Here is a very cool video showing how Frank Ippolito made a life-sized dragon. Capcom wanted the front portion of one of their video game monsters for their booth at the E3 gaming conference, so they turned to sculptor and special effects artist Ippolito to make it happen. Tested shot this video, which shows all the stages of the build, from planning to creating the structure, and from sculpting the foam to coating it with a hard shell. If you ever wanted to create your own life-size dragon, this video is a good place to start.
The Stan Winston School continues to post previews of their lessons offered at their online school. This series for building a life-size T-Rex head out of foam looks incredibly promising.
Well, I am off this weekend to Bucknell University, where I will be signing copies of my book during Homecoming Weekend. If you are in Central Pennsylvania, feel free to stop on by. I’ll try to post pictures and updates on my Twitter. I also have some stories I’ve found around the Internet this week:
Props master extraordinaire Jim Guy is profiled in yet another news article. He talks about how he got started, his favorite parts of the job, and how new people can begin a career in props.
LiveScience takes a look at the technology behind horror-movie monsters. Though it seems a lot of films just use CGI for everything, many effects are still practical. In fact, advances in technology have made it easier to use all sorts of prosthetic, animatronic and makeup effects for movies.
While we’re on monsters (it is nearly Halloween, after all), I enjoyed this article on a Philippine monster-making company. Their creatures are actually based on the characters from Philippine folklore, but done in a more-Western style.
The Credits talks with the makeup maestro for the new Carrie film. They discuss in detail how they did the infamous “pouring of blood” scene; it’s a little trickier than you might expect, but it led to a much more consistent result on-screen.
Finally, Non-Toxic Kids lays out ten reasons we need stronger laws about toxic chemicals. Though aimed at parents, the reasons are just as relevant to props people. While we may feel adequately informed about the dangers of industrial chemicals and supplies, we also use plenty of household cleaners and chemicals that you may not realize are also toxic.
You have only a little more than two weeks left to enter my Prop Building Guidebook Contest! Don’t wait until the last minute to enter. I also wanted to point out that a week from Monday (April 22nd), you can start voting for your favorite prop in the contest; tell your friends they can vote for your prop once per day until the contest ends on April 30th. In addition to winners in each of the individual categories, the prop with the most votes will win its own prize category, so vote early and vote often! And now, onto the links.
Here is a fantastic article about the guys at Spectral Motion, one of Hollywood’s finest creature shops. They’re responsible for most of the monsters in the Hellboy films, as well as for work in X-Men: Last Stand, Blade:Trinity, and this summer’s Pacific Rim. The article is replete with information about how they got started, what kind of work they do, and what inspires them. It is also heavily illustrated with photographs showing their workshop and the inner workings of some of their creatures. I especially love the following quote about why practical effects are still necessary in an era of digital mimicry:
“A lot of times people turn to digital solutions. That’s also good, if the application is correct. But, you know, a lot of directors that we talk to are of the mind that a practical effect is far better for exactly that reason–because the actor does have a co-actor to work with, to play off of, and to have feelings about.”
I came across this short interview with Mickey Pugh, prop master on films such as Saving Private Ryan and Last of the Mohicans.
From the prop masters email list this week comes Click Americana, an ongoing collection of vintage photos and ephemera from all decades of American history. You can search for specific topics or just browse through by decade, from the 1820s to the 1980s. It has a whole section dedicated to recipes, too, great for when you need to provide period food.
And finally, if you missed my Tweet this week, I shared this video looking at the blood effects in Trinity Rep’s Social Creatures, a “zombie” play now running. Production director Laura Smith and assistant props master Natalie Kearns show us how they make the blood and organs squirt and fly.
It’s hard to believe Jurassic Park came out 20 years ago this June. I remember lining up with my dad and brother to see the very first showing in our area when it debuted. I think it was around noon (I don’t think we had midnight premieres in those days). Now, you can catch the film again, this time in 3D.
While many of us remember Jurassic Park as a watershed moment in digital special effects, it’s worth pointing out that the animatronics used in the film were groundbreaking as well. Stan Winston Studios built essentially a full-size Tyrannosaurus Rex puppet controlled with hydraulics, which was virtually unheard of at the time (and has rarely been attempted since).
The building-of videos for the T Rex below are pretty incredible to watch. In addition to the technical challenges they overcame, a couple of other things are worth pointing out. First, most of the drawings for the build were hand drafted, because CAD was still in its infancy. Crazy, right? And although they had the means to build the skeleton out of either aluminum or carbon fiber, they opted for steel because that allowed them to instantly repair it on set if it were to break. I was also amazed at how they had to rebuild their shop to accommodate this monster (both in tearing out the concrete floor, and in literally raising the roof).
So check out the three videos below. Each is only four to four and a half minutes long. You may just gain a new appreciation of the film.