Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Batman Live

Early on in 2011 i was part of the team that would help create the Batmobile for the new live arena show. The car itself was designed by Professor Gordon Murray & built by Asylum Models & Effects LTD. I was part of the mould shop team that moulded & cast the Batmobile. I later on landed a dream job of sculpting Batman & Robins suits. Which was nice.
First up is the Batmobile. Professor Murray's design was turned into a computer file & was used to "cut out" life size pieces of the car on a cnc machine. These pieces were then assembled, like a large model kit, & cleaned up & refined to a suitable finish.

Once completed the car body was disassembled into mouldable parts which consisted of the left & right front & rear wheel arch wings, nose cone, fuselage, rear spoiler & a back piece that doubled as a stylised Bat symbol. Fibreglass moulds were made of the pieces & wooden framework was added to the outside of the moulds to prevent warping. In the case of the fuselage a steel frame was added due to the size of the mould, some 16 feet long.

Once the moulds were done fibreglass casts were made of the body parts using fire retardant resin. Meanwhile the engineers were constructing a custom built framework that would go inside the car.

The car was attached together around the framework & assembled by the model makers & engineers. The model makers spent alot of time finishing the assembled pieces to a immaculate finish while the engineers & electricians worked on making the cockpit work as well as the traction system that allows the car to move. Specially sequenced lights were put into the wheels & the "afterburner" was rigged to glow & emit smoke creating the illusion of a flaming jet. In total two Batmobiles were created at Asylum by a team of some 15 or more people.

As the mould shops work was coming to an end on the Batmobile the boss came strolling over with a handful of images of the Batsuit as it appears in the game Arkham Asylum. Coincidentally at that time i was quite addicted to that game so instantly recognised the design. I somehow knew what he was going to say before he even uttered a word & am not ashamed to say that without thinking i blurted out the line "youve got to let me sculpt that batsuit man!".
As it turned out the executives in charge of the whole production were unhappy with the current Batsuit that had been created for the show by another company & had asked Asylum Models & Effects if they could help out. The main hurdle we faced was time. the show was premiering in roughly 3 weeks which meant that i would have no longer than 7 days to sculpt the suit!!
The suit was to be based on the Arkham Asylum suit & i was given a handful of reference images to get started. As soon as i got home that night i turned on the PS3 & opened up the Batman character trophy i had unlocked some time before & took lots of photos of my own, one of which is here.

The tricky thing with this, aside from the tight deadline, was they wanted me to try & match the proportions onto a real person. Obviously compromises had to be made but i tried my best to get the proportions as close to the game character as possible. There are 3 actors that play Batman so we were given a lifecast of the largest of these actors. The cast was divided into sections to aid with moulding later on: torso, arms & legs. It was made so that i could sculpt onto the whole body & then remove the parts when it came time to mould them. The torso sculpt was essentially a vest & the legs were like shorts while each arm went on seperately. The gauntlets were part of the arm sculpts. Shin pads were also sculpted.

Once the sculpt had been approved fibreglass moulds were made & cores taken from the moulds. The suit itself was cast in a flexible & durable foam. Spandex suits were attached to the cores & these cores were then put into the moulds & the foam was injected in. Once cured the moulds were opened & the foam casts were firmly fixed to the spandex undersuit which was taken off the core & given to the fabrication department who turned it into a wearable suit. This was then painted. I was quite vocal in my distaste of the colour scheme but at the end of the day its fot a live performance & actually works very well in context!

All in all i was fairly happy with how it turned out. Dont get me wrong theres plenty im not happy with & would love to change but for a 6 day sculpt its not half bad if i do say so myself! Besides i was about to get a chance to do another.
A few days after the official release of the new improved Batsuit the shows creators were now worried that it made their Robin suit look a bit naff. So i was asked to sculpt Robin too! The design was essentialy the same as Batman but with some subtle changes. I'd had time to mull over what i didnt like about the Batsuit & applied this to Robin & as a result i feel that Robin was the better of the 2 sculpts. A much tighter & confident sculpt helped by not having to try & give him impossible proportions! Again time was short so i had 6 days to get it sculpted. The process was exactly the same as the Batsuit but with little changes in places such as the elbows due to seeing what hadnt worked well with the Batsuit.

So there you have it. All in all a dream job for a geek such as myself! All that remains to be said is that all photos & videos appear courtesy of Asylum Models & Effects LTD. (even the ones that dont). And if youre into cool models & effects then check out their impressive website at:

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