Early this summer, I was contacted by my friends at gNet about doing some prototype mask work for a test shoot they were planning for a live action commercial to promote GearBox's new release of Borderlands 2.
Photo 1: I created a version of the bandit. It's a hand painted fiberglass mask with real stitching and a rubber outer gasket.
Photo 9: I kept it subtle, as I didn't want every wrinkle on every helmet to match exactly. But the overall structure of the mask would help me achieve the extreme shape of the in-game character. You can see how sharp the nose is in the profile screen cap behind the sculpt.
In the end, we had 4 days to create 13 helmets and masks, which is pretty tight even for us nutjobs at the BarnYard. So I decided to call in some help, and went right for the big guns. Jim McPherson joined in and finished this sculpt. If you think I have an impressive resume, check out what Jim has worked on!
Photo 16: But wait! There's more! The production company asked me to build the masks, and the next day they told me they were having trouble locating a costume designer that could handle bringing the rest of the characters to life. I recommended Shawna Trpcic, who you know from Firefly, Dollhouse, The Cabin In The Woods , and everything else cool. We had collaborated together on projects such as Dragon Age: redemption and Husbands, and I love working with her. She took the job, and production piled on the characters! At the top of the new list was the assassin Zer0, and I begged Shawna to let me make the helmet. Which she did. She's awesome!
Photo 17: Coincidently, I sculpted Zer0 on the bust of Doug Jones, who was the villain in DA:R. This was the hardest character to do, since the game art makes him so spindly, and much more robot than human. I had to take certain liberties to even make the design fit around a human head.
Photo 18: The finished Zer0 sculpt. The spot called for 2 versions, so I didn't go crazy with the battle damage in the clay original. I figured I would dremel some into the final fiberglass castings, so they could be unique.
Photo 19: In the wee hours of the night, the Zer0 helmet was clayed and shimmed for a silicone matrix mold.
Photo 20: We were desperately short on time, so McPherson convinced me that we could pull off a single silicone pour, as opposed to the traditional multi-part pour. This is usually done so that the rubber would separate with each piece of fiberglass jacket, making it easier to remove from the positive, and also allowing more control of the airflow in pouring the liquid rubber, so the chances of capturing air against the sculpture are minimized. It was a risky proposition, but Jim's a pro, so I knew he would pull it off. And in exchange, we each got 3 hours sleep that night since we shaved so much time off the workload!
Photo 22: Once they were ready, I started doing the finish work to the hero helmets. This is where I carved unique nicks and dings into each helmet.
Photo 23: Obviously, the actors needed a way to see, so I vacuformed clear lexan into a plaster negative of the Zer0 visor, and fused it into a hole I dremeled out of the helmet.
Photo 24: The trick was to not make it LOOK like there was a clear plastic viewscreen in the supposedly solid visor. I feathered gray primer as far over the clear as I could while still making sure it was possible to see out. Then I taped off the window and sprayed the helmets black. I did a series of washes over that, tape removed, so I could model the aging around and over the clear window.
Photo 25: Once I was done, the clear section was almost invisible to the naked eye, and there was still 90% visibility from inside. It was the equivalent of looking through dirty sunglasses.
Photo 28: Had enough? Well, we're not done yet. You don't seriously think I'd just do a mere 13 helmets for an awesome production like this, do you!?! I mean, once you've been awake for 4 days straight, what's another sleepless night! Let's build some props!
gNet decided that they really wanted to have a loot box in the commercial, but didn't realize that one wasn't commissioned until the first day of shooting when it wasn't there. They called me up and asked if I had one more piece in me, and well, it was cool looking, so I couldn't say no. It was scheduled to shoot the very next day, so there was no time to lose. Amish scaled up the 3D model we got from the game developers, and we started building the finishing details before we even started the main structure!
Photo 29: The end result was pretty cool, though. We finished around 4am, and it was going to shoot just outside of Palm Springs at 8 that morning. So, if the delivery truck drove really fast, it would be right on time!
Photo 30: Based on the proportional dimensions from the game asset, this prop was NOT small!
Photo 31: Despite the fact that we had less than 20 hours to build this thing, we still tried to match every detail from the game. And the style. I absolutely love the painterly style GearBox gave Borderlands, and it was a thrill to try and capture that in real life. Red5 made these stencils based on the game renderings, and we matched the exact placement.
Photo 32: this one is dedicated to Red5's dad!