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    In Brief: Photos from the Blade Runner Model Shop

    Not sure about the origins of this gallery, but 142 photos of the models and miniatures shop for Blade Runner popped up online a few days ago. There are plenty of close-up shots of vehicles like Police and civilian Spinners seen in the film, showing off Syd Mead's beautiful designs. Other highlights include the making of the Offworld Blimp (which modelmaker Jason Eaton has faithfully recreated) and the fiber optic light laden headquarters of the Tyrell Corporation. Coinciding with the discovery of these photos, Popular Mechanics republished a retrospective of Blade Runner's special effects, written by none other than Adam!

    Norman 3
    The Whitney Family: Pioneers in Computer Animation

    The special effects you see in films today are the result of a collaboration between sometimes hundreds of different artist, animators, and engineers. It's a team-effort, and no one person gets all the credit. But in the very early days of computer animation, being a pioneer in the field could make you a star in your own right, at least in the eyes of directors. While John Whitney’s name may not be as recognizable as, say, John Lasseter, but among computer animation artists he is a legendary figure who paved the way for modern special effects.

    Before we all had home computers, Whitney was a pioneer in the art of CGI, a medium he naturally moved into as an experimental filmmaker. His son, John Whitney Jr., tells us that his father was “never married to any particular methodology or technology. His interest was always on the filmmaking. He followed a never-ending search for an instrument, a technology, or a methodology to getting his ideas on the screen.”

    Whitney Sr. created slit scan, a split-screen effect with cascading images on both sides of the screen, which made its way into 2001. The Whitneys also got two minutes of computer animation into Westworld, going all the way back to 1973. Years later, Whitney Jr. was responsible over twenty minutes of computer animation in The Last Starfighter.

    Whitney had been making animated experimental films since the ‘40’s. He started the company Motion Graphics in 1960, and created his own analog computer. Whitey Sr. invented motion control camera work, and he turned military equipment, like anti-aircraft gun directors, which utilized analog computers, into filmmaking gear. (Whitney first utilized motion control in the spiraling open credits sequence of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.)

    Whitney’s experimental films include Catalog (1961), Matrix III (1972), and Arabesque (1975), which all showed his artistry with computer generated animation. His work would prove very inspiring to a generation of future animators, as well as his immediate family.

    Where a lot of children rebel against following in the footsteps of their parents, Whitney Jr. knew that experimental filmmaking was in his blood. “There was no doubt in my mind what I wanted to do,” he says. “I had already made a career choice by the time I got out of high school, which was make abstract films.”

    Some engineers would see this would be the way of the future, and they hooked up with the Whitneys because they were the leaders in the field before anyone even knew a field existed. “John had a great vision,” says Larry Cuba, an animation artist who was first inspired to go digital by Whitney. “He could see all the way into today. It was pretty clear what was coming.”

    But at the time, getting access to a computer was very difficult. The Cray mainframe computers were the fastest for the time, but it would still take all night to get the work done. Even if a company would let you use their computer for a movie, you had to sneak in and do it on the nights and weekends so you wouldn’t disrupt the company’s business.

    The Leviathan Sci-Fi Concept Trailer

    This three-minute sci-fi short film has been getting a lot of play, and the attention is well-deserved. Produced as a concept pitch for a full-length feature, the short is stuffed with beautiful visual design and animated action. Plus a giant flying space whale. It was directed by Ruairi Robinson, who at one point was working with our pal Gary Whitta on the Akira live-action adaptation. So there's your Tested connection! (h/t Boingboing)

    My Shining Maze Build Notes

    I didn’t intend to make a replica of the architectural model of the hedge maze from The Shining.

    Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of my all-time favorite horror movies. There’s an exhibition from the Kubrick archives traveling around the world right now, and I’ve seen it three times in two cities so far. Twice at LACMA in Los Angeles and again at the TIFF in Toronto. There’s a whole section in the exhibit devoted to The Shining, and in that section, I started for some reason to get excited about the Overlook Hotel maze. It’s such an iconic character in the film, and one of the ways in which the film departs significantly from the book. I also took note that the maze they had in their exhibit didn’t meet my standards for accuracy. So I started to gather information, with the idea that I might make my own.

    The film is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name and follows a family: Jack, Wendy and Danny Torrance as they take on the task of being winter caretakers of the legendary (and fictional) Overlook Hotel. The Overlook is a hotel with a history. Jack is even told in his job interview that there is a history of caretakers getting “cabin fever” and murdering their families. The Overlook is a malevolent entity with designs of its own for Jack.

