bsg vfx: anatomy of a cylon – extras

Wow, response to “Anatomy of a Cylon” has been overwhelming!  I’m holding  back tears of joy as I read all of your enthusiastic comments, emails and forum posts.  Pierre is so thrilled by the feedback I think he’s getting ready to hand out cigars as all of you fawn over his new baby.  By popular demand, I’ve been digging through the files to find a few more tidbits that didn’t make it into the main body of the article…

Here’s a glamour shot of the gold, command Centurion, as seen in the back of the Raider cockpit shot from Razor:

I’ve had a few people tell me that when they saw the gold Cylon, they thought they had died and gone to heaven.  Who would have guessed that the people making the new Galactica were rabid enough fans to include that?  Hey, guys, remember – I’m the one that wore an original Colonial Warrior uniform to the Emmys.  When it comes to getting original series material right, I got you covered.  When Razor scribe Michael Taylor asked if there was such a thing as a Cylon CAG, I busted out the gold Command Centurion and he was happy as a clam (in fact, the scripted skydive sequence specifically called for the gold Cylon, but in early visual effects tests we found that the gold armor was too close a match to Adama’s gold/brown flight suit; the more contrasting silver Cylon was better choice visually).  Speaking of the skydive sequence, peep this:

Just when I had resigned myself to the fact that we’d have to loose the Cylon’s trademark sword (it just looked a little goofy hanging from the belt of the Terminator-like updated model), Pierre came up with the super bad-ass concept of having the sword be a giant switch-blade, hidden in the Centurion’s arm!  Not only did it mean we ended up retaining every last detail from the original series, it made for a great, surprise moment in the skydive sequence.  And speaking of every last possible detail:

See those little, tiny pinholes over the Cylon’s brow?  Some might think they were an effort to literally capture every last detail from the original 1978 Cylon costume, which had tiny holes in exactly the same spot so the actors could see through the helmet.  Of course, that would be silly on a CGI model, since (as far as we know), there is no actor inside a computer-generated Cylon.  No, those little holes are clearly meant to be heat ventilation for the ultra-powerful brain/CPU, located in the cranium of the Centurion.  And we’ll swear to that under oath!


Here’s a nice shot of the Cylon’s best friend.  Sure, the new Centurions have machine guns built into their arms, which is all kinds of cool… but there’s just something… I don’t know… butch about giant robots carrying giant guns.  And, in a fight, if the old school Cylons ran out of ammo, they’d easily beat the new Cylons to death with this gun. 

And, finally, just in case anyone ever dares to doubt just how psychotically devoted we are to our jobs and to preserving the legacy of Battlestar Galactica, take a look at Pierre’s choice for the bolt pattern used to build the classic Cylons:

Need I say more?

Ok, that wraps up our look at these bad boys, but rest assured, there is more to come in the days, weeks, and months ahead.  We have a few Cylon surprises in store (including a look at rebuilding the classic Raider and Baseship for Razor) as well as showing you what goes into creating some of the visual effects shots that make you squeal every week.

Stay tuned!




39 Responses to “bsg vfx: anatomy of a cylon – extras”

  1. May 13, 2008 at 2:52 am

    These frakking toasters look awesome :)

    I was wondering… What kind of post-FX are done to make them blend with the scene and give the whole show that “movie look”?

  2. 2 Chris H.
    May 13, 2008 at 4:50 am

    Thank you so much for this behind-the-curtain view.

    I have to say, although I do prefer the new toasters, Razor nevertheless gave me one heck of a geekgasm seeing the classic toasters and ships in action…and, yeah, the golden Centurion in the back of the ship giving orders was utterly awesome.

    Fabulous job on those classic toasters!

  3. 3 Siddique Hussain
    May 13, 2008 at 6:25 am

    This re-imagined series is a perfect example of how anything is possible, given the right talent, dedication, gestation period and crucially the right ‘angle’.

