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A quick job

I always seem to be saying this but it’s still true, Its been a while…

I am back in the states, this time without a clear idea of how long. My project in Shijiazhuang has unfortunately hit a rock and most likely will not continue. I am torn about that as its very hard not to feel attached to something you worked on for so long… Maybe its best the client is truly in a hard place, they not only turned us off but all of their projects.  A lot of people were affected kind of sad…Maybe thats a sign of something going on in China and maybe its just particular to our case…

Anyway I am currently working on some RFP’s ( Request For Proposal ) with the team for projects here in the states. Too early to tell but the work is looking good and our first presentation was a slam dunk so cross fingers…

This post will be about a small 2 day job I did back in March. I was contacted by a producer named Justin Bursch he had my number through another Art Director; Tom Lisowski, who I have done some film work with in the past. Justin tells me he has a really cool project, very fast turn around and oh yeah not a lot of money but the subject is fun. I am between gigs and he is right the subject is fun. The client is DJI the makers of several commercial drones, the Phantom Series and the new Inspire…

Logo

Logo

DJI  is a  big deal in the world of high-tech drones and film production gear. this spot will be for a promotional piece showcasing their new Ronin camera rig. I honestly know nothing about this stuff but it is fascinating. I guess the Ronin allows filmmakers a new level of freedom for their shots and DJI sponsors a lot of independent film production so…

Ronin Rig1

Ronin Rig1

The Ronin is a rig to hold cameras steady during filming it must have some kind of cool gyroscopic leveling system. You can check out more here in this video

 

ronin3

ronin3

DJI builds drones from what I saw lots of them some cute little toy like ones and other somewhat ominous ones.

This cute little guy is the Phantom…

Phantom

Phantom

Their new offering less cute more powerful, the Inspire can carry a bigger load and has cool articulating arms…

Inspire Drone

Inspire Drone

Don’t know what these bad boys are all about but they are much larger and seem to be geared towards the professional user

DJI Spreading Wings S1000 Drone For Aerial Imagery

DJI Spreading Wings S1000 Drone For Aerial Imagery

and then…

Just kidding

Just kidding

Okie yeah pretty sure DJI doesn’t make these kind of drones, at least not yet…

 

 

My part in all this will be to come up with a design for a 2 man, hover board flying vehicle. Obviously this is not a real vehicle but a prop for use in the film. I am given a written brief from the director Lin Oeding. I have never worked with either of these guy before but I know if they are coming through Tom it will be a great experience. It’s actually a good thing for the project that I am in China right now as I can work on the initial concept while  the team in LA is asleep

The brief calls for a cool design that has some hand-built feel to it. The story being that an inventor has created this in his home garage / lab. The plot of the film is actually pretty deep, it seems the inventor has died and his daughter will have an encounter with his spirit where he shares the hoverboard they worked on together and of course his eternal love.

Ranger7 Films ” my client ”  has actually already gotten a design from another artist in LA but the end client DJI, is not happy with it. Truth is; what I saw wasn’t bad at all actually very slick, but it did seem a bit too polished. More like a design that was actually in production as opposed to one that was a prototype.

The Director is asking for a more aggressive look and the element of a hand-built machine, possibly exposed mechanics. I don’t have any real dimensions yet but I know that it carries  2 people so will scale it accordingly…

The first thing I do is some sketchwork to establish a base look, I do them in an ortho fashion as I feel at this stage the silhouette is really the key.

During the day I am reminded of a job I did way back in 2000, sure enough  have a copy of it. I don’t even remember what it was for but there could be something here.

concept from 2000

concept from 2000

I then send these off to the guys in LA, ” they are still awake ” and I get back an initial go ahead with one of the profiles. From here I will dive straight into 3D as in the end they will need it for fabrication and we just don’t have any time.

ORTHO - Sketches

ORTHO – Sketches

Early Sketches3

Early Sketches3

This last one is the one I am given the go ahead for along with some notes from the director… Its got a streamlined shape and obvious direction. The exposed mechanics will help give the prototype look and I am thinking of a big light unit in the nose.

Early Sketches2

Early Sketches2

By the end of my day I have a pretty well fleshed out machine, I send it off for review and shut down for the night.

The First days design…

First Pass Design View1

First Pass Design View1

First Pass Design View2

First Pass Design View2

First Pass Design View3

First Pass Design View3

A few hours later I notice an email rom Sheldon Shwartz the Creative Director over at DJI. He is very excited and has a lot of input. At first I am bit confused as due to the time difference this guy would have to be writing me at like 3 or 4 in the morning. After a few emails back and forth it becomes apparent that not only are we both in China but we are actually both in the same city. Long story short Sheldon wants me to come in and finish the design with him at the DJI offices. I figure what the hell its gotta be interesting so we agree on a time to meet and I go to sleep.

