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"All the Zorg oldies but goldies"
June 8, 2012 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Adam Savage talks about his 13 year quest to build an exact replica of the Zorg ZF-1 from The Fifth Element.

He previously built a fantastic replica of the Deckard's blaster from Blade Runner.

[via]
posted by quin (69 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
-5 points: You forgot to say "MeFi's own."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:15 AM on June 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


-5 points: You forgot to say "MeFi's own."

I'd love to read the MeFi post where Adam talks about how he worked with that cat guy to make a helicopter out this horse on the ground here.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:22 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Now a real killer, when he picked up the ZF-1, would've immediately asked about the little red button on the bottom of the gun."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:23 AM on June 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


"Marking fluid"? You mean layout fluid.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:31 AM on June 8, 2012


"There's a big crew of ZF-1 fanatics out there". Adam is a nerd in the best possible way.
posted by KGMoney at 7:33 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


shit now I want to rewatch The Fifth Element
posted by nathancaswell at 7:34 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, asavage has been on a roll lately: the Sarah Lawrence Commencement address was great, the Maker Faire 2012 Talk ("Why We Make") was even better, plus there's the Hellboy prop replica he's working on. When does the man sleep?
posted by gwint at 7:40 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every time I watch something like this I think that Adam and I should totally be besties. Then I realize how totally exhausting that would be, and I go back to totally enjoying his enthusiasm from the comfort of my chair.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:42 AM on June 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


Don't forget about the Maltese Falcon
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:42 AM on June 8, 2012


Whoa, what is that in the lower left corner at 1:54? Is that an Iron Man suit? Breastplate with a circular hole in it.... looks like one.
posted by zarq at 7:45 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is charming and endearing.
posted by schmod at 7:45 AM on June 8, 2012


There are a bunch more mini-tour videos of Adam's projects at Tested, which I guess is a Jamie and Adam side project?
posted by gilrain at 7:52 AM on June 8, 2012


I am kind of surprised that at his level of visibility he can't just call the prop guys who made the originals prop ask them to drop one of the spares in the mail.
posted by SharkParty at 7:52 AM on June 8, 2012


I am kind of surprised that at his level of visibility he can't just call the prop guys who made the originals prop ask them to drop one of the spares in the mail.

A jedi always builds his own lightsaber.
posted by Mooski at 7:54 AM on June 8, 2012 [42 favorites]


Shark party, you do not understand the level of geek mr. Savage hath attained. One does not simply ask at that level, why it's...cheating!
posted by roboton666 at 7:55 AM on June 8, 2012


SharkParty, I think that's kind of the point.
posted by Madamina at 7:55 AM on June 8, 2012


I am kind of surprised that at his level of visibility he can't just call the prop guys who made the originals prop ask them to drop one of the spares in the mail.

A spare? Calling the prop guys? What's the point of that?

Anyways, Zerg Industry net-launchers are really good. I've never used a better net-launcher at any price. They always wrap and even work with homemade nets.
posted by fuq at 7:56 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah but... he says that he ultimately DID get a hold of some other prop guys and is working with them on it... and he was delighted when he actually got to check out the real deal at some convention... so it doesn't really sound like he has the specific trait you guys are trying to retrofit here...
posted by SharkParty at 7:58 AM on June 8, 2012


I am kind of surprised that at his level of visibility he can't just call the prop guys who made the originals prop ask them to drop one of the spares in the mail.

Given that the Dekker pistol noted somewhere in the links above sold for $250,000, you can imagine why these props are not just getting dropped in the mail. But, in the Hellraiser video, he does talk about being friends with Guillermo del Toro, who put him in touch with the prop company that fabbed the glove and he had a personal visit, took measurements, snapped photos, etc.

Also, if you're interested in seeing what a more "regular guy" does with prop building (i.e., not friends with the director!), check out Volpin / Harrison Krix.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:59 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah but... he says that he ultimately DID get a hold of some other prop guys and is working with them on it... and he was delighted when he actually got to check out the real deal at some convention... so it doesn't really sound like he has the specific trait you guys are trying to retrofit here...

He talks about his process at some length, especially in the Hellboy video. He loves getting access to the originals to use for reference, but very much enjoys the process of trying to reproduce them. He is a prop builder. So, yes - he possesses the trait we are trying to reproduce from the original.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:03 AM on June 8, 2012


There are a bunch more mini-tour videos of Adam's projects at Tested, which I guess is a Jamie and Adam side project?

Tested was one of the components of the late great Whiskey Media network. They were a tech blog who outside of Whiskey Media fans were probably best known for the Corgi/iPad videos.

To Whiskey Media fans (read Giant Bomb fans), Tested was known for great podcasts and funny videos featuring Norm Chan and THE Will Smith.

