The amazingly talented filmmaker Kirby Ferguson (Everything is a Remix) just released his take on the criticism that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just a rip off of Episode IV: A New Hope. This isn't a video comparing the similarities between the films--it's an analysis of why those parallels work in filmmaking, and how it's utilized for viewer satisfaction. Remember Ferguson's three basic elements of creativity: Copy, Transform, Combine!
This month, prop maker David Goldberg shares with us his build of a studio-scale replica of the Death Star laser tower from Star Wars. In Part 1, David explained sourcing reference images and creating a 3D model. Today, he dives into the fabrication of the tower and laser cannons.
While the some of the materials and construction methods used to build the original Death Star Laser Tower filming model are not known, it was most likely made of a core structure of either wood or Plexiglas covered with panels cut from styrene sheet. The original model also had a mechanical armature and motors inside it that would rotate the turret and move the barrels to simulate firing at the Rebel X-Wing fighters. I'm building a static, non-moving display model so an interior mechanism won't be needed. (At least for now. I've designed the casework in such a way that I can put a mechanism into it a later time if desired.)
I'm going to fabricate the model using a more high tech approach than was available to the modelmakers at ILM in the 70's. Rather than hand cut styrene panels to clad the core structure, I'm going to use a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) router to both cut out the structural components as well as cut panels lines into the surface using the .dxf drawing files exported from the 3D computer model.
The material from which I'll cut the casework is a special premium MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) ¼ inch thick made by Plum Creek. This material is similar to the fiberboard found at most home center and lumber stores except that it has a smoother surface and a denser, more consistent core. It's used mostly for making paint grade cabinets and signage and paints beautifully, even the cut edges.
The .dxf files were loaded into the computer that controls the CNC router. I use a software program called V Carve from Vectric. The .dxf files are imported into the program where the various cutting depths, speeds and bit sizes are determined. V Carve calculates and exports the "G-Code" which is a standard machine language used to control CNC machine. The G Code is then imported into a program called Mach 3 that actually sends the control signals to the stepper motors that drive the router.
The parts were cut out of the MDF sheet material with a ¼ inch diameter router bit and the panels lines routed into the surface with a 1/16 inch diameter bit.
Hello Tested! My name is Dave Goldberg. I've been a professional model maker working in the movie and television industry for more than thirty years. These days, most all of the visual effects shots that use to be done with models are done with computer graphics, but there is a movement of people, like myself, building Studio Scale replicas of classic models from old movies. Studio Scale is a term used to describe replica models that are the same size as the original filming models.
Like many people, Star Wars: A New Hope was a seminal film for me. It came out during my freshman year in college and immediately changed the direction of my education and career. From that moment on I wanted to build models for the movies. While I built models for many movies and televisions shows over the years I never got the opportunity to work for a Star Wars film. But now I can do the next best thing, build them for fun!
For this project I'll be making a studio scale replica of one of the Laser Towers from the Death Star seen during the final battle in the film. I am also excited to be making this an "Open Source" project. I'll be posting the model files for anyone to use freely for non-commercial purposes. They may be used to create your own model but not to create parts, kits or finished models for sale. The repository of model files is here.
These files are for the model as I will be building it outlined in this series of articles using CNC routing, laser cutting, kit bashing, some 3D printing and good ol' fashioned scratch building. However, if desired, a competent 3D modeler should be able to convert the master model so that the entire Tower can be 3D printed, either at Studio Scale or smaller.
In celebration of Star Trek's 50th anniversary, as well as the release of the upcoming Star Trek Beyond movie, Paramount Pictures is hosting a special fan event on its studio lot for fans of the show and films. And we're going to be there! Adam is emceeing the festivities, which will include debuting the new trailer and exclusive footage, interviews with the director, cast, and crew, and some pretty awesome surprises we can't reveal just yet. Paramount's ticket giveaway has now ended, but we have some tickets to give away to Tested readers. Follow us and Adam on Twitter to learn more about what we'll be doing there!
Members of the Tested Premium Community who are in the LA area and interested in going should also keep an eye out in their mailboxes in the coming days!
BB-8 replicas continue to impress us! We meet up with droid builder Mike Senna to take a look under the hood of his newest BB-8 robot replica. Mike, who first made a fully animated BB-8 in time for Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year, has now built a static model that is more practical for display and convention appearances. Here's how it works!
Like most aspects of visual effects, the art of movie matte painting has been transformed by technology, to the point that 'before digital' and 'after digital' techniques and end products seem only distantly related. Today, a matte painting can be a full environment – a three-dimensional collage of images and textures over, through and around which a camera, without film or lens, can be flown with total freedom. Not all that many years ago, a matte painting was … well, a painting.
Matte paintings were among the earliest visual effects tools; and for decades, filmmakers used variations on the theme to affordably alter and expand movie settings, both interior and exterior. The era of traditional matte painting was comprehensively and elegantly chronicled in The Invisible Art, by Mark Cotta Vaz and Craig Barron, published in 2002, a must-have volume for anyone with a love for the art and history of visual effects.