    The Overlook was designed for the film by legendary art director Roy Walker, and is based in part on several different real hotels. The first flyover shot of the Overlook is in fact a shot of the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in Oregon.

    For the rest of the exteriors (with actors in front of the building), a facade of the Timberline was built on the Elstree lot in England.

    The interiors were all sets built at Elstree. For research Kubrick sent his people to hotels all over the United States to find inspiration for the interiors. The main room Jack does his writing (called the Colorado Lounge in the film) was inspired (like a lot of other details about the Overlook) by the Great Lounge in the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, Calif.

    The Red Bathroom in which Jack meets Grady (one of the former, ahem, caretakers) was modeled after the bathroom at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Biltmore Hotel in Arizona.

    From theoverlookhotel.com: "Many Overlook Hotel design elements were lifted directly from the Awahnee, including the double red doors, the hotel lobby, the Colorado Lounge, and the pervasive Native American motifs. These photographs of the Awahnee illustrate just how strongly it influenced much of the Overlook’s interior design."

    A note about theoverlookhotel.com: It’s run by my new friend Lee Unkrich, Pixar director and fellow Kubrick obsessive. He provided me with some incredible research, archival material and information that allowed me to make this maze FAR more accurate than would have been possible otherwise. His help has been invaluable.

    Giveaway: Ender's Game Props and Costume

    To promote its upcoming March 9th auction of over 400 original props and costumes from the 2013 film Ender's Game, Prop Store sent over a few small props from the film for us to give away to Tested readers. (That's you!) The props package includes a Dragon Army patch set (left and right) worn by officers at the Battle School, an original military school beret, and tags for an extra named Hendee (I believe based on Ender's Game producer Lynn Hendee). The props were worn by extra Larry Kramer, whose name is written on the back of the name tag. (Kramer was also apparently the Dean of Stanford Law who scored a walk-on part in the film).

    To enter to win, just place a comment below and we'll pick a random winner after the auction ends on March 20th. You can find a few more pictures of the props below. Be sure to check out Prop Store's Enders Game online auction this coming Monday at 9AM PST.

    Show and Tell: Replica Starfleet Tricorder

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares his love of the Star Trek Tricorder prop that was built for The Next Generation show and subsequent Trek series and films. The props used for production were upgraded over time with better electronics, and Roddenberry's new Mark IX Tricoder is a fine replica of the ones seen in First Contact.

    In-Depth: Replicating 'The Shining's' Overlook Maze Model

    Adam Savage's replica of The Overlook Maze model from The Shining is one of his more complex projects in recent memory, given the timetable required for the build and the sheer amount of focused work needed for it. Adam, Will, and Norm sit down to discuss the planning and execution of the replica, running through Adam's research, in-progress photos, and documentation. Be sure to first watch the full video showing off the project!

    Photo Gallery: Adam Savage's Overlook Hotel Maze Model

    A few photos from the build, as well as the pictures from our photo session before shipping Adam's Overlook Maze model off to the next stop of the <a href="http://www.stanleykubrick.de/en/ausstellungstour-exhibition-on-tour/">Stanley Kubrick travelling exhibition</a> in Mexico!

    Adam Savage's Overlook Hotel Maze Model

    Over the span of a month, Adam designed and built an accurate replica of the hedge maze architectural model from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. The maze model, as seen in The Overlook Hotel, is only seen briefly, but reference screenshots from throughout the film allowed Adam to painstakingly recreate it. The project ended up as one of Adam's more labor-intensive builds in recent memory! (Watch our follow-up in-depth discussion of this maze build here.)

    A Peek Inside Warner Bros' Prop Vault

    If you can forgive the campy presentation, CNN's tour of the Warner Bros. prop archive is pretty neat. I've seen plenty of videos of the props and costumes on display at the Warner Bros. studio tour in Hollywood, but this warehouse of wardrobe and vehicles from films like Gravity, The Dark Knight, and Harry Potter is like the propmaker's version of Raiders of the Lost Ark's Hanger 51. Some additional photos from that visit here.

