Starship Troopers: Invasion

Aug 24

Blog #13 On Blu-ray & DVD!

The day has finally come.  It has been a long 3 years of hard work by hundreds of people involved in the project, and it’s literally brimming with the blood, sweat, and tears of so many staff members.  So, I hope you all enjoy what we created and can see all that passion packed into the finished product.  The movie was given the same treatment as a big CG theatrical release so trust me when I say it’s a title you will want to own on Blu-ray — in 1080p High Definition with amazing 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  For those who would like to see exactly what it took to produce this film, you can check out the 11 featurettes created first hand by the production team.  Various stages of filmmaking are described in vivid detail: from how the character, ship, and bug designs were made and converted to CGI models — to how the motion capture movements were imported.

(Below: Creating a CG model from a design sketch)

(Below: Applying motion captured movement to a CG model)

(Below: A scene before and after rendering)

You can enjoy the following special features on Blu-ray:

 -          Blu-ray Exclusive Conceptual Art Gallery

-          Filmmaker Commentary

-          Deleted Scenes:

1)      “I don’t like funerals.”

2)      Marzijon Wormhole

-          Gag Reel

-          The Making of Starship Troopers: Invasion

1)      Genesis

2)      Archive

3)      Character Design

4)      Motion Capture

5)      Powersuits

6)      Bugs

7)      Ships

8)      Animation

9)      Backgrounds

10)   Compositing

11)   Music

I’d like to take one last opportunity to thank all the staff members who worked hard day and night (weekends included) to create this amazing film.  Cheers!

Don’t sweat it Troopers, you know I’ll be back with at least one or two more updates, so be sure to report back for duty!

Jul 31

Marauder MKII

As I described in a previous blog post, the full power suit array is comprised of 3 independent but cooperative components.  The inner garment, the main body power suit, and the Marauder MKII. Marauder appeared in the 3rd film so we wanted Mr. Aramaki – the master of powered exoskeleton design – to create a badass yet realistic update.

The MKII is a mech/vehicle “worn” over the regular power suit to enhance body movement, provide stronger armor, and add additional firepower.  While it’s capable of walking on 2 legs, the thruster jet is more effective for bigger distances.  It’s equipped with dual Gatling guns, missile launchers, and mega chainsaws to slice and dice bugs in hand-to-leg combat.  Within the front protective covering, the operator benefits from a HUD that shows all surroundings and relevant information.  

This would be an exceptionally pricey piece of equipment, impossible to mass produce, and thus still limited to Rico’s Roughnecks.  Here is the more detailed design and you can see the iconic “Death from Above” emblazoned on the hood.





The MKII’s can kick bug ass but will they arrive in time to save the day?  Stay tuned…

I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you fans for the very enthusiastic welcome at the Comic-con premiere!   The film also opened in theatres in Japan and we’re getting great feedback on Twitter.

Saddle up, Troopers, the bug threat is very real and…INCOMING!!!

Jun 27

L-6 Base

In the first movie, there was a huge lunar base orbiting the moon to serve as a supply center and staging point for varying starships and missions.  You may recall a similar battlestation called Ticonderoga that was the staging point for the attack on Klendathu.  In the 3rd film (like the novel), the fleet’s headquarters were located at a base at Sanctuary.  Since this movie takes place quite a few years after the third film, we took the liberty to create another station near the moon, the L-6 Base (“L” stands for Lunar).  Here is the initial concept design and the final look.

And, guess who is stationed there as Terra’s last defense?  General Johnny Rico.

Even though Johnny Rico is Mobile Infantry for life, this Fleet base has multiple functions in addition to starship docking.  It’s equipped with some heavy firepower including nukes and a plasma cannon.

With Johnny Rico on the bridge, you know his Roughnecks can’t be too far off – maybe with the new Marauder MK II?  A ship had to be designed/created for his team that could carry and launch pods.  Yes, you read it right.  The drop pods described in the original novel.  Rest assured, the Roughnecks will don these updated Marauder suits and enter the fray.  But where are they going to drop?  You’ll have to wait for the movie…but here is a sneak peak

Saddle up, troopers! We are planning for a World Premiere in San Diego! And Everyone Fights! Casper, Ed, Flint, Joseph, Mr. Aramaki, Mr. Kawada, and Lance from the game!  Don’t forget to watch the trailer!