A companion volume now exists. Peter Ellenshaw, one of the Michelangelos of matte painting, has produced Ellenshaw Under Glass– a mammoth coffee-table book filled with photographs and artwork and recollections spanning the entirety of his 80-plus years. Ellenshaw suggests that his love of painting dates to his World War I childhood, when he and his sisters were hustled under a kitchen table, with paper and crayons to amuse themselves, whenever German zeppelins made bombing runs over London. Having taught himself to paint by copying the old masters, Ellenshaw eventually approached the only artist he knew of – pioneer matte painter and effects artist W. Percy Day.
Ellenshaw spent seven years with the curmudgeonly master, learning the art and craft of visual effects on high-profile Korda productions, before setting off on his own. Eventually his work caught the eye of Walt Disney, who hired him to do matte paintings on his first live-action films, produced in England. The artist recalls creating 62 matte shots in 27 weeks for one of them. With no firm prospect of employment, Ellenshaw moved his family to the United States, where he soon made a career for himself within the Disney organization, working closely with the studio's gruff patriarch, who took an almost fatherly interest in the ambitious young artist.
Ok, this is super cool. Phil Tippett just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his version of Holochess, the fictional game he created in stop-motion for Star Wars. It's called HoloGrid, and is an augmented reality collectible card game played with tablets and a boxed set of cards, with creatures designed by Tippett (including some sculpted for Mad God) and scanned with photogrammetry. I just backed it, and hope that it'll reach its stretch goal of getting a HoloLens and Magic Leap release!
From CNN's Great Big Story youtube channel, a visit to special effects studio ADI: "Meet Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis—they've been making movie monsters for Hollywood movies for the last 35 years at their company, Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. But you won't find any computer-generated effects at this studio. Tom and Alec design and create REAL creatures with their own two hands—and they also perform them." Find more behind-the-scenes videos of ADI's creature and animatronics work on their YouTube channel!
This is a rare treat: we get up close with the helmets and armor made by Ironhead Studio for films like Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War, and Tron: Legacy. Ironhead Studio founder Jose Fernandez, who has been designing and making film costumes for decades, chats with us about how superhero costume fabrication has evolved over the years.
We return to Monsterpalooza, one of favorite conventions to meet sculptors, painters, and makeup effects artists who share our love of creatures. Frank and Norm walk through the convention floor, catch up with friends, and share some of the awesome art on display at this year's show!
For this week's One Day Build, Adam digs up a garage kit that he's been looking forward to putting together for a while: a bolt from The Iron Giant! We get to assembling the electronics of the kit, and then Adam and Norm each take different approaches for the painting and finishing. Watch a bonus video from this build here, in which we tour Adam's electronics station!
From Wired: "A tour from veteran Foley artist John Roesch of the Skywalker's custom built soundstage. Roesch reveals some of the strangest audio props that were used in films like 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit,' 'Back to the Future' and 'Braveheart’."
As you're probably aware, Guillermo del Toro has been amassing a collection of film props, replicas, sculptures, and other art pieces in his famous cave, known as the Bleak House (some of Adam's props live there!). This summer, part of that collection is going on tour in a travelling museum exhibit, starting at Los Angeles' LACMA. The director calls it "an exhibit of my movie stuff", and the show will be organized by themes that inspire his films and creative process. After showing at the LACMA until the end of this year, the exhibit will travel to Minneapolis and Toronto, and possibly other cities. While we wait for the the exhibit's July opening, you can find some glimpses of the Bleak House in del Toro's wonderful Cabinet of Curiosities book.
The word "dinosaur" was coined by Victorian naturalist Sir Richard Owen in 1841. Derived from the Greek, it means "terrible lizard". The modern meaning is, of course, "humongous slavering monster that tramples the getaway car, eats the supporting actor and fills the IMAX screen from top to bottom."
As well as giving dinosaurs their name, Owen was one of the first to recognize their entertainment potential. In 1852, following London's Great Exhibition, he oversaw the creation of 33 life-size concrete dinosaur sculptures. After the giant models had been artistically placed in parkland surrounding Crystal Palace, Owen hosted a flamboyant dinner party inside the hollow mold that had been used to make the Iguanodon.
After that, dinosaurs swiftly rampaged through popular culture, including early cinema. In 1925, Willis O'Brien – one of the earliest visual effects practitioners – chose them as a subject for his revolutionary stop motion animation techniques in The Lost World, a film which took Owen's Victorian concept of the dinosaur tableau and made it live and breathe.
For nearly seventy years, stop motion remained the technique of choice for bringing extinct creatures to life. In 1953, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms saw Ray Harryhausen using O'Brien's methods to resurrect a long-dormant Rhedosaurus – a fictional dinosaur awoken from its slumber by an A-bomb test.
More Harryhausen dinosaurs followed in 1966, when One Million Years B.C. showcased his Dynamation process in glorious Technicolor. Three years later, he repeated the trick yet again with The Valley of Gwangi. Impressive though Gwangi's dinosaurs were, the film ultimately lacked the box office bite of its prehistoric predecessor (perhaps because it swapped Raquel Welch in a leather bikini for a bunch of cowboys).
From British Pathe, a YouTube channel repository of 20th century archival footage, a 1967 short educational film about the making of dinosaur puppets for stop-motion animation. It covers the sculpting, molding, and casting of the models--some things just haven't changed! (Though the use of a skeleton for the puppet armature is suspect.)