Monthly Archives: May 2011

Pimp My Ride

Remember back in the day when I was really stoked about this lightjet for Morphology?

Light jet

Click to embiggen.

Well, I haven’t worked on it in a long while. There’s a reason for that. The plan doesn’t work. I don’t have enough faith that I can actually properly shoot footage of myself against greenscreen well enough to make it look like I’m legitimately on the jet. And since this shot is going to be part of the opening of the flick, I really need to make that shot work. I need a light jet that has a sort of canopy on it so that I don’t end up having to try to track myself onto the open-canopy jet.

So here’s what’s happening right now. Going back to the mashup philosophy that I had originally, I’ve kitbashed the lightjet with not only the Spitfire, but also Kevin Flynn’s lightcycle from Legacy and the CF-100. So I took a bunch of the pieces that I was after from these things:

…and bashed them together.

Niko’s Lightjet version 2. Click to embiggen.

I’m still not quite happy with this. And there are elements missing. Texture, obviously. And detailing.

And… the front. Oh, god, the front. It’s the curse of this thing. I haven’t been able to get it right yet and it’s frustrating. I think what I’m going to have to do is really borrow liberally from the lightcycle. There is precedent:

Created from a modified Light Cycle, these aircraft soon became the backbone of Clu’s shock-and-awe fleet. The Light Jet is a cannon-mounted aircraft used for pacification and elimination. Like the Light Cycle, these single-manned jets emit a wall of light in their wake as they fly across the Grid. The depth, power and skill of the individual pilot increases the range and effectiveness of these jets. Clu hasn’t used the light jets extensively: they required too much power to create and maintain, and trained pilots could be better used as sentries or Black Guards.

This is from the Tron: Legacy website via the Tron wiki.

If I curve the front end down more, and extend the canopy window further towards the nose of the aircraft, I think that I can turn the front end into a shape that more closely emulates Flynn’s lightcycle. And then I can get rid of that ugly nose.

Sounds like a plastic surgery ad…

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals.


Everybody Likes Videos!

So we take video of pretty much EVERYTHING we do while working on Morphology. And I’m going to share the funny bits with you, my beloved blawg readers, because, well, they’re funny.

Production Meeting Goes Bananas

Lesley Does Her Own Stunts

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals.


I Think I Finally Have a Costume

As I mentioned in the last post (Design Crazy), one of the benefits of our ever-slipping shoot date means that I can keep revising our original plans. Niko, my character, the terrorist program created by the Isomorphs to fight against Clu’s forces, has only had fragments of a costume until now, only ever visualized in really uber-crappy, nauseating, gag-inducing sketches.

It might have been drawn in 40 seconds with a fat Sharpie and a silver pen, but that’s no excuse for crappiness.

He originally just had a turtleneck thing. Then a coat. Then a parakeet. Then a Venetian blind. Seriously, guys, it was a bad scene. I’m pretty sure at one point I just gave up entirely and decided I’d shoot the movie totally naked and just put the Tron-style glow over my naughty bits.

Fortunately for my career (and unfortunately for the ladies), I think I’ve finally come up with something half-decent. It started when I finally cracked the back of what my helmet would look like when our cinematographer observed that I have a pretty face (when I’m not grimacing at terrible costume designs) and shouldn’t cover it completely.

Niko's Helmet

This was when Niko still had a coat. It is now way too warm for that.

Anyway, I got back to drawing tonight because I needed something new. I couldn’t be fighting Kadij looking like crap. Not when Lesley was going to be covered from head to toe in TOTAL SCREAMING AWESOME. And to revise what I just wrote a moment ago: I need something. Because Niko really had nothing. Seriously lamesauce. So I came up with this.

Niko now looks less like a pair of Tron-licensed pyjamas and more like a badass.

Oh yeah–click any of these to embiggen, by the way, as per usual.

Now, I’ve done two things with this costume design. One, set the tone for the costume so I can, you know, make the damn thing. But I’ve also set a fitness goal for myself in this drawing, and I’m more or less on the road to getting there thanks to a renewed interest in P90X. I’m hopeful that I can hit the tone hinted at in this drawing, particularly the well-defined shoulders.

