hell of an undertaking, and the origins of the film go all the way back to the late seventies. The film's director, Steven Lisberger, had his own animation studio, Lisberger Films. A graduate of the city's School of the Museum of Fine Arts, he was creating animation regularly for networks such as ABC and PBS, but he had his eyes on a much bigger prize.

    "When you have an animation studio you try to create your Mickey Mouse," Lisberger says. "It's no secret that animation studios survive by creating characters who are their actors they own, and we were a team of people in Boston who wanted to create a character."

    On Lisberger's team were Roger Allers, who went on to direct The Lion King, and John Norton. Norton came up with an idea of a warrior who was made of neon. They called him Tron, but they didn't have a setting for him. Then one night Lisberger went to visit his in-laws, and everyone was crouched around the TV, playing Pong.

    Screen-Used Star Wars Stormtrooper Armor Replica

    We've seen plenty of Stormtrooper armor made by Star Wars fans, but replica props and armor are only as good as their source reference. For Star Wars, there's a lot of interpretation of what's authentic, because props from the film are lost or scattered in private collections. We chat with eFX Collectibles' Bryan Ono about their new replica Stormtrooper armor, which is made from a newly discovered hero suit--only one of six from Episode IV--that even Lucasfilm doesn't have!

    Making a Real Life-Size EVE Robot (from Wall-E!)

    We catch up with Mike Senna, one of the few R2-D2 builders who has also made a life-size Wall-E robot. Over the past year, he's been working on a companion for Wall-E: the high-tech EVE. Mike shares his build process for EVE, where the build currently stands, and what he plans to add to complete this adorable robot duo.

    Animatronic 'Westworld' Gunslinger Robot Sculpture

    Behold, Westworld's Gunslinger--the original Terminator as portrayed by the great Yul Brynner. At Monsterpalooza, we chat with sculptor Nick Marra about his amazing portrait of the character. This silicone sculpture not only captures Brynner's likeness, but is mechanized to reveal his true robot face in spectacular fashion. Draw!

    The Special Effects Creatures at Monsterpalooza 2015

    Last weekend, we attended an awesome creature and special effects convention: Monsterpalooza. We met sculptors, painters, animatronics designers, makeup artists, and creature geeks showing off their latest projects. Here's some of the coolest stuff we saw on the show floor!

    Hardware Wars: The First Star Wars Fan Film

    Other the years, there have been many fan films and parodies of Star Wars, and this year's release of Episode VII will undoubtedly spark more. Thanks to the marvels of digital video tools and sites like YouTube, you can put together a Star Wars parody quickly, cheaply, and unleash it into the world for all to enjoy.

    This was not the case when Hardware Wars came together in 1978. It was the first parody of Lucas' space opera--and reportedly one he enjoyed. It became an urban legend short film that played in theaters and on cable, and it's still great fun to watch after all these years. As Shock Cinema magazine notes, Hardware Wars "laid the groundwork for every DIY movie send up that now pops up on YouTube…Premiering when George Lucas's cash cow was still filling the theaters, it quickly became a pre-VCR, word-of-mouth phenomenon." And indeed, Hardware Wars was still playing in theaters as a short subject years after it was made. (A friend of mine saw it play before the animated movie Heavy Metal when it opened in 1981.)

    Hardware Wars was written and directed by Ernie Fosselius, a multi-hyphenate who could not only write and direct, but also worked as a sound editor in Hollywood for years (his credits would include Spaceballs and Ed Wood). John V. Fante, who was the cinematographer of Hardware Wars, and who also went on to shoot the visual FX for The Right Stuff and Star Trek IV, says, "Ernie's a very gifted filmmaker, a multi-talented renaissance man, and he's very, very funny. I don't know if he's ever been a stand-up comedian, but he certainly could have been one. He's very gifted, and Hardware Wars only scratched the surface of what he was capable of."

    The thirteen-minute film opens with a fake studio logo, 20th Century Foss. The parody names for the characters include Fluke Starbucker, Ham Salad, Darph Nader, Princess Anne-Droid, Augie Ben Doggie, and Cuchilla the Wookie Monster. And remember, this was a decade before Spaceballs.

    Part of its charm is that special effects in Hardware Wars are hilariously cut rate. The land speeder is a dune buggy, and you can clearly see the wires on the spaceships, as well as on Android's home planet, which is a basketball floating in space. The spaceships are steam irons, the Death Star is a waffle iron, and R2-D2, redubbed 4Q2, is a vacuum cleaner. Fosselius also created lasers by scratching them directly onto the film negative.

    In Brief: The Work of Gregg Barbanell, Hollywood Foley Artist

    The always-insightful Priceonomics blog profiles Gregg Barbanell, a master foley artist who has been creating sounds for film, TV, and video game productions for 35 years. The story chronicles Barbanell's career and notable work, with anecdotes about creating foley for projects like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Little Miss Sunshine. I like how Barbanell distills his job into three components: creating custom sounds for "cloth, feel, and props." To create the sound of footsteps, Barbanell has amassed a collection of over 100 pairs of shoes.

    Norman