Saturday, September 24, 2011

R2LA Build Day

Today was an R2LA build day at Mike Senna's place, in lieu of the cancelled Wizard World Los Angeles convention.

Michael McMaster brought his WALL•E drivetrain down. When fitted with the WALL•E body, head, and arms that Mike Senna has built, things were really shaping up.

Ed Perello brought his nice, shiny dome. All the electronics were functioning great, and it had the periscope and life form scanner deployed.

At one point we attempted to shoot a wooden frame glue-up tutorial. We'll see if that ended up working out once we review everything we shot.

Mike Senna had Kayla Miyamoto literally drooling over my droid.

For over a year, Max Cervantes' display from Star Wars Celebration V had been living behind Mike's shed. A circular saw helped end all that.

There was a little pouring of resin as well.

Zoe Miyamoto tries on Max' old TRON helmet.

We wrapped things up with pizza. It was a good build day, and it was great meeting several new builders in person for the first time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CHOC Late Summer Visit 2011

Technically it's still summer until Friday, so we'll call today's visit with R2 to Childrens Hospital Orange County the "Late Summer Visit."

As usual, no pictures with the patients, but there were plenty of room visits, along with visits to the activity rooms.

And as usual, the staff paused to get pictures with R2.

One neat thing they do is bring well-trained dogs in to visit patients. These pups have R2 beat in cuddliness.

It was another good visit, and I look forward to the next one.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Star Wars Night at Dodger Stadium 2011

"The third time's the charm" is a lot better than "three strikes and yer out!"

After two years of trying, tonight R2 finally made it onto the field for Star Wars Night at Dodger Stadium. Being the ardent Dodgers fan that I am, this was really exciting for me. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For the third year in a row, Star Wars characters including R2 were invited to Dodger Stadium for Star Wars Night. Mike Senna agreed to wrangle, so we drove on up and arrived around 4:20pm. Stadium Operations allowed us to park as close to the character rendezvous point as possible, which was nice.

The characters were to be split into two groups for pre-game activities. One group was going to "Autograph Alley" behind center field (where we all were last year before the game), and the other group was going down onto the field! Very thankfully, R2 was part of the field group. Characters suited up from 4:30pm-5:30pm while R2, Mike and I stood by.

At 5:30pm, we started our way from the Club Level (3rd deck) to the Field Level. Our trip took us through elevators, memorabilia stations, and dining areas I had never seen before.

Finally, we reached the bottom, which was actually a few feet below field-level. Some stairs allowed the characters up to the field. Of course, R2 can't take stairs, but never fear. There was a small elevator that took us up to the field.

That was one slow elevator, but it was really neat looking up out of that box and seeing the sky, followed by the stadium lights, followed the upper decks, and finally the field itself.

R2 and the characters were led onto the warning track around the field, where we did the usual photo ops with other people in the same area, while the visiting Pittsburg Pirates took batting practice. (I realize it looks empty, but this was 5:30pm for a 7:10pm start time. As game time approached, the stands started filling up.)

During batting practice a ball ricocheted off one of the protective screens on the field and bounced my way, so I snagged it. Not the first batting practice ball for me (I've caught many in the bleachers over the years), but certainly the first when I was on the field.

Longtime official Dodgers photographer Jon Soohoo and I chatted before the game.

Jon was kind enough to take this picture and send it to me of Dodgers All Star slugger Matt Kemp shaking hands with R2. © Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2011

Little does Matt know that earlier R2 posed with that very same bat of his!

Some of the players jumped in for pictures, as did LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who at one point started to put the cuffs on Vader.

A little before the playing of the national anthem, the characters gathered behind home plate, and they were announced to the crowd over the PA system, and shown on the scoreboard. I didn't get a picture of that, but Mike may have gotten some video on his iPhone that I'll try to get later.

[Edit: For better or worse, here's the video Mike got. If you zoom to full-screen, you can make out R2 in the center of the scoreboard.]

Alas, our time on the field came to an end.

Back into the elevator R2 went, along with two clone troopers whose costumes were not stair-friendly.

At that point, most of the characters made their way to the right field pavilion to interact with the fans. However, the pavilions are all stairs, and R2 does not do stairs. The Dodgers folks said that we were done, and that we could put R2 back in the car and enjoy the game. So, that's what we did.

Although we were provided tickets for the right-field pavilion, Mike and I decided to take an opportunity to check out the Stadium Club, one of the very few places in the stadium I had never been.

There we found a buffet, where we could eat and watch the game (for a fee, of course).

There's no denying we were pretty far from home plate, but we were close to the dinner plate, and it was a fun way to watch a ballgame.

The Dodgers ended up winning 7-2, making the game that much better. I like to think R2 had something to do with that. :-)

It was a great night, and I hope to be back again next year. Not sure how to top it, but we'll see.

The full photoset is here. Thank you to Mike Senna for taking almost all of them!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Lucasfilm/ESPN Commercial

The commercial we shot for Lucasfilm and ESPN back on August 17, 2011 is now airing, so I can finally share more details about it. First, here is the commercial on YouTube:

As you can see, R2 has a very small roll in the ad, but I couldn't really say much about the other characters until now. The real stars are the ESPN crew and Vader.

Storyboards on the set gave us an idea of how the ad would flow.

501st members Dean Amstutz and Michael Bender served as the stormtroopers, and Christi Ladnier was our Boba Fett. Lucasfilm provided the Vader, Chewbacca and Admiral Akbar characters. ESPN hosts Mark Schlereth and Tedy Bruschi rounded out the cast.

Lucasfilm's archivist accompanied the Lucasfilm costumes for the shoot.

The commercial was shot with two cameras, and many, many takes were done from different angles, with different characters on the set at any given time.

The audio for Vader and the stormtroopers was piped in via speakers on the set, so the characters kind of pantomimed their rolls (although "Can't wait" was missing, so Vader spoke the line through his helmet on the set, and the final audio was added later).

One of the particularly interesting things to me was that even though we were on a green screen set, they used a system that was able to composite an animatic background in real-time as they shot, so the director could get a good idea of what the finished shot would look like. I was able to get a picture of the computer system that modeled the finished design. Neat stuff.

Most of the morning was spent shooting Vader and the stormtroopers with poor Mark Schlereth, who must have done that choking at least 50 times during the day. Because of the somewhat crowded set and the fact that I couldn't use the camera flash, I wasn't really able to get anything other than blurry pictures of the monitors.

After the lunch break, there was more shooting with the troopers and Boba Fett, along with some of the others. I was able to move in a little closer.

I'm sorry, but it's the law, I have to say it: "It's a trap!"

Finally, at the end of the day, R2 was called to the set for his shots. First, we set up the profile shot, and then the over-the-shoulder shot, which open the commercial. This was easy stuff. No driving around trying to hit my marks. Just turn the dome and stop at the right spot.

We also did the head-on shot of R2 flailing his arms and turning his head, while playing the scream sound. Since I only had two hands to work with, I worked the transmitter with the director, as he opened and closed one of the arms, while I handled the other arm, the dome, and the sound.

With R2's final shot complete, they called it a wrap and started striking the set.

The crew and others got the usual photos with R2.

It was another fun an interesting shoot, and I appreciate having had the opportunity to participate.

The full photoset is here.