The universe of Project Arbiter may have started in the mind of Michael Chance; however, it is scientific fact that concept artist Robert Simons IS the “Big Bang” that visually crafted PA into the stellar WWII Sci-Fi epic that it is becoming. Robert is a man of detail, dedication, and humility and you can see that in his work and how he contributes above and beyond with his ideas and craft. Here is what Robert has to share about his personal journey designing the world of Project Arbiter:
Meeting the Director
In the fall of 2008 I had just started my first term art Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California. At that time I had finished an entrance portfolio for Art Center that was a redesign for 20,000 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, set in a World War II. Soon after I got an email from the man himself Michael Chance. He was very interested in the suit I designed for that project (which you can see below) and wanted me to join him on making a 2 minute short film on a soldier that could turn invisible.
I also think that the time Mike contacted me was the best due to the fact that Art Center just explained to us the role of a concept artist. That the concept art could make or break a film during the pitch stages so I took much pride in everything Mike had me do for the project.
Designing the XO-7 Arbiter Invisibly Suit
The first film idea was an American soldier that was running from the Nazis and was eventually saved by an invisible soldier, the Arbiter. My original task was to design a metal looking gas mask, from there the idea grew. Mike and I wanted to know what the rest of this soldier could look like. We went through a few designs till we came across what you see now.
From that point the idea kept growing between Mike and I about what this suit could do up until it got to the point where Mike realized this was not just a short story anymore but a full fledged adventure. I tried my best to think through how the suit would work and how far a person in the suit could bend.
After the suit’s design was locked down, I moved into developing the oscillator backpack that starts the chemical process to make the suit go invisible. Originally, Mike wanted it to have the feel of a 1940’s motorcycle engine meets Tesla mechanics. After a few designs we had the look but the weight did not feel feasible, so we left it to Devin White and Adam Grumbo of Blue Realm Studios to model and kit bash one together that I do like very much. This is the original concept.
Arbiter’s Thompson Railgun
When setting our sights on the weapon of choice for the Arbiter, we knew we wanted something that was World War II modified, we played with a few guns till we came around to the iconic Thompson sub-machine gun. We sought to make the gun advanced, but to have a rudimentary look so we played with the idea of the Tommy gun to be the first-ever railgun. The way this railgun works is that it only accelerates the solid metal bullets to 1,000 mph, with the magnets that are on top of the gun. This makes the gun over heat but it can shoot through high density metals like that of a tank. Not shown here but the Arbiter’s gun is powered by the backpack seen above.
We Need an Lead!
After all the designs and Blue Realm building the suit we needed an actor. Mike had been casually looking for a lead for some time but he was not having much luck. I had been going to school with a friend named Lex Cassar and I had no idea that he had been trained as an actor. Lex and I had had conversations before about suit design and had shared ideas on how to design suits better. I had over heard him one day talking about how he used to act on the television series 24 and that stuck in the back of my mind and resurfaced when Mike had told me that he was looking for an actor to play Joe Colburn. It was perfect, Lex, a guy that loved suits and acted? With that, I had introduced them to one another via email and the rest is history!
Blue Realm, you guys ROCK!!!
Blue Realm Studios was responsible for building the Allies prototype XO-7 Arbiter suit and they did an amazing job.
As months went by, I kept getting pictures from Mike during the process of the suit building and every time I got a new image in my email, it helped push me to do more and more paintings of the Arbiter in Action!!! Guys, you are amazing.
This was extremely fun to do, but it was also very challenging mentally. For me, completing the CODE RED poster makes me feel as if I’m wrapping up the whole concept project from a design standpoint. It’s now at this point where I get to sit back and watch the magic happen from Mike’s post production team who is working hard to fully realize his vision of Project Arbiter.
- Robert Simons / Character Designer & Concept Artist
Tags: 000 Leagues Under the Sea, 20, 24 television show, Adam Grumbo, Arbiter, Art Center College, Blue Realm Studios, Code Red poster, concept art, Devin White, Dieselpunk, Lex Cassar, Michael Chance, motorcycle engine, Project Arbiter, Robert Simons, Sci-Fi, Steampunk, Tesla, Thompson Railgun, Thompson sub-machine gun, WWII, XO-7