Monday, November 23, 2009

Aquarium Photoshoot!

We did it! After two months of back-and-forth with the PR reps at the Georgia Aquarium, we were allowed to bring Big Daddy in for a photoshoot!

This was a colossal effort, and just like the original display of the piece, several hands went into making it happen. Much thanks to my friend Kim and Jay for getting up at 5am to come with us and be our handlers, to the Georgia Aquarium staff for this amazing opportunity, and to Matt Nicholson (and his fiancée!) of Dim Horizon Studio for doing such fantastic photography and editing.

Big Daddy is currently for sale! Check this eBay listing, which ends on 12/03/09 - just in time for the holidays! Nothing says "I love you" quite like a hulking murder machine.

I hope you guys enjoy these photos as much as I have been.

Edit: 11.24.09 - Select wallpaper sized files now available for download!

Wallpaper Sized photos of the above:
1280 x 1024
1680 x 1050
2048 x 1152
2272 x 1704

Wallpaper Sized photos of the above:
1280 x 1024
1680 x 1050
2048 x 1152
2272 x 1704

For those interested, these pictures were taken in the "Ocean Voyager" and "Tropical Diver" sections of the Georgia Aquarium. They do offer private photoshoots for individuals and businesses, and they take place before business hours so you can have a crowd-free session. Our photoshoot took place between 8 and 10am, so we didn't disturb the normal flow of customer traffic. If you want to contact the Georgia Aquarium about doing a private photoshoot of your own, check out this form.

There were divers cleaning the insides of the tanks when we first arrived, and as we began our shoot, some of them started to crowd around and look at what was taking place. Definitely an odd experience when you're the one being looked at from the inside of the fish tank.

Its easy to see the biggest change in the suit: LEDs! I added light diffusion panels to the dome of the Big Daddy for this shoot, and I'm very glad I did. I also added foam padding around the shoulders, hips, and knees in order to fill out the suit a bit more and prevent that stick-like effect that showed up in some of the photography from DragonCon.

As with before, I owe all the sewing credit to my fiancée, Emily. She's also the creepy-as-hell Little Sister in these shots.

Wallpaper Sized photos of the above:
1280 x 1024
1680 x 1050
2048 x 1152
2272 x 1704

Wallpaper Sized photos of the above:
1280 x 1024
1680 x 1050
2048 x 1152
2272 x 1704

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Daft Punk replica Q. & A.

WOW! I have been getting a TON of requests/inquiries about the Daft Punk helmet. Most of these emails have very similar questions, so I figured I'd make a quick Q&A post that I can reference which will hopefully answer everyone at once.

If you don't want to read all the copy below, I don't blame you. I do tend to ramble.

Summary: I don't build things for money. I enjoy the process, the creative output, and the feeling when a new build comes together. This is the primary reason you see me decline so many offers for Portal guns, Daft Punk helmets, and anything else I've made in the past. I already have a 9-to-5 job that offers a multitude of repetitive tasks. I have absolutely no interest in turning my hobby into the same thing.

Due to this, I only have intentions to build a handful of the helmets, then step away and let other people try their hand at creating these glittering buckets.

Q: Is the helmet for sale?

A: No, this helmet was built for a client of mine and was constructed specifically for him. Unless he wants to sell it (not likely!) it is not available for purchase.

Q: Will you make me a helmet/are there other replicas you're willing to sell?

A: No. Many people have noted that in the background of several shots you'll see multiple helmets and blank castings. Some of these are even chromed. Over the course of this build, I've taken orders for blank copies in order to fund the remainder of the project, as it is an expensive piece to finish. The rest of my money goes towards rent and bills, so this hobby needs its funding from somewhere. As for the other chrome ones, those are duds from the chroming process. They're deformed and therefore unfit to sell.

Q: Will you make/Have you made Thomas' helmet?

A: A Thomas helmet is currently in the works, and you can use this FAQ as reference for that project as well. There are only a handful being produced, and they have owners.

Q: Can I buy a raw cast from the mold to make a helmet on my own?

A: Currently, no. I'm hesitant about taking on a lot of "blank" orders, as I do not own reproduction rights for these pieces. As I said before, helmets are only sold when I need funding for the project. Due to this, they are few and far between.

Q: Can I have your schematics/plans/illustrations/research notes?

A: On some scale, yes. My schematics are included in my client's budget; this is the case with all of my builds. Their payments cover the time in research and drawing of these plans. If you like, I can provide you with hi-res .eps, .pdf, or .ai files to help you in your build for a small fee. Keep in mind that typically these blueprints are the result of several hours of research and planning, then even more time drawing. The electronic boards and diagrams are not for sale, however. This isn't due to any proprietary thing, they're just a huge mess and very specific, and I don't have time to run tech support for people that want to buy them. To save us all some headache, I've just decided not to release the files.

If you're interested in the Arduino code used to generate the patterns on the helmet, please check out James Moss' website here. James is a programmer and web developer in the UK, and the extraordinarily talented guy responsible for the illumination control of Guy's helmet. He's released the code for public download to anyone who wants to take a crack at it!

