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Report From ComiCon

written by Babydoc
August 1, 2000

A Weekend To Remember

The Roughnecks panel at the San Diego ComiCon was the climax of an action-packed visit to the West Coast for me. In just a little over two days I collected memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. It's difficult to know where to start.

Saturday, none other than Tim, ImC's husband treated Sparty, Lt. Matt, ImC and me to a special guided tour of the Nimitz class carrier, the John Stennis. Tim is an AW and he flies on the S3 Viking subhunter aircraft. His access provided us with an in-depth tour of the ship that was not to be matched. We visited the flight deck, checking out the restraining wires for snagging the planes and examining the divots in the deck where the planes restraining hooks smacked down. Down below we toured the hanger, crew's quarters and the "war-room" (My name) It was the intel center where the ship's commander has continuous intelligence and information on the location of all airborne, surface and submarine threats fed to him and can direct the actions of the carrier group. Individual men monitor each threat (Tim covers submarine threats) and channels his information to the big screens in the main room. Really cool. After our visit to the Stennis, Lt. Matt and I visited the convention for a couple hours checking out the hundreds of booths and exhibits. That evening, we met with ImC and Rodimus at ImC's house; over pizza, we talked about the website, movies, the upcoming panel, you name it. It was a great experience spending time with two members of the 'starting line-up' of the site. Rod had so many stories to tell about how the site got started and how he came to meet the folks influential with the show. At about 1am, Lt. Matt and I departed on a mission to find some Sharpies for the panel later that morning. Thanks to the lousy directions from a Kinko employee (Intel? Wrong? What are the chances of that?) We wandered S.D. in the wee hours, even ending up at SeaWorld at one point.

Sunday Morning

Sunday morning, Sharpies in hand, the Lt. and I met up with ImC (looking demure and retiring in her bright red dress) to head to the panel. We waited outside the room for a few minutes, and I confess I entertained some doubts. Rodimus worked like a dog getting this thing set up, but would anyone show? Or would there just be a few die-hard lunatics like Lt., ImC, Sparty and me. When we entered the room, my fears were laid to rest. A crowd had already started gathering and by the start of the panel the room was packed with enthusiastic fans. The panel assembled, and Audu Paden, the show's producer, opened the discussion by thanking the two men responsible for the meeting: Robert Heinlein and Rodimus. Joining Mr. Paden on the platform were the following panelists:

Greg Weisman, Roughnecks story editor responsible for the Tesca arc and the dramatic season finale we are all hoping to see.

Michael Chang, Columbia Tristar director, who oversaw the episode "And Then There Were Two", the Tesca story where T'Phai and Rico must rescue the squad.

Ray Leung, props and vehicle designer; the father of the Marauders! (I bow in worship)

Fil Barlow, creature and character designer, contributor to the powersuit design.

David Hartman, Columbia Tristar director

Vince Edwards, Columbia Tristar director

Wayne Boon, Roughnecks composer

Emile Smith, Foundation Imaging director and the CGI director of "Marauder"

Alan Caldwell, director for "Marauder"

Jay Oliva, director of "Basic Training", "Liquid Dreams", "The Mission" and so many other great episodes.

We opened the panel with a viewing of "Marauder", which looked amazing on the 'big screen'. (Hint to Sony: Roughnecks would make a great feature film) That was followed by some shorts including "The A-Team" and the Gap videos, which were a stone riot and had the room howling. When the lights came up, the panelists fielded questions from the audience:

What was the history of the Show? (Audu Paden, answering)

Roughnecks began production as an animated follow-up to the Paul Verhoven feature film. Ten scripts were already completed when the film was released. The film however, was not successful and the animated series got put on hold for a year, before production cranked up again.

Where are the Roughnecks toys?

Unfortunately the violence of the Verhoven film spooked the toy makers and they expressed no interest in producing a toy line.

Will Roughnecks be released on video or DVD? (Audu Paden, answering)

Sony intends to release the first five episodes (Pluto arc) on DVD. (And there was much rejoicing!) If sales go well, it is hoped that they will consider finishing the season episodes, and perhaps release more episodes.

What happened to the last four shows? (Audu Paden)

Time and money constraints forced the producers to abandon four episodes to be replaced with clip shows. Episode 133 "Homefront" was omitted because it would have involved expensive modeling of a bombed-out Buenos Aires. The last three eps were omitted because the producers felt their stories were so strong, a case could be made for restoring them at a later time.

How about a Roughneck Soundtrack? (Wayne Boon, answering)

Wayne and Jim Latham have 8 or 9 CDs of music, ready to go. Their release depends on Sony's desire to produce them.