With still several weeks to go until shooting, I think I can get there.

What else, now.

Oh yes: tomorrow night (May 17) Lesley and I are meeting with Amber to go over shots, continue storyboarding, keep planning, etc. This weekend, May 21, Lesley, Amber, and I are meeting with our extras, Flynn, Greg, and Luc, to rehearse, fit costumes, and generally ensure that this project will be freaking awesome.

I am going to bail now and do something totally unrelated in any way to Tron.

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals,


Design Crazy

Well, ladies and gents, it’s once again time to talk about TRON.

Morphology is apparently like the most elusive critter the Crocodile Hunter could have ever spotted. No sooner than he says “Crikey!” it’s scurried off again, without even giving him time to say “She’s a beaut, ain’t she!” Or whatever it is that Steve Irwin said before he got stungrayed by that stingray. I don’t actually really know anything about him, except that he got shivved by a goofy-looking fish and that’s sad but also kind of fantastic.

Anyway, Tron: Morphology is clipping ahead, but the shoot date is slipping again. That’s kind of a good thing. Actually it’s kind of an awesome thing, to be honest. It will give me time to make the costumes way better than we’d initially planned and it will mean that I have more time to do things like LOOK FOR A JOB and GET MY LIFE TOGETHER while we make this flick. And I seem to have been shanghaied into doing line editing and fight choreo for another short film, Silent Night, information about which can be found over at my buddy Chris’ Bent Pin Studios ( In fact, we spent the afternoon today playing script doctor (which really isn’t as saucy as it sounds), and I didn’t get back to doing what I wanted to do until much later.

I’ve been working recently on the costumes and props for the movie. This involves design and fabrication, only one of which I’m really used to. But I am known to be able to put good-looking costumes together from time to time, and since now I have more time with which to make good-looking costumes, the pressure’s kind of on to make us look better than originally intended (namely, wearing black clothes that glow).

So here’s what I’m gonna do, I said to myself, being the self-talkin’ kind of guy I am. I’m going to make the Black Guards in Morphology look something like a more advanced version of the guards from the original Tron, borrowing elements from them and then updating them to make them appear to be an intermediate or interstitial stage, an inflection point of sorts. Morphology takes place, for those in the know, during the Purge. This period is some time before the events of Tron: Legacy, and involves Clu’s forces committing genocide against the Isomorphs. Niko’s a homebrew terrorist, fighting against Clu’s forces, and Kadij is… well, you’ll have to wait for the anthology to learn everything about Kadij’s backstory!

Back to the Guards, though. Here they are in Tron:

Guards from the original TronAnd they were seen in a different incarnation in Tron: Legacy:

Tron Legacy Black GuardsSo basically I wanted to keep everything that I thought was cool and get rid of the stuff I either couldn’t do due to time/money constraints or lack of tools or whatever.

Regarding the helmet, I realize that having three CGI helmets in the movie is far too many already. Even though I, as Niko, will only wear mine in like three short shots and Lesley will only be wearing hers briefly as well, and a third character will only be wearing his briefly too (OOH CRYPTIC), I think it’s best to minimize the already MASSIVE amount of work that I’ll be doing in post. Further, I simply don’t have the resources to make the Black Guards’ helmets. So in one delirious evening’s musings, my brain went like so:

And then, combining the elements I decided to keep, my brain (and subsequently my hands) then went like so:

So there are some elements of the black guard, there are some elements of the Tron guards, there are elements of the Tron guards’ boss, Sark, from the first movie, and there’s even a bit of Clu in the styling. But something still didn’t quite work properly. And it looks kind of chintzy, very much “old Tron painted black,” which is something I have been consciously trying to avoid in designing the digital sets and costumes etc. for this movie. So the next step was to introduce more elements of the black guard to modernize the look–and also to streamline it a bit.