Anyway... when Giant Bomb got bought by CBSi (which meant Jeff Gerstmann is now back working in the same building as Gamespot, though Giant Bomb is still operated separately. It was truly a bizarre thing.), most of the rest of Whiskey Media got bought by another media company and made Tested sort of Adam and Jaime's blog, though Norm and Will are still doing their usual stuff for it.
posted by kmz at 8:03 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


SharkParty: "Yeah but... he says that he ultimately DID get a hold of some other prop guys and is working with them on it... and he was delighted when he actually got to check out the real deal at some convention... so it doesn't really sound like he has the specific trait you guys are trying to retrofit here..."

It seems like he's only working with those guys to get details about construction, shape, measurements. But ultimately, he's building it himself. The project isn't about owning, it's about creating.
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:04 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


shit now I want to rewatch The Fifth Element

I saw it from the first row, coming into an already dark theater just as the credits were rolling ... I'm not sure watching it again on a TV screen would compare.

"Now a real killer, when he picked up the ZF-1, would've immediately asked about the little red button on the bottom of the gun."

"Bring me the priest"
posted by mrgrimm at 8:05 AM on June 8, 2012


A jedi always builds his own lightsaber.

You know, I've always wondered about that- what if you are a really excellent padawan: graduated top of your class, extremely mindful, just and compassionate, a force push like no tomorrow...but you're really shit with tools? Like, 'has difficulty building IKEA furniture' shit. What do you do then? Do you have to take on the Sith with some sort of flickery, sparking thing that keeps cutting out and smells a bit like burnt hair? Do you have to just hang back and wave it around a bit, and try not to get hit by blaster fire?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:06 AM on June 8, 2012 [31 favorites]


check out Volpin / Harrison Krix.

And you can see him interviewed by Tested's Norm Chan during the last Big Live Live Show - Live!
posted by kmz at 8:07 AM on June 8, 2012


Thanks, kmz... I'd wondered how that all came about.
posted by gilrain at 8:07 AM on June 8, 2012


I am kind of surprised that at his level of visibility he can't just call the prop guys who made the originals prop ask them to drop one of the spares in the mail.

Is the implication here maybe just that he'll just be using the original for reference while in his possession and then send it back to them when he's done?
posted by VTX at 8:08 AM on June 8, 2012


You know, I've always wondered about that- what if you are a really excellent padawan: graduated top of your class, extremely mindful, just and compassionate, a force push like no tomorrow...but you're really shit with tools?

I'm sure even the Jedi Temple had its share of Ron Weasleys.
posted by Mooski at 8:10 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


VTX YES. That is what I was suggesting!
posted by SharkParty at 8:15 AM on June 8, 2012


Since he is basically already tapdancing around that exact result!
posted by SharkParty at 8:15 AM on June 8, 2012


nathancaswell: "shit now I want to rewatch The Fifth Element"

You don't own a copy? How strange.
posted by Splunge at 8:17 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


You don't own a copy? How strange.

I think I have one on VHS somewhere actually.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:26 AM on June 8, 2012


Multipass!
posted by Omon Ra at 8:33 AM on June 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


She knows it's a multipass.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:34 AM on June 8, 2012 [22 favorites]


It would be truly awesome if he made the self-destructing version of the ZF-1. Spend 15 years building it, then press the little red button and watch it pop (with explosion sound effects!) into a million pieces, never to be reassembled. That would be boss.
posted by orme at 8:35 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Badaboom. Big badaboom.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:44 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like, 'has difficulty building IKEA furniture' shit.

This inability doesn't actually exist in the world. Anybody who tells you it does is just trying to get you to build their bookcase for them because they think they can fool you. Which is pretty much the dark side of the force.
posted by srboisvert at 8:51 AM on June 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


It would be truly awesome if he made the self-destructing version of the ZF-1. Spend 15 years building it, then press the little red button and watch it pop (with explosion sound effects!) into a million pieces, never to be reassembled. That would be boss.

It's not quite to that level, but... well, just watch this video of what happened at the end of Tested's Star Wars Lego Building "competition".
posted by kmz at 8:53 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


TheWhiteSkull: " Do you have to just hang back and wave it around a bit, and try not to get hit by blaster fire?"

"Anyone else wanna negotiate?"
posted by zarq at 8:57 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


zee-aiff one GOOOD!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:27 AM on June 8, 2012


I am kind of surprised that at his level of visibility he can't just call the prop guys who made the originals prop ask them to drop one of the spares in the mail.

