Sunday, May 15, 2011

Story Of A Commitment: A Mecha (Part II: The Making)

Story Of A Commitment: A Mecha (Part II: The Making)

Hello everyone,

Here starts the second article of a Story Of A Commitment: A Mecha.
Here starts The Making!

The process of The Study consists in analyzing a concept art, even creating new arts or designs if necessary as we've seen, to get a full idea of the result you are attending to obtain.
But it essentially means anticipation.

Then, the main question is the process of casting and production.
What type of mould, which casting material: plastic, metal or resin.

The answer to this question determines lot of parameters, defines how the model will be "cut", even the thickness of different elements.

Here John attended in first place to produce the Mecha in metal.
(In fact, the Mecha will be casted in resin, but we will see that later!)
Metal's got a good rate of cost/quantities though involving lot of possible and delicate issues for this production process implicates risks, such as deformation of the casted model (in this case each parts), minimal thickness, special shapes, etc.
Things you then have to anticipate before to properly starts the sculpting.

You can already see this in the design of both pelvis elements under the cockpit itself, shaped with these parameters.

No need to redesign each parts, but you need to have in mind a precise and full picture of them and how you will manage them.

This also will help you to decide other parameters such as the medium or putty you will use, and then the type of sculpting and the tools you will need.

Materials chosen for the sculpting.

I opted for Magic Sculp (MS) and Brass Tubes (BT) for fairings and mechanics, keeping Fimo (FM) for leather or any other parts I wasn't sure about.
Magic Sculp is a 2-parts thin grain epoxy putty, that can be carved or sanded when become hard, and be baked. I could have used plastic card but intending to use Fimo at some stage meant baking the model (or part of it) and then plastic was forbidden!

Making Of MS Plates.

I started by making plates of different thickness of MS, using plastic cards as reference, or rather a guide: two plastic card bars on each sides of a MS bit, a tube used with talc rolled on it and you get the plate of the thickness you need!

Using printed designs as pattern, I was able to cut profiles of different elements in these MS plates: calf, central thigh, pelvis, cockpit...
Advise: use cyanolite glue to stick the print on the MS plate, it will easily be took off.

After doubling these profiles, I started to build the volumes of the pelvis and elements of the legs by filling MS in. In the same time, I cut and assembled BTs I would need for these parts.
After shaping them together, I obtain basis for building legs.
Both feet, as for heels, were glued together, side by side, to shape them easier by symmetry. (JAG's Tip :) )
The result was encouraging!

Basic Elements For Legs (click to enlarge)

Anticipating the final cuts, the base of the pelvis was created with the central piston allowing the cockpit-to-come to turn and still be stable, a large BT used for the connection with both legs.
Two small cylindric elements going under the cockpit were made with BTs.

Pelvis Basis And Cylindric Elements (click to enlarge) 

It was time to start the cockpit!
Using the same method, I created the base of its volume.
Four profiles were cut, anticipating the cockpit to be separated in its middle for metal production purpose.
Have it in only one piece would increase the risk of deformation because of its volume. And I already had in mind some ideas using a 2-parts cockpit!
Two profiles were sticked together creating the center and future cut, the two others were cut in different parts to create the external basic volumes...

Cockpit Basic Volume (click to enlarge) 

As you may have noticed, there are several small tubular elements on the design, kind of energetic batteries, very Manga style designs. I used to call them "Plugs" :) .
Placed on the pelvis, the cockpit or the canon, each design is different, and each of them's got different lines or marks.
Using BT for them may seem a natural idea, but brass isn't so easy to carve or mark, specially when the element is pretty small. MS is.
To get perfect MS cylinders, I actually used BTs.
With talc powder, I filled MS in BTs of different diameters using them as mould.
Once dry and hard, I was able to cut, carve, engrave the cylinder I needed with the lines and marks I wanted!
BT was used for each base and connection.
Here is the Plug for the canon:

Canon's Plug (click to enlarge)

During this time, and using the same technics, the canon was made in MS and BTs...

Canon And Its Plug (click to enlarge)

Cockpit being in progress, it was time to check that elements were fitting together.

First Montage Of Upper Elements (click to enlarge)

After extending, having sanded and cleaned the cockpit shape, I separated it in two parts by just passing a blade through both central original MS plates, carved them, emptied parts.

Left Cockpit Side In Progress (click to enlarge)

The element going right under the cockpit to connect with the pelvis, with the central piston was created with the same methods, managing the possibility of turning it on about 90° (45° on each side).

