DRAWN & QUARTERED
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Creator Sam Campos, left, works with Kekoa Mitchel on the Dragonfly costume.
A New Hero
"Pineapple Man" creator unveils idea for high-tech TV show
"Hey, pineapple!" Sam Campos didn't hear that much in Los Angeles at the turn of the century. The Hawaii creator of the groundbreaking "Pineapple Man" comic book went off to Hollywood to make his fortune, but like the crest of a wave, the early-'90s boom in independent comic books had peaked, passed him by and then flattened out.
Post-"Pineapple Man," Campos kept busy drawing storyboards and choreographing fight scenes. He was used to the "total control" of being a comic artist, just him, his muse and a blank sheet of Bristol. It wasn't much fun.
Campos is back, working on a new project, and this weekend he pulled off the wraps at, of all places, the Splendor of China exhibition. He's producing a demo reel for a television hero dubbed "Dragonfly," and because Campos knows that Hollywood works on surface values, a lot of effort has gone into a polished presentation, including a first-class costume that echoes Japanese anime heroes of the past -- Kikaida. Kamen Rider. Destructoids. Legends in our own minds.
If he has to pin down a logline for "Dragonfly," to sell it to the uninitiated, Campos describes it as "pretty much Kikaida meets 'X-Files.' A little something for everybody that just happens to take place in Hawaii."
"I want to keep everything local," said Campos, who developed a Hawaii support system of actors and technicians even when he was in California.
But, Hawaii calls. "I came back because I want to do this here. We certainly have the creative talent in the islands, and, as this costume shows, we have the technological cutting edge. As far as I know, this is the first time a full-size costume has been created using rapid prototyping. Doing it all locally, not spreading the control around, is also quicker and more cost-effective."
Is there a market for this? Has anyone watched the grosses for "Transformers"?
"Sure, I'm influenced by those old shows, but the stories here are going to be more adult and complex," explained Campos. "I've grown up and so has Hawaii-based filmmaking."
Hawaii innovators find creative uses for a high-tech technique that bring ideas to life
As the sci-fi fanboys say, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Imagine a world in which you can draw something on your computer, hit a button and then the object appears, fully formed and ready to use.
Magic? Nope, it's called "rapid prototyping," and it's a mature technology already in widespread use. Widespread, that is, if you manufacture complex items with lots of intricate parts, like cars and cell phones.
But if you're a comic-book artist and graphic designer, used to low-tech ink and paper, trying to work out how to make actual costumes to film a television pilot, well, magic might be the operative word.
Sam Campos has benefited firsthand from such technological magic. Hard at work trying to develop a visually striking costumed superhero for a television pilot, Campos knew papier-mâché headpieces and bathroom-towel capes weren't going to impress many media moguls.
"The costume has to be attractive and interesting," said Campos, probably best known here for his "Pineapple Man" comic book. "I was taking a kind of crash course in costume making with this genius guy on the Big Island, when I ran into Russ Ogi from Rapid Technology, over on Bishop Street. I'd heard you could use rapid prototyping to make action figures, and I thought, can you make them larger?"
"You mean, like a RoboCop or Kamen Rider helmet?" said Ogi. "We've already done it."
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
It takes a village to make a superhero; in this case, the team behind "Dragonfly," from front, includes Cole Horibe, star of the show; Kekoa Mitchel, another superhero; creator Samuel Campos; Alison Kam; Russ Ogi of Rapid Technology; Luke Takayama, photographer; Emil Reyes, CEO of Rapid Technology; motorcycle owner Mike Nakada; Kim Ogi, Rapid Technology associate; motorcycle owners Jubie Nabong and Jon Pajimula; and costume-maker Paul Harada.
At this point we won't go into great detail how it's done. Suffice to say, there are a number of RP techniques, all of which are additive -- layers are piled up and fused together, generally by laser. Can you feel the ever-so-slight texture from the text on a laser-printed document? Keep piling it on, layer by layer, and eventually 2-D become 3-D. The word for it is stereolithography.
And if you know the word Google as a verb, a ton of info is out there in cyberspace. Rapid prototyping is how things are designed today, and costs continue to fall as the industry goes mainstream. The Rapid Technology team in Honolulu uses a machine developed by Zcorp.
Both Campos and Ogi stress that the process isn't computerized milling, in which routing tools precisely chip away at a blank. RP allows the product to be hollow and thin-walled. "You can even make it fit exactly to different peoples' heads, said Campos.
Ogi took Campos' sketches for the Dragonfly helmet and created a Computer-Aided-Drafting, or CAD, file in the proper "watertight" format, using a program called Maya. He then "printed" an apple-size version of the helmet, as a kind of rough draft.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sam Campos, right, introduced his character Dragonfly at "Splendors of China" at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall on Saturday. He hopes Dragonfly will become the star of a television show based in Hawaii.
"It was ... fantastic!" enthused Campos. "Better than I imagined it could be! There it was in three dimensions! I suggested one or two small tweaks, and they were able to produce a full-size version in color -- the whole process took less than two weeks! It blew my mind!"
Campos is a comic-book creator, so exclamations come naturally. Ogi, however, realized that the big, colorful superhero design would be an ideal show-off piece, and since Rapid Technology was already a member of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the piece was debuted at the Splendor of China exhibition over the weekend. Little kids immediately wanted their picture taken with Dragonfly.
"Time to let the cat out of the bag, and Rapid Technology has been very good to me. And I'm part Chinese, too!" said Campos. "Does that count?"
Although Ogi's team added an epoxy resin to the master to make it stronger, what you see here is what came out of the RP booth. "It's great to see things as a 3-D prototype," said Ogi. "Making things in three dimensions is such a specialized process, but here we're able to go directly from Point A to Point B."
Rapid Technology is also experimenting with "haptic" technology -- the science of remote feeling. "The most basic version of which is 'force-feedback' gaming controls," said Ogi. "It's not full reality, like the real world, or virtual reality, which exists in sight and sound, but 'augmented reality,' in which there is tactile feedback. Imagine feeling like you're shaping clay in your hands, but the clay exists only as a computer file. Or being able to shake hands with someone on the opposite side of the world ..."
Does Sam Campos know about this haptic technology? Just imagine what Pineapple Man could do with it.