Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dragon Age: Redemption Episode 5

It's been crazier than usual around here the past few weeks! Lots going on, both on and off site: I dropped by BlizzCon and Long Beach Comic Con. I'm starting a full size Jurassic Park dinosaur sculpture to go on display in Hawaii. I'm in the middle of painting a few DVD covers, designing a feature film, two television pilots, building a couple specialty costumes for a network funded web series, filming some more episodes of Brent Spiner's FRESH HELL series at the BarnYard, prepping new episodes of The Tommy Wi-Show, building stuff for MineCon in Vegas, the .tv booth for BlogWorld Expo, trying to sneak away to roam the floor of Comickaze, starting up a new collectible toy company, and doing some concept art for friends at a major ad agency. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

I will be telling you about all of that stuff very soon. But I promised I would write a behind the scenes art department blog for every episode of Dragon Age: Redemption, and I do not like to break my word. Forgive the run on sentences and any misspelled words you may encounter, as I am typing in the deepest hours of night to make sure this posts on time for the release of Episode 5!

When we last left our heroes, they were attempting to enjoy a moment or peace over some hot stew in the comfort of a rural inn. But Tallis notices the glint of a bladed weapon, and the ambush is upon them!

Photo 1: Welcome back to the Inn! My favorite set from the DA:R series. This 30'x40', two story set looks so cozy and calm at first glance.

Photo 2: but once inside, you will find Felicia Day causing a ruckus!

Photo 3: Much to the dismay of the townsfolk who patron the place. We needed lots of extras for the Inn scene, so a call was made to friends and fans. Here, my buddy Grant Kimura tries to impress the ladies with his tales of the time of dragons. Grant has come in to help The Knights of Good with the planning of several social events. He usually dresses better.

Photo 4: Guild social media marketing guru Brian Kameoka double his work load as second 2nd Assistant Director by making a cameo appearance in the Inn. It was his wearing this costume that lead to the jokes about his resemblance to Return of the Jedi 's Nien Numb, which ultimately resulted in me created a Star Wars cosplay costume for him.

Photo 5: Brian, or should I say Nien, cruised conventions across the country all summer in this awesome costume. You may be asking yourself why I am standing next to a Star Wars character and yet making the Vulcan salute. This is a little know fact, but Nien Numb is actually half Klingon!

Photo 6: Here he is enjoying San Diego Comicon with the rest of the family!

Photo 7: I was trying to make everything in the Inn big and bulky, to capture a sense of medieval grandeur. But I guess I chose to make the tables too big at first! When Felicia came in to rehearse on the nearly completed set, she looked like a Hobbit sitting at the table! We ultimately cut the legs down six inches, and raised the chairs up a few inches more, so our heroes stayed larger than life.

Photo 8: Of course, my initial instinct was to make the tables to accommodate all walks of life from Dragon Age II. You never know when a massive Qunari is going to need a hot meal!

Photo 9: We chose to serve real food, so the cast and extras could have the option of actually eating in the scene. Bread, chicken, potatoes, and asparagus where on the menu. I chose these items because they looked the part, and most of it stayed edible for long periods of time. Every few shots, the art team would swap out the chicken for fresh pieces to keep the customers happy. And you need to in a place like this...

Photo 10: ...Otherwise people start smashing tables!

Photo 11: Actually, that was Art Director Bryan Fulk and Leadman John Bell who dropped the chandelier onto the table! The original plan was to have a stuntman fall off the loft and crush the table, but things changed and that shot got cut. Felicia still wanted to smash the table since I had put a lot of time and money into carefully creating an exact replica out of balsa wood in order for it to break, so she decided to have Josmael use magic to bring down the chandelier. You may have noticed that the chandeliers are actually the wagon wheels off the Dalsih wagons! That's me using magic to stretch the budget!!!

Photo 12: The other tables, however, were not made of balsa. They were quite the opposite. Three tables in the room needed to be built sturdy enough to support actors jumping up on them during the fight scene. Here, Tallis prepares to do a back flip off the table. I say Tallis because I can't remember if this is Felicia or her stunt double, ! Can you tell? Hey, Felicia, leave a comment and let us know who's in the picture. If you can tell, that is!

Photo 13: This photo is DEFINITELY Felicia! Here, she grabs a throwing dart to use as an impromptu weapon. This is the thing with fantasy and sci-fi scripts: there are lots of every day objects mentioned, but its not as simple to find the props as going to Target or thrift stores! Something as ordinary as a dart board needs to be made from scratch so it looks like it belongs in a Medieval Inn and not a modern sports bar. Bryan Fulk made this one from bead foam and burlap, with staples sapling twigs for rings. The darts were cut from branches, with nails attached to the front and turkey feathers for fins. It had the crude look I wanted, but I tested it out as a joke, and actually got all 5 darts in the bulls eye from the center of the room! He must have balanced them perfectly, because I have never done that before in my life!