    The naysayers will always preach defeat before a project is given a chance, and there are many examples littering the entertainment industry but those those same individuals also be quick to praise successes like BG. Yes the original was chessie and in many ways cheap looking but it was also the most expensive TV at the time with much of the money going into the very high production values of visual effects in TV.

    This re-imagination is how Star Trek should have been. Not necessarily dark and gritty but certainly updated and with a definite edge.

    What really helps and is evident that the people working on the series are true fans and lovers of the genre and the original series and era.

  4. 4 Markmac
    May 13, 2008 at 7:59 am

    YAY mojo. As if the gun wasn’t badass enough the colonial bolt pattern and the switchblade sword, put the cherry on the sundae! Excellent work!!! Here’s to hoping for another flashback of young Adama, to bring back some old school BSG!

  5. May 13, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Again this is assume, the detail you and the team put into this 100% proves to me that you guys are 100% original fans of the show. The extreme details you were able to place into the retro design of the Cylon is way cool. I thought Guy Dyas had the best redesign till Razor came out. Richard Livingston, and Pierre both design remains true to the roots of the 1978 Cylon. I love that Gold Cylon image, note my user name, and email address, it can’t be anymore obvious that I am a die hard fan of the Cylons. The updated mirror chrome finish over a true chrome with the highly reflective finish was a assume choice. The pressure was on the design team to make this a great Cylon, but everyone involved is truly a Cylon fan to spend this much time, and effort in making this by far the best Cylon ever since the original, and well maybe you beat the man in suit costume, but till I finish sculpting my Razor Cylon helmet nothing can be held in hand (GC).
    Thanks to all involved in this outstanding work.

  6. May 13, 2008 at 8:44 am

    The day I found this blog (last week) might just be the high point of my year.

    Thanks for these pictures and descriptions.

  7. 7 ScottH
    May 13, 2008 at 11:09 am

    WOW!! You have the coolest job in the universe. If only the show wasn’t coming to a close. I’d love to see some pics of the colonials weapons too, both the retro and new school. I can never get my DVR paused to get a real good look at them! Look like some FN and Beretta models in there. I think I almost cried when I saw the original raiders and cylons in RAZOR. You guys are awesome!

  8. May 13, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Absolutely ROCKS. Will we see them in the Caprica series?

  9. 9 Chad N.
    May 13, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    I love the little details like this. The air vent holes, the sword. I’m glad you mentioned the “Terminator-like” aspect. Especially with the joints, and the backpack.

    When the Cylon pilot and Adama are having their arial shootout… what sort of gun was that modeled after?

    The raiders and baseships were great to see in Razor. I eagerly anticipate the next blog entry!

  10. 10 darthmojo
    May 14, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Hey guys, thanks for all the kudos! Believe me, it’s a pleasure to share all this stuff with you; why should WE get to have all the fun?

    Elver: Getting it all to blend is the trick! We go through a lot of effort to match the lighting of the CG elements to the live action, then we add grain and sometimes video “noise” to make the CG look like it was also shot with an HD camera.

    DAVE: Will we see Cylons on Caprica? Well, since the show is partially about the origins of the Cylons, I would hope so! Will they resemble “classic” Cylons? Watch and find out, but I think everyone will be pleased.

    Markmac: Trust me, you’re not the only one who wants to see more of “Young Adama!” Keep your fingers crossed. After all, if a one-season wonder from 1978 could come back as huge success 30 years later, anything is possible!

  11. May 14, 2008 at 1:42 am

    @darthmojo: thanks for answering my question :)


    “This re-imagination is how Star Trek should have been. Not necessarily dark and gritty but certainly updated and with a definite edge.”

    Star Trek: Enterprise is the re-imagination you’re looking for. It’s dark with real moral choices and it’s some of the best Trek I’ve ever seen. Fans hated it, though. Said it messed with the canon timeline.

  12. 12 ety3
    May 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Glorious stuff, there. I love what you guys were able to accomplish in one two-hour ‘movie.’

    We’ve only seen up through ‘Faith’ as I type this, so I hope there’s a chance to see the newer centurions more. And maybe acting more independent.