Pelvis and Cockpit Connecting Element (click to enlarge)

Basic volumes of the front part and fuel tank were made in MS, keeping in mind the final shapes attended.

Volume Of Front Elements (click to enlarge)

Both legrests were started with the method of "sticking".

Start Of Legrests (click to enlarge)

Tank, front fairing were shaped, legrests separated.
Basis of back part was made with MS plates joined together.
And both leather cushions were sculpted with FM. I opted for a 2-parts element for casting purpose.
It was fun to get a nice and thin texture on this leather seat when the rest of the Mecha needs to be so smooth...
Both cockpit plugs were made the same way the canon's one.

Cockpit Goes On 1 (click to enlarge)
Cockpit Goes On 2 (click to enlarge)
Cockpit (Turnable) Goes On 3 (click to enlarge)

Pelvis was completed with its two plugs, each oriented towards opposite side.
Connections were made with BTs fitting inside each others, filled with MS to have a unique shape for each of them, as for any other junctions of the whole model.

Pelvis Completed (click to enlarge)
Pelvis And Plugs (click to enlarge)

Back part in progress, cockpit still managed to be able to turn...

Back Part And Turnable Cockpit (click to enlarge)

It's time to start the left arm!
A montage of different BTs and MS discs (made from MS cylinders) and MS.
The difficulty was to get a nice design and still manage the casting issues.
I started by the forearm.

Start Of Forearm (click to enlarge)

The front fairing was continued by adding MS on each side and MS discs as concept art showed it.

Front Fairing In Progress 1 (click to enlarge)

As you have seen at the beginning of this article, I started the sculpture by making parts for the legs.
This whole article is wrote following the timeframe of my progress, not focusing on each parts one after the other. As it was my very first experience of this kind of model, I made lot of mistakes, and though I tried to structure my organisation, my plannings, well, let's say it wasn't so efficient!
And sometimes it was a bit chaotic!

... So, though I already made parts of the legs and feet, and I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to obtain, it was just now time to properly start them!!!!
Focusing on the cockpit as the central and most important element and both arms — rather the canon and the left arm — because of their special volumes and shapes, was the main reason to not start working at the structure of the legs before.
Waiting to get those elements well advanced was important for me to get a good balance of the entire model shape.

Before to assembly the different elements that will be legs, and to create those I haven't made yet, I used metal wire to symbolyze both legs, their position, their dynamic, keeping in mind their volume to come, using parts already made as pattern.

Wire Legs (click to enlarge)
Wire Legs Size Comparison (click to enlarge)
Wire Legs And Legs Parts (click to enlarge)

From now on, I was able to construct the legs.
Starting by the lower parts, feet and calf, with BTs for the mechanics, the wire as guide.
I knew already that each feet would be separated in two parts as I wanted to get the two small pistons on each front of the legs and still have holes between them. For the dynamic of the model, but also to avoid to have it very heavy... I mean the design is already heavy, no need that bad management of the sculpt increases that!
That's quality time!

Lower Legs In Progress 1 (click to enlarge)
Lower Legs In Progress 2 (click to enlarge)

It works!
Now, both small pistons on each feet!

Feet In Progress (click to enlarge)
Lower Legs In Progress 3 (click to enlarge)
Lower Legs In Progress 4 (click to enlarge)

Just for you to know, no glue used in previous pics!
They stand all together by themselves!
Well balanced, uh? :)

Central thighs were made with BTs connected on a MS cylinder carved for the hips, another MS element made with MS plates and reshaped covering parts of the pistons.

Thighs In Progress 1 (click to enlarge)
Thighs In Progress 2 (click to enlarge)

Time to fix lower and upper parts together, still managing balance and design!

Legs In Progress 1 (click to enlarge)
Legs In Progress 2 (click to enlarge)

During this time, left shoulder and arm were made. No pics, sorry.
Here are pictures showing the progress of the model at this stage.

For these pictures, no glue at all is used!

Model In Progress (click to enlarge)

I'm very satisfied it stands without glue, it means a good management of the balance and the cuts and designs!
Of course, if the canon was assemblied, it would not stand. It's so big and heavy!

Right leg was completed following the way of the left one, back of the hips completed.

Both Legs Together (click to enlarge)

Knees were made following the same methods as previously for feet, connections made with BTs...

Lower Part In Progress 1 (click to enlarge)
Lower Part In Progress 2 (click to enlarge)

External elements of the tighs, details carved, fuel tank reshaped (a bit)... Minor and important adjustements made... The Mecha is really coming to life!

