I have been working very hard to figure out what I want to do for this project. I have also spent the last two weeks totally sick and trying to focus but I am totally excited for what I came up with. My design presentation was also pretty successful so I am excited to move forward with this idea.
My primary goal for this project was to incorporate something that I am passionate about while also delving into a more design heavy process. I love prop making. I like the design process, prototyping, and manufacturing as it takes many different forms. I have completed a lot of small props and attempted only one large-scale prop character so I figured that I could attempt another. The Iron Man armor. Iron Man is an iconic character in Marvel comic books and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The design of the armor has become iconic and recognizable by many. The cinematic introduction of Iron Man meant the suit could be redesigned in a realistic way that depicts movement and functionality that the comic book images could have never achieved. I am most intrigued by the mechanical movements of each piece in the extremely complex design that feels so realistic. It leads the audience to believe that the suit is real and each moving piece serves a true function as they interact with each other. In reality, each piece of the suit is completely cosmetic and has been designed by the Marvel team to sell the functionality while also looking so very cool. This reminded me heavily of the Steampunk aesthetic.
The Iron Man suit design itself has become a developed aesthetic throughout its long life in the films. In each film the suit forms around the main character in different ways, each increasingly more complex than the previous as the design is refined. The color scheme and shapes change throughout the series. Surprisingly enough, there have now been over 50 different Iron Man suit designs. The unique functions and reimagining of the original red and gold design have resulted in a large collection of different amazing suits that make up the Iron Man aesthetic. That is why I would like to add to the collection but with a much different approach. A few of the suits do resemble other aesthetics in combination with the classic design and I plan to take a similar approach but with a more drastic aesthetic variation.
The physical form of my reimagining has been a major point of contention in my mind. After a lot of research into materials and major consideration of time and financial constraints, I have decided to focus on a portion of the new suit that will showcase my design effectively. I am going to build the upper portion from about the waist up in full scale and glory. There are very few actual, life-sized, Iron Man armors utilized in making the films. There has certainly not been a real suit made for each design featured in the films as they rely heavily on CGI. I enjoy this computer generation process but manufacturing the final product just takes the design to the next level. Creators are able to manipulate lighting and atmosphere in the digital realm in order to create a perfect looking suit for each scene but the physical creation holds a near and dear spot in my heart. Throughout the cinematic series, the entire filming process involves little to no practical effects and relies heavily on computer generation. There are very few cases of a full design being realized throughout this process and this greatly pushes me to move from the digital space to the manufacturing space.
My plan for the overall design of this suit of armor revolves around the steampunk aesthetic. I will showcase a few of my favorite pieces of inspiration as it shows a great range of utility and application. Steampunk is a complex aesthetic that has many contributors that have made it such a compelling look. Metal is a huge part of steampunk as it is heavily featured in different cogs and mechanical pieces that assemble a mechanical look without the function. The aesthetic seems to be most effective when it is used to suspend disbelief and make the viewer wonder if the mechanical pieces really serve a function in the overall design. This is very similar to the Iron Man design and I believe the two distinct looks will blend together nicely.
The mechanical gears moving throughout a steampunk design are perfectly contrasted with more organic curves that are sometimes utilized in this aesthetic. I would really like to incorporate both of these aspects heavily in my final product so that is where I started with my rough draft sketches. My primary goal was to simply get something on paper even if it was miles away from what I wanted my final design to be.
I learned a lot about how I wanted my Iron Man design to mesh with the more drastic steampunk look in this sketching phase. Rivets. Cogs. Screws. Tubing. Major weathering. Muted color tone. These are major aspects of blending the two concepts together. The sketches do not capture the color tone of the design that I am pursuing but they are the supplies that I had on hand. Given this constraint and newfound confidence in the mesh of aesthetics, I moved to the digital realm with my design. It is much easier to manipulate the different materials and colors within the Maya software that I am using. I will soon be testing different cog placement and rivet spots.
Understanding my overall constraints has assisted me and my timeline. The top five constraints that I have considered are:
- TIME! Deadlines!
- Designed with enough Steampunk influence AND Iron Man influence
- Maya modeling learning curve
- Relearning the electronic aspects
Time is critical because this is such a large project and I really do not have a lot of time overall. I would like to make a standing statue/suit of armor by the end of the semester and I will soon see if this is a possibly goal. I would also like to ensure that I hold onto aspects of each aesthetic as I merge them together. I really want each to shine through to their fullest potential. My financial status is not looking good right now so I am going to be researching different materials that will make this project a little easier on the wallet. I do believe that 3D printing is an effective method of producing the helmet and the more unique cogs/rivets/nuts but I want to find a different material for the main portion of the suit. Right now the best option looks to be EVA foam at around 1/2″ thickness. This should allow me to UV map the models that I develop moving forward. I will then be able to simply unfold the design and reconstruct in foam form as the design has been transferred over. I am planning on learning a lot more from Maya as I progress through this project and this will certainly be a constraint that I am considering. My last constraint is that of electronic pieces. I plan on having a dynamic final product with lights throughout. Ideally I will be able to add different servos to the separate pieces of the armor in order to move each portion similar to the cinematic Iron Man armor. It would also be very cool to involve moving cogs integrated in the design. This will take a bit of time to relearn as I have not dealt with some of these electronics in about a year now. It should not be too difficult but it is yet another constraint to consider nonetheless.
In order to really kick my design process into high gear, I manufactured a part! This was simply 3D printing of a prototype Iron Man helmet just to make sure that this process would not be too terribly difficult. I am now going to use this printed piece to physically test different gears, rivets, tubes, and colors that will help my finished product reach its full potential ahead of schedule.