    I know the CG can be a huge budget drain, but I don’t think we’ve seen enough of these bad boys.

  13. May 15, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Very cool article…both this one and part one! As long as we don’t ever, ever see nuts and bolts in six, I’ll be happy! Grrrrr!!!

  14. May 15, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    You guys are so insanely talented at what you do. Thank you for all the tiny details that go into this work of love. I can’t wait to see more episodes, but I die a little with each one knowing that the end is coming soon.

  15. 15 marie
    May 15, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    wow…those are some really cool pictures; thanks so much for sharing them with the fans!

    Seeing the old-school Cylons in “Razor” really brought back memories. I was just a toddler when the original series came out, but I have hazy memories of watching BSG with my aunt (who was a teenager then). I was so gratified to hear the creepy computerized voices and see the “walking chrome toasters” we knew and loved.

    Can we have more? ;)

  16. 16 Steve
    May 16, 2008 at 3:54 am

    Actually the three Centurions in the Raider took me completely out of the story for a moment. I literally had to pause the DVD, groan and roll my eyes.
    First off, it’s kinda silly for three intelligent machines to fly one craft. Even if the Raider doesn’t fly itself (although that is understandable given their origins) one Centurions should be enough. But that in itself would have been alright. But the thing that completely killed the scene is one of them saying “by your command”, which really makes absolutely zero sense and is just beyond cheesy.

    The other homages were very nice and well done (though I’m not a fan of the skydiving scene either), but that was just one step too far into complete silliness.

  17. May 16, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Oh, I just about creamed my pants when I saw the gold cylon and heard him speak. Awesome possum, as we used to say.

    Is it just me or is there actually a hint of purple lighting in the “Razor” Cylon cockpit? One of the things I always thought was cool about the original pilot were the purple-lit cockpits inside the Raiders, which somehow made the pilots look extra-pimpin’. They dropped this after the pilot (and in fact they redesigned and enlarged the cockpit interior for later eps), and thereafter the “purple” pilots showed up only in stock footage (which was disconcerting)

    In fact, as a kid I took it for granted that Cylon pilots has purple armor, a misperception reinforced by certain pre-broadcast publicity shots (including the one I have decorating my office wall, my favorite). My thought was Purple=Pilot, Silver=Ground Troops, Gold=Command. I was always disappointed that they never came out with a purple ‘Cylon Pilot’ action figure.

  18. May 18, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Awesome…simply awesome! I’m a TOS fan who only watches the new show so I’m current about why I’m screaming sour grapes. The work I saw here from Razor is best described how you opened the posting…tears of joy. Keep up the great work, fighting the good fight and when Battlestar Galactica returns again I hope you guys are on the payroll. “All this has happened before and will happen again”, right?

  19. 19 Elizabeth
    May 20, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Wow, this may be the most gorgeous post i’ve ever seen. Cylons are literally the coolest robots ever imagined

  20. 20 Simon
    May 22, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    “Just when I had resigned myself to the fact that we’d have to ***loose*** the Cylon’s trademark sword”

    Mojo great blog but I hate to see you fall victim to the worst of the internet:

    The ability to spell “lose” properly!

    I’m sure you guys wouldn’t want to do the VFX for the series “Loost” now :)

  21. 21 darthmojo
    May 22, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Steve: I’m sorry seeing the Centurions in the cockpit in Razor ruined the show for you. There’s a lot of DVD ripping and editing software out there, I’m sure you could easily make your own special edition. On the other hand, you’re REALLY going to hate the new BSG spinoff, “Three Centurions and a Raider.”

    Philip: Yes, we purposely gave a tint of purple lighting to match the look of the original series (our feeling was that if we’re going to do it, we might as well go all the way). However, we did get one angry letter from a guy named “Steve…”

    Simon: Wow, and I thought *I* had too much time on my hands! I’ll have you know I *purposely* used “lose,” as in “we knew we would have to “loosen” the sword from the belt and relocate it to the arm.” :-)

    Little known fact: When “Razor” was screened in theaters around the country, the biggest cheer from the audience in EVER SCREENING was when the classic Cylon Centurion uttered, “By Your Command.”

