Thursday, September 19, 2019

Psycho Masks for Borderlands 3 Commercials

A few months back I was contacted by a friend of mine at 2K Games who told me that they were planning on shooting a few live-action commercials to promote the release of Borderlands 3.  They had everything else lined up, but in a mad rush they needed someone to create the masks for the "psychos" who show up on all of the box art:


No problem.

My crew and I turned out four copies of this mask in a little under two weeks and I couldn't be more proud of the results.  ere's one of those commercials:



To see how the masks were made, read on:



For starters, we were provided with the digital assets that Gearbox had developed to render these characters.  While the in-game models tend to have a pretty low poly count and rough, faceted surface, what the sent us turned out to be a high-resolution model with every detail built right in:
Psycho Digital Model

For the most part, all I had to do was combine some of the main shapes into a single printable piece, double-check that it was all watertight, and slice it into pieces my fleet of Zortrax printers could grow for me.  Here's a section in progress:
20190607_160004_1559949858211_001

The Zortrax M200 is an amazing machine.  For a plain-Jane FDM printer, it creates exceptionally smooth parts:
20190607_155957_1559949858146_001

On the digital side, the only thing that was even a bit of a challenge was making sure the separate parts would fit together once they were brought into the real world.  See, when a game designer is modelling parts, they don't have to care if the various pieces mesh into each other or if two parts are taking up the same space at the same time.  In our world though, that's a problem.  So it's a quick matter of using a few software workarounds to remove the extra parts that will interfere with each other.  You can see the end results on this grill piece that ended up notched to fit the plate details on the snout:
20190607_155950_1559949858054_001

Once all of the parts were printed, it was time to seam them together and smooth them out.  The main body of the mask was printed in three parts (for speed) so we had to blend in those seams with some filler and sanding:
Bandit Mask Prototyping

After a quick coat of primer, there was almost no evidence of a seam remaining:
Bandit Mask Prototyping

Still, we did one more round of smoothing things out with some glazing and spot putty:
Bandit Mask Prototyping

Once that was sanded smooth, the whole thing got a couple coats of my standard finished prototype color:
Bandit Mask Prototyping

Down on the lower right side of that picture, you can see the buckles, strap adjusters, D-rings, and respirator details that were also printed from the digital models.  We opted not to print the straps themselves, because that would be silly.

Molding this mask made for a good opportunity to flex my matrix molding muscles.  I tend to do a lot of brush-up molds for things like this, but this time around I didn't really have time to mess around with any of that.  Instead, I mounted the mask onto a cardboard base, built up some clay underneath it, and wrapped it in plastic cling wrap.  Then I covered the whole thing with a sheet of clay and built in registration ridges like so:
Bandit Mask Moldmaking

Then I laid up a fiberglass mothermold on one side like so:
Bandit Mask Moldmaking

As soon as that had cured enough to keep its shape, I flipped the whole thing around, applied a release agent to the mold wall, and laid up a fiberglass mothermold on the other side:
Bandit Mask Moldmaking

That paper cup built into the mothermold at this point will make a funnel shape.  It'll all make sense soon.

Later that day, when the fiberglass mothermold cured enough to pry it apart, I drilled bolt holes in the flange, pulled the whole thing off of the mask and removed all of the clay from underneath.  With the clay removed, I peeled off the plastic wrap, trimmed the edges of the mothermold, and replaced it over the clean, uncovered mask prototype. 

The mothermold was hot glued in place, taking care to ensure that the entire thing was completely watertight.  Then I mixed up a couple of big batches of silicone rubber and filled the mothermold all the way up to the top.  The next morning, the silicone had cured and the mold was ready to go:
Bandit Mask Moldmaking

The main body of the mask was rotocast in Smooth-Cast 300 urethane resin:
Fresh Casts

Smooth-Cast 300 cures to a nice, bright white which is nice in case the paint gets scratched.  With that in mind, I added a bit of black pigment to the smaller castings so they wouldn't show white through the darker colored areas if they were scuffed through.

The eye holes and the outer edges were trimmed and smoothed out pretty quickly with a Dremel:
Fresh Casts

Since I didn't have any information about who would be wearing these things, I had to just make them fit my fairly average face and hope for the best:
Fresh Casts

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While we were only asked to make three masks, we ended up casting and trimming five of them:
Paint Progress
This way we'd have a test piece to try out each step in the painting process in order to be sure there'd be no disagreements between the different paints we were using.

The base color was Rustoleum "Heirloom White" and the grills and lens frames were picked out in flat black.  The faux leather padding around the edges started out as a mix of Gloss Leather Brown and Satin White:
Paint Progress

Once the base colors had dried, my assistant Rachel picked out the silver parts by hand with an Aluminum-colored enamel:
Paint Progress

When it comes to metallics that are going to be weathered, I usually start with a few shades brighter than the final color I want.  That way the weathering can darken it into what I want.
Paint Progress

Once the aluminum parts were painted, the next step was to put a black strip down for the inverted V shape on the face.  Once the black had dried, we added the yellow on top of it:
Paint Progress

The next step was a couple of light acrylic washes over the entire surface in order to help the contours stand out and make the base colors seem a little less flat:
Paint Progress

Finally, in order to match the reference images 2K sent us, Rachel and I set to work adding all of the cel-shading lines to the surface:
Paint Progress

As humble as I can be, I  think we absolutely nailed the animated look these guys have in the game:
Paint Progress

The last step was to add some rubber straps painted to look like leather, add another wash over the yellow stripe to make it a bit more orange, then hand-form some tinted acrylic to make the lenses for the eyes.

With all of that done, we handed over four fully-finished masks to 2K for use in the commercial shoot(s).  Before they went off on their way to Hollywood, someone at 2K Games managed to take a few really great showcase photos of the finished product:
Finished Mask

Finished Mask

Finished Mask

I'd have preferred to use a darker acrylic for the lenses, but in the end it didn't matter.  I wanted to install lights in the eyes to give them their signature glow, but I was told they were going to add the glow in post-production, so it would've just been a waste of effort.  Still, I was proud of the results:
Finished Mask

Maybe one of these days I'll dust off the paint tester we've got sitting around and finish it up complete with glowing eyes, but it's not much of a priority.

In any case, we managed to complete over 130% of this little project on time and they ended up looking great on camera.  The only bummer about this project is that, as often happens with these kinds of things, once the client had them in hand, someone involved in the production changed their mind and decided to have the paintjob redone.  The idea was to make it look less like the in-game animation style and look more real-world photo-realistic.

So they had some local guy repaint them.

I wish I'd known they wanted a much rougher, simpler paint scheme.  It would've saved us an awful lot of time in the end.  But oh well.

There have been more and more of these commercials popping up every time I check the Borderlands Youtube channel.  For now, here's just a few of my personal favorites.  Enjoy!













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