Mecha In Progress 1 (click to enlarge)
Mecha In Progress 2 (click to enlarge)
Mecha In Progress 3 (click to enlarge)
Mecha In Progress 4 (click to enlarge)

Left hand in Progress...
Several thin wires sticked together to create a skeleton, MS fixed on it.

Left Hand In Progress (click to enlarge)

Front fairing is continued: sanded, with a lower part in MS, carved...
You can notice the air vent junction has already been made.

Front Fairing In Progress 2 (click to enlarge)

Time to finalize the left arm!
Articulation part was made in BTs and MS, arm itself was finished.
The junction between articulation and arm is specially shaped for a position, but the connection articulation-cockpit permits it to go forward or behind, in a one-plan rotation.
Hand finished as well and can be fixed as you want!

Left Arm In Progress (click to enlarge)
Left Arm And Hand (click to enlarge)
Cockpit, Canon And Left Arm (click to enlarge)
Some carved lines and marks will come to finish these elements.

Front fairing was finished, smoothed and detailed.

Front Fairing Finished (click to enlarge)

A small engine was sculpted with MS and a BT, going into the cockpit, between both sides of it, with a great visual effect!
Pictures in the next episode ;)

At this stage, just few details of the different elements of the Mecha were still need to be done, such as carved lines, marks or adjustation for casting...

But... But!
I forgot the right arm!!! The one on the canon!
Actually, when we started the project, the arm did not seem very important, and I had doubt about the whole shape of the robot with it.
So, it was left for the end, if necessary.
But the project took so long, things went a way that it was necessary to have it done as arts, illustrations included it! My bad!
I was still concerned by the balance of the model, as I did not really think of it when sculpting the Mecha...

I then chose to use FM.
I was sick working with MS :) And felt more comfortable to use Fimo for its very delicate, smooth and curved shape. Using a single wire as "skeleton", I constructed it, using BTs for the gears and articulations.
I of course had to modify the side of the canon, creating a kind of wheel and a junction, still using BT and MS.
I just used a bit of Duro for a last retouch, as I did for all the parts needing some for casting purposes.

Right Arm (click to enlarge)
Canon's Right Side (click to enlarge)
A handle on the canon for this right arm will join as the very last tiny part of the Mecha.
Made as usual in MS and FM.

... That's it!!!
IT's done!!!!!

What a journey!!!!
I am happy to have shared it with you, as you will be the ones who will continue it by painting this very model, by bringing it to life!

Mecha itself was more than 600 hours work during almost 1 year and half, and both characters (One Shot and Fritz) added, this project took me about 700 hours to complete.

Next to come: Story Of A Commitment: A Mecha (Appendix I: The Parts).
A listing of each of the 32 pieces finished and clean constituting the whole Mecha model, with several pictures/views of each of them...

... Before the third article of this serie: Story Of A Commitment: A Mecha (Part III: The Result)!
Lot of pictures and different views of the Mecha finished and assembled, but also pictures of the montage, piece by piece!

I do hope you enjoyed reading this article, completed with almost 50 montages of photos, may this  inspire you to create your own models!



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Story Of A Commitment: A Mecha (Part I: The Study)

Story Of A Commitment: A Mecha (Part I: The Study)


As I am sure you know it now, One Shot has been released!
I heard and read many good and nice comments or critics about this very model, and that is a very good feeling.
For that, I want to thanks everyone. Thank You.
You are encouraging me to continue in the way I've chosen: pushing further, getting better quality, expressing better myself, my views in my sculpting!

I am grateful as getting One Shot entire model done wasn't an easy path as you will see, and now it's time to share my journey with you.

So here starts a Story of a Commitment, a Story of a Mecha.

As I wrote in a previous post, I was contacted in 2009 by John Cadice, Owner and Creative Director at Soda Pop Miniatures, about starting a new kind of miniatures range: Mechas and Characters inspired by Japan culture —Mangas— mixed with a more traditional/fantasy style.
A pretty exciting challenge with great possibilites!

At the same moment, HellDorado project was shut down by Asmodée as for the creative studio I was working for with JAG, Thomas David and Bertrand Benoît.
The perfect timeline!

After connecting my fellow sculptors with John, it was time to get my hands dirty!

As I was the first to start the range, my work was going to be a reference. I had to be sure about expectations, my approach and the result for the rest of the range would follow it as basis/parameters... well, as I already wrote: the reference.

One Shot Concept Art (click to enlarge picture)

John sent me a concept art, rather an illustration, of One Shot.
First One Shot posing on the Mecha, then details and One Shot standing up.

Very exciting, isn't she?

I already had a long experience, in different types of miniature sculpting, for different types of production, but I never did this particuliar type of design.
And I am not reallly fond of war vehicule or other kind of plastic models, any kind of "maquettes" as we say in French.

So, exciting but also very new.

First of all, define the production type and the scale.
John wanted a metal production, obviously because it's more efficient than resin castings, but also because he is a player/fan of metal game miniatures, and surely wanted to reach this type of customers.
I wasn't qualified for designing the model for plastic production via 3D computing, and he confirmed me that wasn't an option at this stage.
So, I started the study of the model for metal casting.
About the scale, several questions: size of the Mecha, of the Character, of the final model and of course the possible compatibilty with the other ranges already on the market.

I then started 2 different studies:
-The Mecha itself, different scales being not a real problem for the design
-The scale, reaching the right final volume, model and the right product all together.

Designing a Mecha: Engineering?

Goal: to define the different parts/cuts of the Mecha for production and a right assemblage.

I started my analyzing work by identifying the different single elements and "production blocs".
Then, from the original concept art, I took measurements and compared the different identified elements/blocs.
Once everything was defined, it was time to properly design them with the pencil!
I used blue graph tracing paper for each element, then could put all of them in one only design.

I started by Mecha's profile: legs, pelvis and cockpit.
The actual designs are not about the production blocs/parts, but will help for the sculpting stage.

Mecha's Elements Profile Designs (click to enlarge picture) 

Mecha's Profile Designs (click to enlarge picture)

Later on, I did the same with a front view of the cockpit.

Mecha's Cockpit Elements Front View Designs (click to enlarge picture)

After scanning all these designs, they were cleaned, blue graphics eliminated to get clean lines and a proper design.

Mecha's Leg Designs Cleaned (click to enlarge picture)

Mecha's Cockpit Designs Cleaned (click to enlarge picture)

Mecha's Profile Designs Cleaned (click to enlarge picture)

Mecha's Cockpit Elements Designs Cleaned (click to enlarge picture)

I also assembled cleaned designs of the different elements of the front view cockpit.

Mecha's Cockpit Front View Designs Cleaned (click to enlarge picture)

Sometimes, and even if your studies are deep and complete, you may forget a parameter, or be wrong about an interpretation.
Here, I had two options for left arm's attach, wasn't sure about the proper sculpted model which would be the right necessary one.
(Actually, it's the second one.)

Designs are only black lines on white page and coloring it helps to see the whole shape better, even to see the volumes (though I did not really managed the lighting)...

Mecha's Colored Designs (Click to enlarge picture)
At this stage, I was very happy with my studies so far, and John as well!!!!

Scaling a Mecha: a right responsability.

Goal: to obtain a good balance between thickness, volume, manufaturing and... a whole range to come!

Using original concept art and John's guidelines, I defined different scales from the Mecha size or Pilot size for instance.
At the end, two options was still possible: the actual Pilot eyes would be at 32mm (meaning the girl would be 30mm tall at eyes as she's wearing big soles) or the Mecha would fully stand on a 50mm diameter base.

Pilot 32mm Scaled Design (Click to enlarge picture)

Mecha Base 50mm Scaled Design (Click to enlarge picture)

I then established a real sized comparative designs document for John to decide the final size of the model... and the range!
My own opinion was to go for the smaller one, as usual gaming miniatures ranges are about 28-32mm, that we would fit exactly; the bigger scale meaning 35mm at eyes for the pilot, and then, the rest of the range.

One Shot Comparative Scales (Click to enlarge picture)

And... the range would officially be a 30mm metal miniatures range to come!
And this long work of studies would be a good start for the next projects...
My fellow sculptors, JAG and Thomas, would be able from now to start new Soda Pop projects from these studies, and more, John would provide us more pre-studied designs for Mechas, to avoid this long stage...

One Shot Real Size 02 (Click to enlarge picture)
I then rescaled my own designs for fitting this Pilot scale, adapting and adding the canon from original concept art, confirming with John this choice.

One Shot Real Size 01 (Click to enlarge picture)

One Shot Elements Real Size 01 (Click to enlarge picture)

One Shot Elements Real Size 02 (Click to enlarge picture)

One Shot Elements Real Size 03 (Click to enlarge picture)

I then printed each pages of these elements as a scaled reference for the sculpting to come.
But this will be for the next episode!

Soon: Story Of A Commitment: A Mecha (Part II: The Making)...

I hope you enjoyed this article about how some nice designs would become long and hard project, about how after years of experience, it's still possible to completely discover new ways of working.

See you soon,