I hope that answers some of the questions I've been getting about the helmet, and I truly am appreciative of all the attention its been getting. If I had the ability to make one for every person who has asked, I would! However, I am only one guy, working in his spare time at home. I can't possibly take orders for dozens of replicas, and I'm just plain uneasy about booking out time way too far in advance. To everyone who has asked me about these replicas: Thank You for your interest and your support of my work! Again, I really wish I could help out all the people who have sent me inquiries, but one guy can only do so much.

Finally, because I hate posts without pictures, here's a few images to tide everyone over until I can send out some finished shots of the helmet in all its blinking glory:

And one teaser video...

I'll explain all of these in the next entry of the Daft Punk helmet saga; Part 3: Electronics!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Daft Punk helmet, part 2

EDIT: For information regarding replicas of this prop, please see THIS POST

In the last post I had about this build, I ended with the finished master, ready for molding:

Silicone, silicone, silicone. Layered in stages, with registration keys and marks for the mother mold.

The mother mold was made with Plasti-paste. In retrospect, this makes for a very heavy mold that gives you some sore shoulders after slushcasting, and fiberglass may have been a better idea. At least its sturdy!

The detail captured in the silicone was perfect!

Some resin pulls. I started off with smoothcast 320, but it proved difficult to make a nice, thin pull. After switching to smoothcast 300, things got a bit more to my liking.

Couldn't help walking around in one.

I trimmed out a casting of the visor to make the vacuum-former mold for the visors. This was mounted to a flat board so PETG plastic could be pulled over it.

Ear areas were trimmed out for the LEDs and black plate that sits in the cones.

The trimmed and sanded helmets were given a coat of primer and wet sanded to take out any minor imperfections in the resin surface.

I need to take a minute aside here to go on a personal rant, and I apologize in advance for that because the last thing I want my blog to become is my own personal soapbox. This project is a large and complex one, and due to that there were certain things I had to farm out to other vendors and craftsmen. Specifically, the chrome gold plating of the resin and the vacuum-forming of the visors. I don't possess the tooling to do either of these, so I had to look elsewhere.

Initially, I had planned on going to M&M Metalizing for my gold chrome work. Over the phone estimates placed the process at $125 per helmet. I agreed, and sent two of the ones you see above (wetsanded and prepped) for finishing. The day after sending the package and an email confirming they were en route with tracking number, I received a phonecall from M&M. The price had risen to $175 per helmet, without much in the way of explanation. I was in a bind an under a deadline, and I agreed.

The day the package was arrived, I got another call saying that gold plating carried an additional $25 surcharge per part. This increased my original price of $250 for 2 helmets to now $400, plus return shipping. Angry, I requested they be shipped to another company for plating. M&M then charged me (COD with no invoice) $100 for 2-day return shipping. Next-day air had cost me $46 less than a week before.

This is the condition the helmets arrived in at the other shop:

You can see the damage to certain areas noted by the arrows (larger version here) The helmets were not packaged in the box; merely thrown on top of the wrapping I had sent previously (they had been sent out by me wrapped very carefully in foam and bubble wrap to prevent the above from happening.) Additionally, the helmets themselves were greasy with fingerprints and other oils, which would have caused major imperfections in the finish.

I offer this story as an caution – and hopefully warnings like this will come infrequently – to anyone who reads these posts of mine looking for similar processes. As someone who relies very heavily on reputation in order to have a continued supply of business, I don't see how anyone can operate in this manner. My contact there was generally abrasive on the phone, and obviously cared very little for my continued patronage.

Mike (BlindSquirrel), a fellow prop builder over at My Dumb Projects, took care of the vac-forming for me. Mike is a fantastic guy, an amazing craftsman, and his work on this project well exceeded my expectations. Actually, his patience was the best part, as my mold proved to be a frustrating piece of kit to work with (mostly because I didn't know how to build a proper vacuum-former mold) Eventually he worked out the kinks, with stellar results:

The visor was tinted on the inside with car tail-light paint, called "VHT Nightshades" The result is a nearly opaque outer appearance, but only a tinting similar to dark sunglasses from the inside. This visor, like the rest of the helmet in this post, is a test piece. You'll notice some webbing in the PET plastic in the images. No sense testing the tint on a shiny, perfect piece!

The back wire "hair" is a test piece for now, built with pieces I have laying about from other various projects. The actual plastic dome is built from the excess resin used trimmed out of the visor area. Currently the colors are incorrect, but this is just a "proof of theory" piece.

New Chrome!
The gold plating done in these shots was completed by "E7 Technologies" and is a process called Cosmichrome. While we're still getting some small issues worked out, this is a very cool technique. The people at E7 are everything that M&M are not. They have helped me and been very accommodating through the entire process, and have been willing to run test pieces for me in order to achieve the best result. The images below are a shot of the "dud" helmet, which had too much orangepeel and issues with the finish to be called a success.

Neat video of the chroming process:

Part three should be the final chapter in this build, with everything coming together. Look for it around Halloween!

