Posted in chemistry, design and architecture, engineering

How robots are made

Sometimes it’s done in someone’s garage using spare parts from an out of date VCR. However, for the robots in the film franchise Transformers , the storyline of their creation is a little different.

Read on (Associated Press):

A high-tech blockbuster, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is practically two movies in one. There’s the live-action element, which took director Michael Bay and his cast to Egypt, Jordan and New Mexico. Then there’s the animated aspect, encompassing all the robots, which were built by artists at Industrial Light & Magic and Bay’s visual effects company, Digital Domain.

That effort took hundreds of artists, thousands of hours and even caused one computer to explode. “We lost some machinery,” visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar said with a smile. “The thing just kind of gave up.”

It all started with a few sketches. Before any work on the film began, before the script was even written, Bay hired a team of artists to draw the robot characters he saw in his head.

“The fun thing about Transformers is it’s anything your mind can imagine,” he said.

Those images were given to the writers as inspiration, and later to the visual effects creators, who used them as blueprints for the film’s biggest characters, said Farrar, a 28-year veteran of Industrial Light & Magic.

“It’s not unlike a building, where you’ve got to have a good blueprint and you spend a long time on the foundation,” he said. “Then all the sudden, boop, the building goes up.”

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. First, artists transform each of Bay’s 2-D drawings into 3-D digital images. They note the size specifics of each character (for example, Megatron’s feet are 15 feet long and seven feet wide) and how they might look behind various lenses.

Before shooting begins, though, Bay and his crew choreograph where the cameras will be, where robots will be, where the actors will be and how they’ll all interact with each other. Everything is pre-planned, Farrar said.

Because when filming starts, and star Shia LaBeouf runs through a forest to escape a robot fistfight, he’s actually alone.

“There’s nothing there,” the actor said in an interview. “This time we didn’t even have dudes reading lines back. There’s literally nothing.”

All that’s there, Farrar said, are window-washing poles stretched up to 30 feet high. The actors talk to the poles and must react as though giant robots are responding.

“The actors do have to sell it,” he said. “It would be a hoot to show what the sequence looks like with the actors talking back and forth but with nothing there other than a couple of sticks and poles.”

Maybe on the DVD, he joked.

Read the full story.

Robot Ironhide does battle in this scene from the movie “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.

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