I don't think you understand what Adam wants. He doesn't want a prop. He wants to build a prop. They can't drop a spare "build" into the mail.
posted by DU at 9:45 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


As we've previously established, Sharkparty thinks that he has enough celebrity to borrow one of the spare originals so that he can reference it while building his own.
posted by VTX at 9:51 AM on June 8, 2012


My guess is that most of these props are delicate and/or rare/valuable enough that Asavage doesn't feel comfortable asking them to subject it to the rigors of shipping, the builders don't feel comfortable with shipping them, or some combination of the two.

The part I find ironic is that, with details like the little red button, I'd bet that the original builder took a look at a couple of buttons and decided on one in the space of about five seconds but, when trying to build a replica, that detail gets slaved over and scrutinized to get it exactly right otherwise the whole thing will be a little bit off.

It makes it seem like it's easier to build an original than to replicate someone else's work.
posted by VTX at 10:03 AM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


You don't own a copy? How strange.

Anyone can buy a copy. A true nerd would lovingly recreate their own Fifth Element movie in a shed.
posted by Ritchie at 10:16 AM on June 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Fifth Sweded-ment.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:23 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The part I find ironic is that, with details like the little red button, I'd bet that the original builder took a look at a couple of buttons and decided on one in the space of about five seconds but, when trying to build a replica, that detail gets slaved over and scrutinized to get it exactly right otherwise the whole thing will be a little bit off.

I think that this is just about right. I talked with a Star Trek prop replica builder, and he went into great detail about the original source for each of the parts used in the phaser, communicator, etc. in the original series--he'd handled and photographed the authentic props and I'm pretty sure he'd talked to the original prop builder(s)--and how the official replicas and authorized toys often didn't get the details right. On the one hand, I admire and am a little dazzled by that sort of dedication; on the other, I have to reflect that the original prop builders probably just pawed through their junk drawers and went with whatever looked about right for the job.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:11 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like, 'has difficulty building IKEA furniture' shit.

>This inability doesn't actually exist in the world. Anybody who tells you it does is just trying to get you to build their bookcase for them because they think they can fool you.


Me and my flatmate once bought two desks. I got one of the cheap, cheap ones and he got something upscale (for Ikea standards). We spent 1.5 hour on assembling my desk and his desk took us 10-15 minutes at most. Even Ikea's complexity varies.
posted by ersatz at 11:18 AM on June 8, 2012


It makes it seem like it's easier to build an original than to replicate someone else's work.

This is part of what I was bothered by while watching this video. If I had a bunch of cool craftsman skills, like the ability to shape metals and plastics, etc, I would get much more satisfaction from designing and building my own strange weapons (and whatnot) than trying to imitate the whatnots from B movies.

The aspergery exercise of trying to find just the right little red button over the span of a decade just sounds much less satisfying than creating my own thing with its own little random buttons. And I'd actually be bothered if I found out someone spent years trying to replicate my button choice, when my button choice had been more or less a random accident of what was available in my workshop.

Craftsman heal thyself!
posted by dgaicun at 1:11 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Multipass!

Maybe it's just me - I've always heard it as "moolteepass".

One of the film's many best parts: Bladerunner's "Leon" as a General - about one shade brighter.
posted by Twang at 1:53 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Zero crates!

Sorry.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:59 PM on June 8, 2012


B movies.

TAKE THAT BACK.
posted by Authorized User at 3:12 PM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]




Authorized User: "B movies.

TAKE THAT BACK
"

I'm sorry, but the 5th Element is, while fairly entertaining, a relatively lame movie. I said much the same on Reddit once and was downvoted to oblivion. That fucking movie is like Citizen Kane over there.

But I appreciate his obsessive attention to detail in wanting to make the replica. Why not?
posted by Red Loop at 3:19 PM on June 8, 2012


You're a monster Zorg!
I know.
posted by gamera at 3:39 PM on June 8, 2012


How common is Zorg cosplay? Or are people put off by the need to replicate the ZF-1?
posted by Ritchie at 4:00 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Twang: "Multipass!

Maybe it's just me - I've always heard it as "moolteepass".
"

Yes, the perfect pronunciation of the Goddess Milla Jovovich. You are blessed.
posted by Splunge at 4:02 PM on June 8, 2012


Prop replica-making seems kind of like shooting yourself in the foot.
The original prop is made of out of whatever is easy and quick - that often means any old crap lying around (eg film production people using a photo-flash handle for the lightsabre).

This means that recreating the prop is much much harder than actually building the original - you have to track down the random junk that was only used because it was convenient at the time, or else work out exact dimensions and plans for scratchbuilding, etc. So instead of being free to slap anything together in whatever fashion works, using as much or as little time as is available, the job is transformed into something so exacting and painstaking that you might as well be building a real functional device instead of a prop.

