ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Hollywood prop-maker and digital fabricator Jason Lopes spoke to students and other attendees at the University of Michigan on Tuesday afternoon. He discussed some of his past projects including Robert Downey Jr.’s suit for “Iron Man,” the Bodock the Giant Creature cosplay robot and the mohawks for Katy Perry’s “Prismatic” World Tour.
Lopes grew up in Fox River Grove, Illinois and attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia. He began has career by working as a systems administrator at Ring of Fire and later at Klasky Csupo.
“I was kind of a clown in high school and I don’t need any of this math stuff,” he admitted during a lecture at the University of Michigan. “I just want to do art. That’s why I’m at Carbon now.”
Then, he worked as a lead systems engineer at the Stan Winston Studio and later at Legacy Effects. His current role is a production development engineer at Carbon in Redwood City, Calif.
“Stan Winston was an amazing person,” Lopes said. “Unfortunately, he passed away in 2008 due to melanoma cancer. We opened and created Legacy Effects with everything he thought of. Technology was the way to go.”
The Hollywood prop-maker and digital fabricator said that he believes in the power of 3D printers with 100 percent confidence.
“In 2007, we were going through a big recession,” he explained. “People wanted more for less. Quicker turnarounds. Changes at the last minute. We were approached for a Halo 3 campaign. A frozen moment in time of a battle. There’s no way we can do this. Almost 900 characters. It’s not going to happen.”
However, it did happen. Lopes came up with the idea of having a huge water gun fight. He hired a whole bunch of photographers to shoot it from every angle. Then, he and his team wound up using that battle as the pose for the video game commercial. They finished the project ahead of schedule and we able to add some finishing touches that really made it stand above the rest.
Marvel Studios contacted Lopes and his team from Legacy Effects to build Robert Downey Jr.’s suit for the movie “Iron Man.” Director Jon Favreau said he wanted Iron Man to come to life and do everything with the exception of flying. That project kicked off in mid-2017.
“By the time “Iron Man 3” came out, we were down to 35 minutes to suit him up,” Lopes explained. “This was a labor of love. One of the most sexiest suits that ever been created.”
During his time at Legacy Effects, Lopes told his boss, “We need a 3D printer in house.” However, it was a major investment at $170,000. The boss was hesitant at first, but later agreed to make the purchase. Lopes said the 3D printer was paid off way ahead of schedule in only three and a half months.
The Hollywood prop-maker and digital fabricator also worked on a hyper realistic clone of soccer star Christiano Ronaldo. He was in the middle of soccer season and only had seven minutes to scan him. For that project, Legacy collaborated with a digital 3D scanning company called FBFX.
“We came up with a way,” Lopes said. “We used a photo rig with 122 cameras. We needed to get data from all angles. Many different traditional methods and technology coming together. Without one individual group, it wouldn’t have happened. We came up with a system that had 2,560 RGB LED’s. What is the first thing you do when you meet someone is lock on their eyes. He wears contacts to change his eyes depending on what outfit he wears. The techs at Legacy are beyond amazing. Keep in mind we had a month to do this.”
Lopes also worked on two special effects projects for the San Diego Comic-Con International entertainment and comic convention.
“We did a crazy thing,” he admitted. “We showed up the first year with a robot that we did out of pocket on top of our normal day jobs. It went so well. The next year, ‘Let’s ask the internet what we should build.’ Everyone has an idea of what they think it should be. There’s a lot of magic in that project.”
The idea ended up being a tall animatronic creature called Bodock the Giant Creature. It was created through a partnership with Stan Winston School, Stratasys, and Wired magazine. He and his team only had 24 days from the start of the project until its debut at Comic-Con.
“We wanted to do this special,” Lopes explained. “For four Tuesdays, we were live-streaming from our studio watching us build this monster. I wanted to mix every department into this. We called up the original sculptors from ‘Jurassic Park.’ They were willing to no problem. This is a massive build. It stood about 18 feet tall. We wanted to control this monster.”
The Bodock project got the attention of the producers from “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” They wanted Kimmel to ride the animatronic creature down Hollywood Boulevard for a segment on the late-night talk show. So Legacy Effects agreed and made it happen. Two days later, they took it down to San Diego for Comic-Con.
“It was a very special moment for me…I got a little depressed,” Lopes said. “Bodock is going to go up in storage. What can we do to keep him alive? blippar Augmented Reality cards that we could hang on and get a behind-the-scenes of the entire build. It wasn’t a one and done.”
Lopes talked about a third project involving Katy Perry and her “Prismatic World Tour.” She wanted her backup dancers to be wearing mohawks for her opening routine. He also worked on the neon jump ropes that Perry and her dancers used during the tour as well.
“We decided to keep it really simple,” he explained. “Being able to trust technology. It’s getting better and better everyday. I was Carbon’s first ever customer. They gave me the first prototype machine. The speed that I can get out of this technology is unreal. You find what limits you and that’s when you really come alive. That’s when magic happens.”
The Hollywood prop-maker and digital fabricator also mentioned a recent Carbon project, Adidas Futurecraft shoes. It features a mix of mesh and Primeknit over a 3D printed sole. He also wore them and pointed them out during his presentation.
Lopes wrapped up his talk by giving some advice to the students: “Thats why the communication and working together cross-disclipine. I can’t stress that enough. When you work on these projects, go above and beyond. You’ll be surprised how it helps you out later on.”
For more information about Jason Lopes, visit his website at http://www.jasonmlopes.com/