| Category: News | | Comments (0) | Views: 12

I had a really great short conversation with one of our veteran animators here at Tippett earlier today. He was an animator on Star Wars, and machined many of the intricate parts for the AT-ATs and creatures of James and the Giant Peach to name a few of his film accomplishments.

I had a bunch of questions for Tom about machining in general, and what's involved in creating the little armatures he used to create the animatronics for films such as Gremlins, Batteries Not Included, and Star Wars V. It was a very interesting discussion, which hopefully I can recap appropriately here! I thought I'd write it down now since I've always been a big fan of little details and miniatures, and would like a fairly good record of our conversation.

I was in the Tippett shop doing some metal work of my own, when I noticed that one of the milling machines was operating in the background. Tom was creating a small armature for one of his projects, and I approached him to ask how the entire process worked. He took me through the steps of how he creates a small, detailed armature piece, and from there described the different tools that the shop had. One of the ones that we do not have is a CNC machine (Computer Numerical Control). Many of the other veteran artists at Tippett have a background in miniatures and animatronics. I mean, the studio is named after Phil of course! Other notable artists that are still here and have done machining in the past include Blair, who is currently supervising Charlotte's Web, Craig, who designed most, if not all, of the bugs from Starship Troopers and was the visual effects supervisor for Constantine and Matrix Revolutions here at Tippett, and of course, Phil himself, which I have yet to meet in an official capacity! I had a couple questions that I posted to Tom, one about using milling and lathing machines in a mass production capacity, and he mentioned that things like that would be best suited for CNC machines, where a computer can automatically and effectively reproduce countless parts to exact specifications. Milling and lathing machines would be used for smaller machine shops that could specialize in individual parts for people that need them. While not as cheap as a CNC machined part, it would be more versatile for one or two copies of a part.

Overall, it was a very brief conversation, but it has always been an idea of mine to create cool, small intricate models. I've always been interested into miniatures and model building, ever since I botched a Lamborghini Countach model when I was seven or so (gluing all the parts together simultaneously and not letting it dry, then painting it, all in the span of an hour). Nowadays I just skip the assembly and just paint (my Warhammer 40K hobby), or just assemble and not paint(my A5 turned G36c). I would love to create exacting, machined metal parts from scratch! There's something inherently cool about a polished metal machine that's exacting.

Leave a comment