Big Sister final orthographics

Big Sister final orthographics
Photograph by Drew Crozier. Model Lindsey Lewis.

Bleep Bloop interview

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Finishing the helmet, and all the crap that I do

Yesterday was two days long, so I'll try to piece it back together as best I can.

No Tools For You
We had some shop access drama. Apparently there was a public art competition going on in the SCAD sculpture studio the next day, so we couldn't make a mess or use any machines. Well heck. That just about takes the fun out of the world. I don't know why they hate fun.

This effectively cut another day out of our already way-too-short schedule. So we did what we could with hand tools. Joe and Adam had picked up the Dow board and some great-looking gauges, so they were cranking away at carving the tank's metal rings. Riki stayed home at her and Chris's shop to keep making molds. I took apart one of the gauges and scraped off the brand name logo, then took some thin pipe threads, steel wool, and various other rough surfaces and aged them. One of them looked like it had a glass face plate, and I wondered if it had a protective film over it, and hence I could crack it and get a nice spiderweb pattern. I grabbed the extra one and found myself a hammer and chisel: Nope. No film. Just glass. Busted glass. Glass that would probably stab and kill me if I put it on the suit.

Cold Plaster
We cast a mold of my back and my right forearm (already did the left arm the other day) to sculpt the lower back plate and have forms upon which to construct the gauntlets.

Red Valves and Nipples
We set Danny to sculpting some new chest rope threads, as the ones Chris made turned out to be too large for the scale I wanted. They're the two nipply-looking bolts on the breastplate that rope gets threaded through from a crane or other structure, then the diver crouches down out of the helmet. They weren't quite tapered enough, but at this point we don't have time to redo them a third time.

I also had Danny take one of the stock pipe rotary valves and modify it with clay to get the three-pronged nuclear-looking symbol in the valve handle on the concept art. That's one of those seemingly insignificant details that I think helps sell the illusion and cohesiveness of the suit. If it just looks like we took a plumbing handle and slapped it on there, it takes you out of the world we're trying to create. Same thing happens with gloves and boots I see on a lot of costumes. There can be great sculpting and detail on the upper body, but then you see some store-bought un-modified footware and it kills the costume. So Chris will take the modified handle and cast a fiberglass copy, and it'll look a lot like the actual in-game valve.

Finishing The Helmet, Also What I Do
At a certain point there wasn't much Danny Joe and Adam could do without more supplies and tools, so I sent them home to rest up for the final push over the weekend. That left Chris and I to finish the helmet, and I finally got to do some sculpting. I've been wanting to get my hands in the clay, but I've so far spent all my time liasing with the client, building the team (of cats), designing and rescaling templates for fabrication, researching and ordering supplies, enforcing quality control so that everything is as real and accurate as possible in appearance and material, assigning tasks (to said cats), answering questions, solving problems, soothing the cats when they get testy, making tough decisions about not using a fabricator's handmade work that wasn't quite the look I wanted and who would have difficulty finishing on time with their particular methods and tools, and starting over with someone who has the equipment to get exactly what I need and done faster, to engineering how to make a non-existant conceptual design that needs to have no structural integrity or pay any attention to physics or human anatomy into a wearable system that keeps the proportional feel of the original and yet a real person could actually wear and would hold up to multiple wearings and be structurally sound and practical not to mention above and beyond on the awesome scale. Also, to make really long run-on sentences.

Chris has been invaluable in this regard. On of my favorite parts of the construction process is when we sit down with the artwork and a couple of the Big Sister toys (which all break at some point) and say, what can we make this widget out of? How can we get the tank attached to the backplate, so that it's removable for shipping or transport? How can we make our own braces? How do we make the helmet so that the wearer can move their head like Big Sis does in the game? How do we attach the cage to the tank? What do we make the cage out of so that it will stay still and not flex and wobble around with movement? Could we structure it in a way that if we wanted, we could get an actual little girl in there to play Little Sister? What the heck does this thing here do? How do we get the helmet on and latched? Where do we house the electronics? How heavy is the tank and cage going to be? How do we take this super top-heavy backpack and secure it to the wearer so it doesn't slide off from its own weight? How do we ground the costume in reality? How do we make the boots so that the costume can be worn by multiple people and not be super-uncomfortable?

Patterning and Grounding the Design
I'll talk a little bit more about the patterning and design process. Big Sister is simply anatomically busted. Her crotch is where a normal person's boobs would be. The proportions on her, while looking super sleek and awesome, are just not realistic to use as direct reference for patterning templates. Real people don't have legs and arms that long, their shoulders are not that narrow and their heads are not that small.

So the challenge becomes, how do we make this costume something someone could really wear, but still have the proportionate feel that the character has? This is where I really spend a lot of my time. Reworking and redrawing the reference and concept art to keep the feel but also fit on a person and be accurate enough for me to hand it to someone and say, make it so, and they have all the information they need to be successful. It's not going to be an exact proportion match, and it doesn't always work. We sometimes have to say, just eyeball it so it feels right. Normally, we'd put things together, see how they fit, then rework the fabrication till it's just right. In this job, however, we have only one shot because we only have two weeks [less than that, ultimately -N] to make and fit the entire thing.

Tomorrow is iron pour, and the peanut gallery is off at Casa de Ashby overnight due to the shop being closed for snow. Snow. In Atlanta. I moved south to get away from the snow. I think they lied to me. It's the South! It's Warm! You'll love it! Yay Sunshine!


In other news, Mona made some hot-damn-that's-good cereal bars that we've been devouring. It's like the perfect crunchy chewy sweet and salty treat. They're called MonaBars®.

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