May 23

THE REUNION

I guess it’s about time we reveal some fun facts. As you may remember from the original film, the friendship of Johnny, Carmen, and Carl was a central story element. We watched them graduate high school together and then put their lives on the line in service of the Federation. Now, we are going to have the 3 friends get together…but in a way that they would have not expected.

 

Carmen Ibanez, who flew the Rodger Young in the first movie, is now captain of the John A. Warden (the battleship I introduced in previous blogs). Carl Jenkins, now Minister of Paranormal Warfare, takes over the John A. Warden for a deep space experiment – leaving Carmen livid and ship-less. Carl brushes off her vehement objections and disappears with the ship off into the vast nebula. When Carl and the ship go radio-silent, guess who orders a rescue mission? Yep…it’s big-time general/war-hero Johnny Rico.

 

As our film is set almost 10 years after the first movie, the big 3 are now in their mid 30’s and have somehow kept their relationships in tact despite deployments millions of miles apart. You will see their fragile yet strangely resilient relationship evolve in this movie, especially with Rico still a little soft on Carmen…and a familiar uncertainty about whether Carmen still reciprocates those feelings. We definitely paid homage to the original movie (in all sorts of ways), so we can’t wait to see how fans of the original respond to an awesome mix of nostalgia and “franchise update.”

Johnny Rico now has a scar and eye patch. We will leave to your imagination how he got that, but we really like the rugged, battle-hardened look.




Carmen is still beautiful and passionate. She is Fleet so she is not wearing a power suit.

Carl is brushing up on his psychic ability and adding some more creepiness.

I’m bursting at the seams…would love nothing more than to share everything about the film with all of you. However, for now, I have to get back to my civil duties as finishing the movie guarantees my citizenship!

May 04

BUGS!!

As I mentioned in a previous post, we made the decision upfront to stay within the movie’s universe despite all being huge fans of the original Heinlein novel. It just made sense to bring back the sinister hordes of bugs from the original film. We obviously kept the iconic Warrior bug as our main enemy, but we also wanted to have new and fresh approaches to the bugs. Our first challenge was ensuring the bugs fit within the Starships. If you measure the bugs closely in the original film, you realize that they are rather big — probably too big to charge down a ship’s corridor. For this film, we took a liberty and scaled down the Warrior bug (just slightly) for that reason. Roaches come in different sizes in the real world, right? Otherwise, they look identical, are filled with the same green blood, and let out the same shrieks when getting pumped full of Federation lead. We’ve had a lot of fun with the bug “characters.” We needed someone to voice the base bug shrieks and casted a Japanese actor whose real name happened to be Mr. Bug (“Baku” is the Japanese phonetic spelling) Owada. His voice has been digitally transformed and the final outcome has the same feel as the original films but is just a bit more “animated.”


Although, we wanted to also use some other bugs from the movie for continuity, they were just too large. To add some variety to the battle scenes, we were looking for a bug that could attack the troopers from distance. The original bugs from the film were armed with plasma and flame-based “weapons.” Plasma just seemed more badass so we created a new species from scratch and named it “Plasma Grenadier Bug.” The design is inspired by several different insects including the beetle, grub, mantis, and pill-bug.


There are some more fun variations of the bugs but I cannot reveal EVERYTHING here. Don’t worry, we are close to the finish line and will announce the release date soon. Stay sharp, Troopers! The only good bug is a dead bug! Right…?




Apr 10

Power Suits

It goes without saying that the power suits were essential to the original Heinlein novel.  From what I’ve heard, the first movie did not have the power suits due to a “creative decision” made at the time.  Later on, Ed decided to have the Marauder suits appear in the third movie as an homage to the novel.

For our movie, we definitely wanted to have fun with the power suits since we have the master of mechanical and robotic designs, Mr Shinji Aramaki as our director.  Mr Aramaki has designed a lot of “mecha” (that’s what we call it in Japanese) for various movies.  Incidentally, his first inspiration and motivation to start his career was actually the illustration on the Japanese version of the novel.  As Mr Aramaki was already a diehard fan of Starship Troopers before this project, we turned over the keys and gave him full freedom to approach the design process as both a filmmaker and a fan.  We couldn’t be happier with the result. He worked together with another designer bearing the same first name, Mr Shinji Usui (also known for mecha designs, but in the game space). They essentially came up with 3 different power suits: The inner suit to support all muscles, the main power suit, and the new Marauder Mk II. 