Photo 14: Tallis is pretty good with a dart, too, it would appear! One throw and she takes out this rogue's frontal lobe! A wise move, considering the fire power he was wielding.

Photo 15: I believe in the game it is called the Dark Spawn crossbow. Here is one of the images BioWare sent of the game asset.

Photo 16: Here is the final DA:R prop, as constructed by Amish Ivers. It has a pine body, aluminum bow and trigger mechanism, and sintra spikes back filled with 808 urethane for durability.

Photo 16: All 0f that stunt rehearsal in the set space as it was being built really paid off. It gave the performers and production a good sense of how to move within the space, and utilize every aspect of it. The art department was also able to inspire some ideas and make some changes to the set to heighten the action. The best example would be the loft. I originally intended it only to be a facade, only sturdy enough to handle some set dressing so it added some depth and shadow to the space. But when the team saw the design in reality, imaginations ran wild, and I rebuilt the loft to be weight baring so it could support a crew.

Photo 17: The Inn fight also offered the opportunity for the art department to create a few original weapon designs. Although we made sure to stay within the aesthetic created by the BioWare team, we broke away from the weapons chart and made a few unique pieces, such as this mercenary's sword-staff, designed and built by Armorer Mazin Dajani.

Photo 18: The only thing more dangerous than a mercenary brandishing a sword-staff is Mazin MAKING a sword-staff! The blade was cut from 1/4 inch aluminum plate, and ground down to a rounded edge. This was bolted onto a section of 1 1/2 inch aluminum pipe. The finished weapon was decorated with leather and feathers for fashionable slaying.

Photo 19: Some of the hired hunters preferred getting more close and personal to their prey. And you can't get closer than hand to hand combat.

Photo 20: Of course, it's cheating when your hands are shielded inside these spiked steel gauntlets!

Photo 21: Art Department Coordinator Pooja tested them out thoroughly! She was very effective in budget meetings!

Photo 22: Felicia implemented the same method on set to keep the crew motivated. Just kidding, of course! Everyone involved wanted to have their picture taken with Tallis, and Felicia was kind enough to take the time to assassinate each crew member with the weapon of their choice!

Photo 23: The war hammer is huge, but actually pretty light. It is a block of bead foam coated with a textured spread of Bondo.

Photo 24: We all know Nyree carries a much more lethal weapon, but she showed us that she can be spontaneous and resourceful when alternative killing devices are needed. Cornered by the fireplace, Nyree takes out a mercenary with a lethal blow from smoldering log.

Photo 25: Rob "The Kid" Lindores carved the logs from styrofoam, and assembled the ash end out of scraps left over from the casting of the chains in the Chantry cell. Each ember was connected with a small daub of hot glue so that it would easily break apart on impact without hurting Luci Romberg when she got hit. Luci is a friend for the Team Tempest Freerunning Academy!

Photo 26: Not everyone visiting the Inn is looking for a fight. Second Unit Director is just dropping by for a visit, shooting a little behind the scenes video, and maybe grabbing a refreshing Cold brand cola.

Photo 27: Elves just come to be social. The beautiful Marissa Cuevas hangs out for a moment between takes elsewhere on the stage. That face tells me I obviously caught her in the midst of some interesting gossip!

Photo 28: The Inn is a very popular place. There is always a line outside. Even bouncers. Alright, I'm delirious. That's actually production assistant Greg Checchi giving our heroes an off camera cue to enter the Inn. Notice the exterior walls are bare flats, completely different from the design latent interior.

Photo 29: The exterior you saw in the show was actually a digital effect done by the VFX team. A CG model of the Inn was placed into a plate we shot on location. We looked at potential sights all around LA, and finally found the right one in Malibu. Here, two of my favorite people ever, Kim Evey and Felicia Day, check out the final location during the scout.

Photo 30: Our journey is almost at it's end. Next week brings us the sixth and final episode of Dragon Age: Redemption. But there is so much more to talk about before we reach that final credit scroll, so don't lose hope. Honestly, the adventure is only beginning...


  1. Can't believe we're almost to the last episode already! That inn was quite the setpiece. Nice reuse of props for the chandeliers, and I like the insider info on how the dartboard was made too.

  2. The set and props are so beautifully crafted...it completely sinks your imagination into the story and characters. Big thanks to all who worked so hard to develop it!May it live long and prosper!(Oh, wait, wrong series...LOL)

  3. You looks so much like tallis!!