Still to come....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fallout 3 AER9 Laser Rifle

EDIT: I'm currently working on a bit of a redesign here. Apologies of the site looks like crap for a little while.

A commission came to me very, very last minute for a good friend of mine. He was planning on doing a Vault Dweller costume from Fallout 3, and needed a weapon in a month. Unfortunately I had other commissions, deadlines, and large projects to finish in that span of time. I looked at my schedule, decided I could shave off some sleep, and promised him 30 hours of build time. What follows is the result of that hurried errand.

First, as always, I put together some blueprints. These are fairly low-detail, but work well for the scope of what I'm doing with this build. After this build was about 80% finished, I was pointed in the direction of currently-existing and much better and more accurate blueprints, but thats a story for when I take on this project again in the future and give it the proper time it deserves.

In order to save time, my friend came over and traced my blueprints onto MDF. I taught him how to use a bandsaw (nothing like a crash course in something that can leave you fingerless!) and he went to town rough-cutting the shapes I'd refine later into the gun. Here's where we started:

Impressive, right? I had a sick idea of just scotch-taping all these together, painting the whole thing silver, and handing it to him the day of the convention... but I'm not that mean. Ignore the lighter pieces near the bottom - those are part of another build.

After cleaning up the cuts on a belt sander, I began the assembly of the main body in the 2 most prominent parts - the square "barrel" and the rear stock. These are both made from 1/2" MDF. The barrel has a few sections cut out for the microfusion cell...

...and a space for the rear stock and lower receiver to mount

I used a table router to re-shape the holes in the stock and bevel the edges. This was also a low-budget build, so I didn't have the liberty of going out and buying fancy new holesaws.

The lower support rod was made out of varying sized of pine dowel, threaded over a 1/4" aluminum bar.

The front grip was made from 2 pieces of 3/4" MDF, screwed together and shaped on a belt sander. Styrene will eventually make up the grip texture.

The microfusion cell was pieced together from some pre-existing elements. I had a small dome mold that I'm using on another project that happened to be pretty close. I pulled two of these and epoxied them around some 2" PVC pipe. MDF discs were affixed to the main body to make the housing around the cell.

At this point, it started to resemble the final product! This is about 6 hours into the build (Yes, I'm using "build" as a noun! Colloquial English; take that grammar sticklers!)

Styrene was added to the lower grip, as well as the cell eject lever and front barrel area for the raised textures

The upper barrel pipe was made out of 3/8" steel pipe. This terminates into a lathed pine dowel glued to the barrel corner

If you're wondering why some of these shots are so dark, recall that the "extra time" I found to build this came when I should have been sleeping. The bulk of this project was done between 10pm and 1am on most days...

After a coat of primer and some sanding, I started scribing panel lines with a dremel tool, and adding screw recesses around the front of the barrel.

Other details were added in MDF around the cell loading chamber, and the rear part of this area was faired down into the barrel of the gun with apoxie sculpt. I also added the raised pucks on the grip and stock.

Recessed areas were drilled into the gun and filled with countersunk phillips screws

More styrene and MDF pieces were added to the barrel and rear area of the gun to build up the details in these areas. The shapes of these were largely improvised, as by this point I only had 4 days left until my deadline with many other projects that needed completing.

After this, the whole gun received a coat of gray primer to seal the remaining exposed wood.

The first coat of paint went on shortly after the above finished drying. I used Krylon hammered silver, followed by a coat of Testor's Olive Drab on the main barrel.

Fortunately for me, these guns are supposed to be 200+ years old in the Fallout 3 universe. That means its time for my favorite thing of all... heavy weathering!

The basecoat of weathering was done with acrylic paints and matte gel medium. I did an initial coat of black, followed by browns and greens to simulate dirt and corrosion.

After this dried, I gave the whole piece drybrush silver accents to simulate wear and tear from the wastelands. chipping away at the paint and caked-on dirt. The finished piece has a nice shimmer to the metallic silver drybrush, which simulates metal rather well.

Finally, some more shots of the finished product from a few different angles. I'm still looking for a good way to transfer my vector decals to the gun. I tried water-slide as with my Portal gun build, but yellow ink on top of dark green showed up very poorly. There are a lot of details missing from the final product, so I want to return to this prop someday and build it without such an insane time restriction!

I really wish I could have given this project a bit more time and been more dedicated to the intricate detail this gun has, but for a 4 day build this turned out better than I could have hoped.

Happy Super Mutant Hunting!

Wait. know... I had this whole thing written out, and then I went to preview the blog entry, and something just didn't look right. The rifle was weathered, but it still looked too clean on that white background. The graphics of the Fallout games do a good job of making the weapons look blackened, but I felt like this needed a bit more.

I went back after thinking about it, and decided to add some rust to the AER9. The shots above is how the gun was delivered and shown at the convention. Here's how it sits now:

And, just for the hell of it, a modified version of one shot in the "Fallout 3" graphic style:

(Higher res pic HERE, and more high-res shots of the build process available on my flickr page)

Ok, NOW we're done!