This design (even though it’s white, not black, as it will appear in the movie) made me MUCH happier, and I’ve started on this design in earnest. I even mocked up a mini version of the costume as a proof-of-concept, because I’m like that:

The Black Guard costumes are being made from upholstery vinyl, bright magenta flannel (to key in the glow effects), various kinds of black foam, bristol board, and, my favourite thing ever to goof around with, rigid insulation foam. It’s insanely lightweight, is fairly durable, and cuts really nicely. So I hacked up some foam and threw together a mockup of the face mask. My sister was on hand to help model the piece:

She’s watching Ghost Hunters as she does this, incidentally. NERRRRD.

With the basic shaped hacked out, I began to refine the costumes, shaping and sanding it down, and finally adding some more detail and the bright magenta that will serve as the glowy stuff:

Little known fact: I know nothing about the royal wedding except for Kate Middleton’s name and the fact that one of the people there had a spectacularly stupid hat that was so mind-bendingly terrible that it is being auctioned for charity. Newspapers about said royal wedding make excellent mats to cut, paint, and apply gloss on. Moving along.

It then took me six tries–SIX–to cut two mouthpieces. It was really seriously super embarrassing and I took no small amount of ribbing for it from said aforementioned sister. I mixed some paint into some Liquitex… stuff… and started filling the cracks and crevasses left when I put together the pieces of the mask. Then sanding, then gloss.

And they’re mostly done. They need a bit more refining–sanding and another layer of gloss in a couple of places–but they’re ready to integrate into the helmets once I get head measurements of our extras. The nasty thing in the foreground there is an early test of a prosthetic application for some of Lesley’s special effects makeup. That piece will NOT be used. I’ll post again in a couple of days once we’ve got that properly tested.

Anyway, the masks look good and I did a quick VFX test with them to make sure they’d work:

Regarding this video, this is from the description, some musings about the effects I did as the video was processing:

Using Adobe After Effects CS3, the magenta and the blue are both separated onto their own layers using the Keylight plugin. A solid is then created using the base colour of the glow (white for the bright glow, yellow for the orange glow). That solid uses the keyed layer as an Inverse Alpha track-matte. That results in the solid only showing where the keyed colour is.

At that point, the layer has an Inner Glow layer style applied to it (to add more definition to the effect) and then is precomposed. A Glow is then applied to.. well.. make it glow, and smooth out some of the artifacts that develop in keying.

A couple of things that I’ve learned while doing this: one, mottled paint makes for a mottled effect (see the example with the outer ring of the disc). Two, even lighting is key, and these tests were both done with just fluorescent overheads and ambient lighting. Even lighting from all sides will ensure that the colour I’m keying out is even and doesn’t get those jenky edges you see from time to time.

The effect colours still need work, too. I need to find some HD screencaps to get some good samples of core and glow colours. Once I establish a palette the effect can get more consistent and closer to what we see in the movie.

Moving on!

Here’s a couple of quick concept sketches of Clu’s carrier that will be hovering in the background the whole movie. I’m not up for going right to the Rectifier from Legacy, since it’s all part of his grand plan and I’m not entirely sure that Clu had the let’s-take-over-the-real-world scheme from the get-go so his carrier was probably less a floating aircraft carrier/troop transport and more along the lines of Sark’s command ship from Tron.

Last thing, then I’ll cut this post off and go to do something else productive with my time. Remember this costume design for Kadij?

Well, like I said before, since we’re not just going to be satisfied with black clothes and glowy stuff any more Kadij needed a bit of an upgrade. I think the main antagonist could stand to be a little more visually interesting as well, right? We had already agreed that Lesley’s costume would be sleeveless, more along the lines of Quorra from Legacy. So I added some texture, changed up the glow, and threw in a bit of additional detail:

Still maintains most of the lines from the original design, but is FAR more visually interesting now, I think.

Anyway, that’s me for now. Soon: effects makeup test for Kadij, and the new costume design for Niko. With summer coming, everyone’s going sleeveless. And now I need to go work on Operation Make My Arms Big for Morphology.

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals.