Project Arbiter has been blessed with the talents of many skilled crew members and today we are happy to bring you a Q&A with Devin White, one of the founders of Blue Realm Studios which is responsible for the fabrication of the XO-7 Arbiter invisibility suit, his “Inferno” knife, and the skull-faced Arbiter “Reaper” helmet. Here is what Devin had to say…
Q: How did Blue Realm Studios come about?
A: Blue Realm Studios was founded in 2007 one year after I met my partner in crime, Adam Grumbo. At that time I was working on a hand sculpted Master Chief costume replica based on the popular video game Halo and had posted some pictures on the web. Adam had just created the 405th.com and invited me to join and show off my progress. Through email and inviting him to my wedding, Adam and I became great friends. Together with our talents we created Blue Realm Studios. I’ve always wanted to create movie props and costumes ever since I was a child and Blue Realm is that outlet for me. I’ve grown from making cardboard and duct tape costumes to utilizing the same methods that the big time studios use these days.
Q: When Mike Chance first approached your team with the concept of Project Arbiter, what were your thoughts and what made you join the production?
Mike Chance is a great guy and has a lot of enthusiasm for his new project. We were honored that he approached us and decided to hire us for such a cool short film. After a few conversations and seeing Robert Simons’ renderings of the Arbiter, I knew I had to be a part of this project.
Q: What were the development stages of fabricating the suit?
A: The first stages of fabrication come from the concept artist, in this case Robert Simons. After reviewing the drawings, we planned our method of attack and came up with solutions to obstacles that might not be ideal when worn by an actor. Once we picked our game plan, the work was divided up among artists and the fabrication began. Once the separate pieces came back to the studio we did some rough fittings utilizing the soft parts we ordered off a WWII clothing website. After scale was approved, we moved on to strapping and creating harnesses that would hold the armor in place for the actor. Once we had a working costume we then sent the parts into the paint booth for some nice battle ready paint and finishes. After the paint was dry and final approval was submitted, we had the final props delivered to the filming location for their on screen debut.
Q: Creating such an intricate suit required a lot of time, talent, and attention to detail. What were some of the challenges you faced when working towards the final product?
A: One of the major challenges we faced was the backpack that allows the Arbiter to become invisible to his opponents. Robert did an awesome job creating a complex design that in the end was a hard nut to crack. The original design took inspiration from the V-Twin of a Harley Davidson motorcycle and was rendered with chrome pieces straight out of the future. With time and budget constraints we decided to take the overall concept of the backpack and came up with a smaller more grungy style pack that would allow the actor to move a little more freely. After talking to Mike, we decided that chromed parts and the sheer size of the prop would be too much of an undertaking in such a short amount of time. We were happy to hear that Mike embraced the new design and was happy with the finished product.
Q: What sort of “tools of the trade” does your team use? What equipment is needed to transpose an image to a life-size prop?
A: One of the techniques we utilized was the vacuum form machine. Much like the Stormtroopers from Star Wars, the armor was created by heating up sheets of ABS plastic, forming them over positive forms and then sucking out all the air to pick up the detail. We also utilized an old school artisan method of sculpting to create the “Reaper” helmet. It was hand sculpted over a few weeks and then was molded and cast in Polyurethane plastic. We had our team of painters come in and give the props a really nice grungy battle damaged look. For some secondary props such as the resperator pack that the Arbiter wears, located underneath the large invisibility pack, we took the high tech approach and CNC milled a positive from a pre-rendered 3D model. We were able to utilize a lot of different methods with this project and learned a few new ones as well.
Q: In addition to Project Arbiter, what other exciting projects is Blue Realm Studios involved in?
A: Blue Realm Studios is busy working on a lot of fun new projects some of which we aren’t allowed to talk about. Let’s just say we are working on some really cool costumes and weaponry. We also have some practical props we are working on for the game industry to show case at trade shows and other gaming events.
Q: You’ve done a lot of work with the Halo franchise. What is the most challenging part of working with a story that millions of fans love?
A: In a sense Blue Realm got its start making Halo props. Because we’re fans of the game, we like to make things from the Halo world to show off our capabilities. The unique sci-fi genre of Halo really hits home with what we like to produce as well as offers challenges we like to face. Currently we’re working on some cool helmets and weapons for some Bungie employees.
Q: What was the working relationship like with Mike Chance? What made it successful?
A: Mike Chance is an inspiring director and it was a joy to work with him and his team. We look forward to working with him in the future and any new projects he dreams up. I’d like to say I can now call him a friend as well as a creative genius that took a chance on a small studio.
Q: If there was one thing that you wanted to share about the artistry of prop fabrication to those who are unfamiliar with your industry, what would it be?
A: The prop industry is a very competitive market and it takes a lot to gain recognition and master your craft. My advice to anyone out there that is interested in this type of work is to pick a project and start building. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t be scared to try new things. Sculptors aren’t born sculptors. They become that after they sculpt for hours and hours to determine methods that work best for them. Keep an eye on the industry and read lots of books about the craft. I can’t tell you how much reading and doing research has helped me in my prop making journey.
We encourage you to check out the orginal post at http://www.projectarbiter.com/blog/blue-realm-studios-briefing-on-prop-fabrication/