A look into the mind of the Monster.


Post I wrote for the L5 Production Blog....

Well Hello L5 fans!
Quick notes here from Chad Burns, your friendly neighborhood Production Designer.
There are lots of things in the works, but the one everyone loves to talk about is the Mark IV EMU…commonly called the Spacesuit.
Hand in hand with Toms post on tone, I want to discuss the goal of the Spacesuits we are making.  Our goal is to make a suit that is not a direct copy of current suit designs, but is still grounded in reality. Stanley has designed an incredible suit…and it falls to me to help make it take shape.
We are building a Hard Upper Torso (HUT), similar to the current Mark III designs being tested by NASA and ILM Dover, with a bearing ring system between the HUT and the soft portions of the suit at the arms and waist.
As alluded to in the Video Diary, the current HUT is the forth version we have constructed. Some of you have asked for a little more info on the previous versions, so I’ll walk you through the evolution of the Mark IV.
Mark IV, Version I and II.
 The first version was a shaped foam board sculpted scaffold that we planned to use as a casting form for fiberglass. It didn’t quite shake out as we liked, so Stanley redid the sculpting.  That was Version I...it didn’t even make it out of prototype.  After redoing the foam board carving we had Version II ready for fiber-glassing. 
That was where I got to start getting my hands dirty with the build process. The fiberglass didn’t work as we would have liked on several fronts. One, the resin heats up as it cures. It heats up to the point of melting the foam board, even sealed in coats of primer.  As you can guess…not good for the process. Secondly, the fiberglass didn’t take to some of the complex curves as well as we wanted it to. We even tried shoring up the regular fiberglass with medical fiberglass, which still didn’t form the way we wanted.  After several attempts at getting the fiberglass to work…we knew when to step back and try a different method.

Mark IV, Version III and IV.
The next attempt was Version III. Rather than attempting to cast the suits, we planned to build them individually. We built a frame out of MDF, and overlaid a skin of cardstock this time.

We also did some material research and decided to try a product called Shell Shock from Smooth-On.( Smooth-On was very helpful in figuring out the best stuff to use, and I highly recommend them for anyone doing any prop construction projects. [Smooth-On's  link:  http://www.smooth-on.com/index.php?cPath=1165 ]) 
After completing Version III, and doing some fit testing we decided that it could use some tweaks.

The arm holes where a tad small, and their placement didn’t feel right. Also the HUT looked a little short through the waist, and we wanted the helmet opening more centered over the torso. We also learned that the mounting platform for the Life Support Pack (LSP) was at too steep of an angle. 
Thus was born the Mark IV, Version IV.

We rebuilt the frame, salvaging the helmet opening and the LSP mounting board. This time we increased the size of the arm holes by about 30% and moved them closer to center. We also increased the curve and height of the breastplate, allowing the head hole to be more centered on the torso line. This also decreased the angle of the PLS mounting board…making for a much better silhouette as you can see here. 

Skinning Version IV.
This brings us to our current point in the process, laying the skin on Version IV. We stretched canvas over the ribbed frame, added some felt for bulk, and started laying on Shell Shock.

This product has worked awesome so far!!!  Our results to date have been very good. Currently I am working to polish out the skinning of the Suit A and have begun construction on Suit B. The helmets are our next big step, followed by soft suit construction once we get the bearing systems installed. Overall, not only am I pleased with the current process; I have had a blast making these.

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