What's the deal with Max Steel? (Greg Weissman)

Max did not turn out as the producers or animators would have liked. ( BBDoc paraphrasing diplomatically) The story was not a good choice for CGI animation. CGI needs to build a few sets and reuse them; Max Steel takes place in a new city every episode. The Max Steel characters are also not ideal for computer animation. Modern clothes and clothes effects, long hair, and multiple locations are very difficult for the animators. Roughnecks characters had short hair and wore helmets most of the time. Armor and spandex were easier to animate. And Roughnecks used many recurring sets for its episodes.

What programs are used to animate the show? (Emile Smith)

Foundation animators used LightWave and Photoshop for textures. All over the counter stuff.

Did Roughnecks use motion capture? (Emile Smith)

Motion capture was used for large-scale movements like walking. The facial animation was all done by hand. The animators would video tape themselves lip-synching the lines and use that for a model for the faces. Any fine actions like hand movements or passing objects was key framed by the animators.

What are the qualifications to become an animator or director on the show? (Audu Paden, and others)

The ability to draw and tell a story are the only prerequisites. Most of the directors and animators were self-taught at home.

How much of the series is from the movie? (Greg Weissman, Audu Paden, Vince Edwards)

The series creators took what they wanted from the book and the film and just made up the rest. The warrior bugs were based on the film bugs, but the other bugs were designed primarily by Fil Barlow and his team. The character designs were all new.

What's the deal with Heavy Gear? (Vince Edwards and others)

Heavy Gear, which is being produced by Mr. Paden, was originally intended for Foundation, but ended up with Mainframe studio. ("Stuff Happens", Vince Edwards)

What's the deal with Sparky? (Audu Paden)

Sparky was a major plot point in episode 114 "Captured" and became a recurring cameo throughout the remainder of the season. Trooper Albert (who was identified at the panel) is that three-foot ball-of-fire trooper that first appeared in ep. 107 "Swarm" and has been snuck into other episodes despite Trooper Audu's best efforts.

How can we let Sony know that people support the show? (Audu Paden)

Participating in the petition, collecting those signatures is the most effective way to help impress Sony with the value of the show. Mr. Paden recounted going to Sony meetings with a phone book sized stack of petition signatures to impress the brass. Signing the online petition, filling out the hard copy petitions will make a difference.

How does the season end? SPOILERS! (Greg Weissman and Audu Paden)

SICON HQ is destroyed by the bugs and the entire headquarters sinks underground into a huge caldera five miles across dug by the bugs. SkyMarshall Sanchez is captured. The final battle to destroy the queen will be waged under the earth. The earth forces will move underground passing though the "Circles of Hell" like Dante's Inferno, finding villages and prisoners of war in the successive underground layers. 150 Marauders, designed to fight in lava (YES, YES, I gotta see this! Oops, sorry for the outburst) will start the attack; they will clear the first level so 50 can pass to the second; they in turn will enable 10 Marauders to pass to the next level (Guess which ten! Dang I NEED to see this!) These will in turn enable one Marauder to reach the queen for the final showdown (Three guesses who's piloting that puppy!)

At the conclusion of the panel, Fil Barlow expressed his heart-felt thanks to Richard Raynis, the show's executive producer and guiding force behind the project. Vince Edwards gave his thanks to the fans that log onto the site and comment on the episodes. The animators really appreciate that people are watching their work and treating it seriously.

After the panel, we retired for lunch with the panelists to a barbecue place just a few steps from the convention center. There we were able to talk to the panelists in more detail and get to know them. I especially enjoyed talking with Wayne Boon about his experiences in the music business. Troopers Russ and Lying, animators from Foundation were also a pleasure to talk to. Russ and Lying talked about the sequences they did and were proudest of. (Russ did the Zim training sequences in "Liquid Dreams", Lying did the football game in the same episode) For an animation freak like me, this was as close as you can get to heaven (unless you actually visit Foundation). I was such a starry-eyed groupie, I'm afraid I made a fool of myself. When the lunch was breaking up, Fil Barlow invited some of us aside to look at some of his concept drawings. We returned to a patio table at the convention center and Mr. Barlow showed us the drawings for the bugs and how he came upon those designs as well as drawings of the powersuits and one particular Trooper (ImC nearly had a stroke; you can guess which trooper was illustrated). Talking one-on-one with an artist of Mr. Barlow's caliber was an unforgettable experience for me.

There is so much more to tell; meeting Rino Romano, hanging out with my fellow forum posters (Thanks to ImC, Sparty, Lt. Matt, Pvt. Scott, Rodimus and the entire team) but I have gone on long enough. Suffice it to say it is a weekend I will never forget. My only hope is that we can somehow do it again someday! BBDoc

Babydoc is a reliable forum regular on the Roughnecks Chronicles ezboard (Roughneck Ramblings). One doesn't have to search very hard to sample more of BBDoc's fine writing skills on the RC forums. :-)