It’s no secret that I’m the biggest fan of the original Battlestar currently working on the new incarnation; you could almost say I’m the “ambassador” of the 1979 version, always looking for opportunities to include classic Galactica material on the current series. It was maybe two years ago that I was talking to [writer/producer] David Weddle and hypothesized, “you know, if we ever did a flashback to the first Cylon war (maybe something that showed us what Adama was like as a young pilot), it would showcase the original hardware! Remember the miniseries museum scene?” He thought about it for a second and said, “yeah, I suppose you’re right.”
Of course, a flashback like that would be a wet dream for any fan of the original series, but would it ever happen?
Eighteen months later, Mr. Weddle came up to me in commissary and said, “Mojo, you’re going to get your wish.”
Anyone who’s seen Razor, (the BSG DVD project made between seasons three and four), knows exactly what he was talking about. Not only were we going to get a huge, all-out battle between original series spaceships, it was decided to go for broke and give the fans what they’ve really wanted to see – old school Cylons.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, those chrome-plated, sword-wielding, skirt-wearing, “by your command” shouting robots were returning – and the visual effects team were going to make damn sure they came back ready to kick ass, take names and blow up the list of names.
Gary Hutzel (visual effects supervisor), had one important direction in mind for the all-new old Cylons; first, they would be all CGI (say goodbye to the guy in a suit) and, in an important follow-up to the first concept, they should be so hardcore that no one looking at them would even think it could be a guy in a suit. The task of breathing new life into our old friends went to Galactica’s chief engineer/CG model maker, Pierre Drolet.
“In 1978, Battlestar Galactica was my favorite show,” Pierre remembers. “And it was already very exciting when, five years ago, Gary used my re-design of the Viper (Mk II) for the new series. But to have a chance to redesign the actual Cylon Centurion was really, really exciting!”
The driving force behind the update was to, essentially, make the Cylons look the way they were always intended – big, scary, completely robotic, solid-steel killing machines.
From the back, we see that the large power cell/backpack has been faithfully reproduced. Perhaps the biggest surprise was, against all odds (and the office betting pool), Pierre actually managed to keep a hint of the original skirt! Now, instead of it being an actual, fabric skirt designed to hide deficiencies in the costume, we have a piece of flexible armor, further protecting the mechanisms within.
Also created was a bigger, beefier version of the Centurion known as the “Cylon Soldier” (as seen in the Tauron ground battle in Razor. Didn’t see it? Buy the DVD, it’s part of the extended version). Primary differences between this and the Cylon “pilot” model are a slightly redesigned, more aggressive head, additional flexible armor and handy belt of ammo clips. Below is a tasty reference image that will let you compare both models (click picture to enlarge and drool over):
Here’s a “before and after” picture comparing the original Cylon costume from 1978 with the updated CGI version:
For all of us, Razor was one of the visual effects highlights of working on this show; the schedule was grueling and we probably put in more hours in the studio than we did at home, but you know what? We were giggling the whole time. Sure, we had been working with Vipers and Raiders and Cylons for a few years already, but this time was different – this time is was the Vipers and Raiders and Cylons we grew up with – the ones that inspired us to become visual effects artists in the first place. I’m sorry, did I say we were working with Cylons? I think I meant playing.
Perhaps the best image to demonstrate how much fun all this hard work can be is the render Pierre did after it was time to go home (click picture to engourge):
Which do you prefer, classic or new Centurion? Let us know in the comments!
EXTRA EXTRA! There is now a part two to this story… check it out here.
(COMING SOON: The Sound of Cylons…)