Here are some of the initial conceptual designs.

The inner suit conceptual design…

Main power suit conceptual design…

Marauder conceptual design…

When the initial designs were ready, I asked for a variation for female characters and clear markings and call signs on the suits so that the viewers can easily recognize who’s who

Here is the conceptual design for the female version. It’s slimmer but not too much in order to preserve the integrity/authenticity we feel best fits the Starship Troopers universe.

What do you think?  If you’re still on the fence as to whether the power suit designs fit the Starship Troopers universe, just take a look at the finished suit.  Enjoy!


Mar 14

Mo-cap


Sorry for the radio silence for the last month. I was fighting off zombies and Plagas, helping mutants and comic book heroes, and battling against Word War II German tanks.

Well, you probably have already seen the announcement of the new mobile game. It will be the prequel to our movie and you will be defending Fort Casey with the K-12 team under the command of Hero.  Hope you all are excited as it will be available on both iOS and Android (that should cover about 90% of you). We also are about to debut our teaser trailer at Wondercon on Mar 17th! If you cannot make it out to lovely Anaheim, CA, rest assured you will get to see it online soon after. Will talk about the trailer next time.

This time, let me talk a little bit about the motion capture we did in Tokyo last year. As you all know, on March 11, 2011, the huge earthquake and devastating Tsunami hit the coast of Japan. It has been a year, but a full recovery is still a very long way off. We already had locked in our travel plans to do the motion capture in Tokyo in May, and the US staff flew out from Houston as originally planned. It was only 2 months after the earthquake with frequent aftershocks and a shortage of electricity — so it was a rather scary experience for the folks who flew in. For some of them, it was their first experience with earthquakes. Even though it was in an unusual atmosphere (to say the least), the motion capture went very well. Motion capture is done with people wearing black skin-tight suits with kind of light balls that reflect the infrared signals and let the multiple high tech cameras capture the movement. As our characters are supposed to be wearing power suits in the movie, we had to put sponges under our actors’ arms so that their movements would be limited as if they were wearing armor. They also had to fight imaginary bugs. But, for some scenes, a Japanese staffer held a balloon and made squeaky noises to simulate the bug squeals. The funny part is that he practiced impersonating a bug at home in front of his wife, and I guess his wife was like “what the ???”. Anyway, please check out this glimpse of how the motion capture was done. It looks strange and a bit comical but guaranteed to be amazing sequences when finished.



We are about to start our voice recording sessions. Our 2-year march is almost at its finale. Keep your expectations high; STI is going to blow your expectations out of the water!

Feb 08

Troopers

As already mentioned, camaraderie is just as integral to the new movie as it was to the original. The story for our film is not focused on just one main character but rather a journey with an ensemble cast of Roughnecks fighting against the bugs.  It was essential to us to add some diversity in order to create an interesting dynamic between familiar characters and some that are brand new to the ST universe. At times, it may resemble some of the old war movies we all grew up on, but if that’s the sacrifice to get to grittier characters and a heavier story – then so be it.

The story centers around 2 teams of Roughnecks: the Alpha 1 team embarking on a mission to rescue Fort Casey and the K-12 team already stationed at Fort Casey. The two war-depleted squads must band together with a common objective, but personalities and ambition ensure a bumpy ride.

Flint came up with a variety of characters and story elements that will harken back to the archetypes ubiquitous in your favorite Sci-Fi, War, and Action/Adventure movies. We have an old loyal lieutenant, a quiet gladiator-type hero, a not-so-smart but straight-forward meathead, a creepy unlucky guy, a grim explosives expert, a Zen religious master, a handsome womanizer, a psychic horny scout, a hot girl sniper, a tough beautiful single mom, and so on — along with some returning characters.  Safe to say, it will get dicey!