Yet the replica, which required far more precision, effort, time, money, and love, will never be seen to be as valuable as the quick-n-nasty original. Not even remotely.

So given that it's easier to create something original and better than it is to mimic something non-functional-if-not-mediocre-but-with-classic-screen-time, I lean towards encouraging efforts towards a world with more original and more awesome things in it.

Adam Savage of course obviously has... something of a track record for also creating original, functional devices, so he's pulling more than his share of weight towards that world, and if he wants to recreate some of the things that presumably inspired his career and set him on the path to where he is today, good for him.

But hopefully he doesn't inspire too many people to follow down that path :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:16 PM on June 8, 2012


(the path of recreating props I mean, not the path of original prop-building)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:19 PM on June 8, 2012


The ZF-1 research thread on the Replica Prop Forum is interesting.
posted by the_artificer at 7:19 PM on June 8, 2012


I wonder if someone could make a decent living coming up with props and then finding movies that want to use them on the condition that you get it back when they're done?

Like, they could have built something the looks like the ZF-1 and the prop folks would have gone to my website and found something that would work. I would have kept a record of what parts I used in case they want me to make more. At the end of production, I get the prop back and sell it on Ebay if the movie takes off.
posted by VTX at 7:32 PM on June 8, 2012


Red Loop: "Authorized User: "B movies.

TAKE THAT BACK
"

I'm sorry, but the 5th Element is, while fairly entertaining, a relatively lame movie. I said much the same on Reddit once and was downvoted to oblivion. That fucking movie is like Citizen Kane over there.

But I appreciate his obsessive attention to detail in wanting to make the replica. Why not?
"

Citizen Kane was a great movie. But The 5th Element speaks to a new generation and a new culture. Show me a movie since FE that speaks to a generation or even two, the way that FE did and does. 5th Element has a sweep and an understanding of the time it was in that grabs you by the happy gland. It has actors that are perfect in their roles. It has the perfect melange of action movies. It makes fun of itself while making you want more. It turns itself around and and is it a comedy? Is it a sci-fi movie? Is it a parable about evil and good? You know that evil will not win. Or will it?

And it has a cool blue chick that sings her heart out, literally if you care.

The 5th Element is one of the greatest movies of its time.
posted by Splunge at 7:51 PM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Caution: do not operate while attempting to ride a homemade hovercraft.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:33 PM on June 8, 2012


the 5th Element is, while fairly entertaining, a relatively lame movie

I will cut you and you'll be out of luck because LeeLoo has the monopoly on bandages.
posted by arcticseal at 9:47 PM on June 8, 2012


A B movie is "Nazis at The Center of The Earth". I can't really validate your opinion if you don't first understand what a B movie is.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:51 PM on June 8, 2012


I was a little disappointed to see that it's not a working replica.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 11:15 PM on June 8, 2012


So given that it's easier to create something original and better than it is to mimic something non-functional-if-not-mediocre-but-with-classic-screen-time, I lean towards encouraging efforts towards a world with more original and more awesome things in it.

The way I look at it is more that Adam's not being an artist. He's being a reconstructionist, and those are two very different things. It might be easier to get some paints and a canvas and paint an original still life, but I don't know if that's better than someone working to restore historical art pieces to their original glory.

...okay, bit of a stretch to compare contemporary films to historic art pieces, but I think there's an argument here about trying to draw a line between art we create based on our own ideas, as compared to art we create based on the ideas of a shared culture.

I ended up catching the cosplay bug. And the thing is? Even if there's blood and sweat and tears and effort involved in building a costume or a prop, the look on someone's face when you pull something off the big screen and put it right in front of them, when you take part of something they've imagined and bring it to life in a way they never expected?

That's magic, right there.
posted by mikurski at 12:38 AM on June 9, 2012


Somewhere, in the best possible timeline, this sparks a chain of events, all Sound of Thunder-like, into Willis signing up for Mr. Shadow.

(And Serenity 2).
posted by Mezentian at 1:19 AM on June 9, 2012


what if you are a really excellent padawan: graduated top of your class, extremely mindful, just and compassionate, a force push like no tomorrow...but you're really shit with tools?

I think you've hit on the actual origin of the Sith.
posted by underflow at 8:54 AM on June 9, 2012


David Edelstein, I think, gave the fairest review of The Fifth Element: "it may or may not be the worst movie ever made".

See? May or may not be. A blogger would have simply made a proclamation; it takes a real professional to exhibit this kind of restraint. It is simply going to take a lot more serious critical reflection before we can tell or not if The Fifth Element is the worst movie ever made.
posted by dgaicun at 10:00 AM on June 9, 2012


David Edelstein may or may not be full of shit.
posted by Splunge at 3:36 PM on June 10, 2012


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