With my portable gear in tow I grab a taxi early in the morn and head  towards the other side of Shenzhen. DJI is pretty much on the opposite side of the city and Shenzhen is no small place not surprisingly for a city of almost 11 million people.

DJI occupies a huge complex in a nice part of Shenzhen a far cry from our home on the farm in Lian Tang… Sheldon  comes down and brings me upstairs he is a fast talker and a fast mover. This place is a trip. High tech security systems and guards. tons of mostly young people rushing around. They occupy at least 6 floors of this building and from what I can see its aa very cool place to work. An interesting combo of western and eastern styles, the other interesting impression is that everyone so far seems really busy and yet also really happy to be there. I meet Sheldon’s team and get set up. Sheldon is one of  those intense individuals, a young guy but obviously very intelligent and fully engaged in the work. After talking a bit it comes out that he was actually one of those genius kids that graduated really early. If I am not mistaken he said that he worked with NASA when just 16 years old, pretty impressive stuff here… What was that movie in 80’s” back before Val Kilmer got fat?

Real Genius

Real Genius

It also turns out he loves the work of  Concept Artist, Ryan Church. This is kind  of funny as Ryan and I are both graduates of the Art Center and were actually class mates for a while. I dn’t know him all that well but I do know his wife Tracy. I guess that’s the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon thing in action…

I won’t bore you with all the details but I do need to describe this because it was so cool. Sheldon wants me to get a feel of what their product is all about and arranges a demo of their newest commercial drone the Inspire. We head down to a lower level testing area basically a high open space with very tall ceilings. One of Sheldon’s people has brought along one of the drones and its controller which by the way is also hooked up to a iPad mini.This drone is right on the edge of looking  serious, its big and I have to say when they turn it on its pretty exciting. You can feel the pressure of its little rotors and the articulating arms are a nice touch. I have no experience with these kind of machines before but I must say they are very cool and I know now what I want for Christmas…

Inspire Drone

Inspire Drone

Drone Controler

Drone Controler

 

I don’t have any pictures of this part as I had to sign all kinds of NDA ( Non Disclosure Agreements ) docs and there’s no way I am gonna get on the wrong side of that… Just picture a really cool, chaotic workplace with  a lot of experimental tech lying around and you get the picture…

These are not the droids you are looking for…

 

Some sketches for front end  of the new design. more industrial less refined…

Front end roughs

Front end roughs

The new design is sharper and now sports  a massive ram scoop in the nose I did keep the rear fairings from original design but they are more aggressive now.

Final Design View1

Final Design View1

Final Design View2

Final Design View2

Final Design View3

Final Design View3

By the end of the day I have completely redesigned the hoverboard, she now has a more automotive feel with a clearly defined front end. The craft is made of pure Imaginarium and of course it’s powered by UnObtainium sorry Mr Cameron but that’s an old Art Center standby for when you need to justify things we can’t technically do yet…

Sheldon likes the Lamborghini so I have tried to give it some of that feeling as well. It’s a challenge to design something that fits both the needs of the story and at the same time can be built in the time allotted. On commercials or shorts like this you just don’t have the luxury of time needed to fabricate extremely complex forms, you have to learn to simplify while still hitting the mark…

schematics of final design

schematics of final design

 

 

I think in the end the design is successful. It would be nice if I had more time but that’s the nature of the film world. It seems whenever I get called in its last-minute and you are late before you even start…

some more refined views of the final design, this will all get sent to LA for a rush fabrication job.

Drone POV1

Drone POV1

Drone POV2

Drone POV2

On a side note Sheldon has sweetened the deal by offering me a drone of my own. I am assuming that would be a Phantom Considering they cost around $1,200 bucks with the camera gear that actually makes this a correctly paid gig.  Of course if he insist I will accept an Inspire :), I am still waiting on that to appear but when it arrives ” Hint Hint, Sheldon ” I will definitely write about it here…

My future drone?

DJI Inspire shot1

DJI Inspire shot1

A few weeks later Justin sends me some pics from the shoot, it’s always so cool to see the design realized.

Screen Grab 6

Screen Grab 6

On Set 4

On Set 4

And here is the final video. 

Here is a follow-up talking about the Ronin M and its use on the short…

I hope you enjoyed this post, the plan is  to wrap up the story of Leo’s Kingdom very soon and then I can share with you some of the other cool things in China this year…

Talk soon

D

 

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