There is one character who will be at the center: Major Henry Varro, nickname Hero. He was the commander of the K-12 team at Fort Casey, but he is arrested for insubordination by Dr Carl Jenkins. He is a prisoner on the ship Alesia as he is being transported to Earth for court marshal. While it’s not immediately apparent why he’s perceived as a threat, we do know that he retains the respect and admiration of all those that served under him.  His experience, in combination with the undying trust of the troopers, is an asset the Federation won’t be able to survive without indefinitely…

Here is a snapshot of how he looks.

We are planning to put up some character profiles soon so stay tuned!

Jan 06

Starship John A. Warden

Some people may be wondering about the origin of this ship’s name.  It’s derived from Mr. John A. Warden III, a retired US Air Force colonel.  He changed the course of history during his days at Pentagon, especially the first Gulf War.  I cannot fully explain all of his accomplishments and career so I asked our friend Flint Dille who came up with the idea.  Here is his unedited comment:

Ed Neumeier and I met John A. Warden when he was Commandant at the Air Force Command and Staff  College in Montgomery, Alabama—a kind of graduate school for top mid-level officers. In any case, Ed smuggled me an invite to a conference called ‘Connections.’  It was a visionary idea at the time. The idea was for the Air Force to talk to people in the film and game industries to encourage creative thinking. I figured the conference was going to be about how to get better graphics for simulators, or better A.I. or something like that. Then, while we were talking to Col. John A. Warden at the icebreaker, he said, ‘what would the effect on the enemy be if a giant hologram of Nebuchadnezzar emerged in the desert saying, ‘Saddam Hussein is a false prophet, a blasphemer’ — or some such.  I realized, at that moment we were on a whole different ride.

We talked about things like deploying food from the air rather than bombs — applying nitrogen to the situation. That kind of things.

Then, I discovered that John A. Warden had been the architect of the Air Campaign in the first gulf war.  Wow! It was him that was behind the fact that Saddam Hussein had no command and control of his troops after the first 7 minutes of the attack and that’s why the army didn’t do anything. 

There were more connections conferences and over the years we got to know John well.  I even collaborated with him on a game. Three publishers died on that journey, but as recently as yesterday, we were talking about using some of those ideas in an iPad strategy game.

Anyway, John A. Warden is the real deal. The real deal. He’s probably the most brilliant strategist alive.  Nowadays, he is consulting corporations on how to reverse engineer his 5 Rings Strategy in order to build (reverse the destruction process to build a system).  It is and has been an honor to know him.  Since heroes don’t get airplanes named after them, the way Admirals get ships named after them, we figured it would be fitting to name a Starship after him. After all, he’s half way into the future most of the time, anyway.

Hence, the John A. Warden.

Flint

Amazing, isn’t it? So, our story revolves around this ship and thus his name will be called out many times. For more information on Mr Warden, please refer to http://www.facebook.com/pages/Venturist-Inc/131606206894849?sk=wall.

As for the design of the ship, as previously mentioned, it is in line with the former ones but with much more firepower. It also happens to look a little like a Bug. Below are the conceptual designs.  


Enjoy and much more to come!  Happy New Year and prepare for Summer!!!

Dec 19

Starships

As the title implies, the ships are an integral part of the Starship Troopers universe.  Likewise, political commentary was a key element of both the original Heinlein novel and the original Starship Troopers movies we all know and love.  The starship name Rodger Young, used in both the novel and the movie, is homage to a WWII Medal of Honor recipient.  Fittingly, the creative wizards of the first movie designed a ship that is so badass that she is still praised and referenced by sci-fi fans.

For the new movie, we wanted to focus on a pair of ships that have broken off from the main fleet: a big starship called John A. Warden, and a small fast-attack ship called Alesia. Alesia’s name is derived from the Battle of Alesia in Eastern France where Vercingetorix surrendered to Julius Caesar.  The Starship Alesia is home to the Roughnecks Alpha Team and is tasked with escorting the John A. Warden from Fort Casey back to Earth.  We also gave other ships historical names like “Sheridan” (Civil War) and “Franklin” (as in Benjamin).

The design process started with the original designs from the previous movies.  We decided to keep the overall sleek and stylish designs and revamped them with updated guns and cannons as well as containers and cranes. Check out the conceptual design/sketch of Alesia and the work-in-progress below.

That’s all for 2011. Will come back early 2012 with new updates, including more about the John A. Warden. Until then, Best Wishes!