    The Practical Special Effects of Robocop

    I'm not sure about the origins of this featurette (it may have been for an old DVD release in the late 90s or early 2000s) but it's an awesome behind-the-scenes look at the practical effects produced for the original Robocop. Interviews with matte painter Rocco Gioffre, designer Craig Hayes (who built ED-209), production designer William Sandell, and of course animator Phil Tippett paint a comprehensive picture of the production process. There's some interesting insight into how these artists didn't just employ techniques like matte paintings and stop-motion animation, they invented some in-camera innovations just for the film. (h/t Reddit)

    Using 3D Printing to Prototype Hollywood Costumes

    For a segment on movie production and video games, UK's Sky News visited Shepperton Studios to speak with different propmakers about the use of 3D printing for Hollywood costume. 3D printing as a tool for prototyping helmets, armor, and weapons is something that both professional and amateur propmakers have been tinkering with in recent years, and it's neat to see familiar props from films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Prometheus at these workshops. Aside from the Objets in use at fabrication shops like IPFL, many of the tools users are available to consumers. For example, the AgiSoft's photogrammetry software we used for our papercraft head models last year is the same used at FBFX for modeling actors for digital prop fittings.

    Show and Tell: R2-D2 Sixth Scale Figure

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares a new figure created by Sideshow Collectibles in their Star Wars line of sixth scale replicas. This is one of the finest R2-D2 reproductions we've seen at this size, with articulating dome, touch-activated lights, magnetic panels, and plenty of accessories. All its missing is sound effects--you'll have to provide the beeps and boops yourself.

    Weta's Performance Capture and City Building Tools

    Weta Digital is up for an Academy Award for the company's visual effects work on last year's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The film has some of the best digital characters I've seen on screen, and this video from Weta explains how that was made possible with a combination of new performance capture tools and manual animation. These digital performances are always a collaboration between actor and animator, even though the two may never meet. The brief explanation of how Weta artists built the apocalyptic San Francisco is also really interesting. For further reading, Digitaltrends has a more in-depth examination of the technologies used for the film.

    How To Make Kill Bill's 'FUCK U' Shoes

    In Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, one detail that appears on-screen for only a second are the soles of Uma Thurman's shoes. Those sneakers aren't off-the-shelf Onitsuka Tigers--they have the phase "FUCK U" molded right into the treading. It's a prop we've wanted to replicate for a long time, and we're finally able to do it with the help of effects artist Frank Ippolito. Here's how you can make your own pair! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    The Puppeteers Inside Jabba the Hutt

    This is awesome. Filmmaker Jamie Benning interviewed puppeteer Toby Philpott about the puppeteering of Jabba the Hutt for Return of the Jedi for this short documentary. The behind-the-scenes footage from inside Jabba is incredible--four people worked together to bring him to life. Quite a bit more complicated than the inflatable Jabba used in George Lucas' Super Live Adventure show. (h/t Gizmodo)

    Shooting The Aerial Stunts of 'Jupiter Ascending'

    Despite the film's tepid reviews (currently 22% on RottenTomatoes), I was compelled to watch the Wachowski siblings' new film Jupiter Ascending this weekend. It was partially due to Angela Watercutter's recent Wired column reminding me that no one makes films like the Wachowskis, even if they're more often misses than hits, of late. They're masterful world builders, and can spend $150 million to show you things you've never seen before on film. Among those in this movie: badass space cops, robot bureaucrats, evolved dinosaur soldiers, and perhaps the most technically impressive chase sequence I've ever seen. Closing the first act of the film is an extended aerial chase through the skyline of Chicago in the minutes during daybreak. Gizmodo reports that this sequence was shot in six-minute increments over a span of six months, using a custom helicopter-mounted camera rig that both stabilized the shooting and meshed together footage from six 5K RED Epics. Bullet-time for cityscapes.

    In the final cut, what made the scene look so incredible was that the background plate was actual footage of Chicago, not a CG recreation as is often the case. Think about a film like Man of Steel or even Matrix Revolutions, where the aerial fights are composites of either CG actors in miniature sets, blue-screen actors on top of CG sets, or completely computer generated. Superman fighting Zod through Metropolis' skyscrapers doesn't feel real because those buildings aren't real--there's a false sense of space. In Jupiter Ascending, stunt actors were actually dangling on helicopters flying at 50 mph while being filmed with the custom rig. You get a real sense of space and place, and it's exhilarating.

    Pictorvision, the makers of the Multicam Array, have since offered their services for films like this year's Avengers 2 and Furious 7, which may explain how they shot that ridiculous car-crashing skyscraper sequence in the latter film's recent superbowl ad.