  22. 22 Douglas Nicol
    May 25, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    A crew of three for a Raider isn’t so silly. In the original series I got the impression that the Vipers were fast point defence interceptors and space superiority fighters, if you want a modern day comparison thing Eurofighter Typhoon, F22 Raptor, and further back in naval history the F-14.

    The 3 man raider in my mind isn’t a fighter, its a strike craft, really more of a bomber, think of an A-6 Intruder which incidentally had a two man crew or the S-3 Viking anti-submarine aircraft, these are all multi-crewed. While the Raider in the old series and the old style could fight, their primary job was to hit the target.

  23. 23 Douglas Nicol
    May 25, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Also, is it just me or does that Rifle just scream “M-60”, the stock and receiver as well as some of the handguard section.

  24. May 27, 2008 at 5:35 am

    I was on full geek boy overload when I saw Razor. The effects in the new BSG have been awesome throughout, but seeing the classic raiders and centurions was superb! I confess to not being a big fan of the original series, although I loved Saga of a Star World and the Pegasus stories. Even so, seeing the new versions of these iconic figures was breathtaking.

    I suppose you’ll have to go back to the original BSG mini and CGI over the cylon model in the museum. It doesn’t look as cool. ;o)

  25. 25 The Cylon Banana
    May 29, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I luuuurve the TOS Cylon redesigns! Absolutely gorgeous work.

    Now if only we could see a test render of a polished chrome super-shiny one, with the specular reflections all over the place, like in those old-school publicity shots. Maybe even throw in a few multi-colored laser beams bouncing around? Don’t tell me you guys didn’t do at least one image like this, just for kicks.

  26. May 30, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I have a question about the Cylon minipistol, what came first, the real hand held prop, or the CG version. I saw the Cylons using that pistol on the Baseship, and while free falling and doing the mid air fight with Husker. I saw Husker using it while in the Baseship just as the 1st war was ending, so it must have been a hand held prop at some point, and a CG prop for the Cylons. So the Chick, or the egg, what came first. Also what is this weapon based off of? An off the shelve weapon with it tweaked out?

  27. June 10, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I missed those details when I watched but really appreciate the obvious care to get it right! LOVE the bolts…that’s brilliant!

  28. July 7, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I love this site

  29. July 7, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Woops should have finished that last comment.

    Great to see the the old cylons, i enjoyed watching them in razor. Shame wee won’t get to see even more in season 4.

    Can’t wait to see the arcticals on the tos style basestars and raiders you meantioned.

  30. 30 Dan
    July 19, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Coming from a big fan of TOS, this stuff is AWESOME. Guess I gotta go buy a copy of Razor now. :)

  31. 31 Cmdr Spock
    August 29, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks for sharing the awesome photos and behind the scenes stuff, the old school cylons were the best part of Razor!

    (GoldCylon, the cylon handgun looks an awful lot like a tricked out Tec 9 with a barrel extension to me)

  32. 32 Stark
    September 18, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Love all the Cylon ‘Treats’! Any plans in the works for a ‘Behind the Toasters’ book?

    Repulsors ON! -Stark

  33. 33 Mike
    November 1, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    These shots are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing! Amazing work…

  34. January 26, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Mojo, these are absolutely increditble. Especially the scenes where the three raider centurions are yakkin’ it up just like Old Skool!
    And then of course, the skydiving schene, which is parodies here. NSFW!

  35. 35 Nemo
    February 25, 2009 at 12:37 pm


  36. March 21, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    awesome job love this webpage and the cylons are awesome. even the gold one is fantastic.cylons are like coolest robots made. SO SAY WE ALL!!!!

  37. 37 Fan Railer
    April 3, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    LOVE the in depth rendering! just one question, could we get to see an updated rendering of the New Cylon basestar (post collaborators?) it would be great to get an up close shot of the updated baseship in a cgi rendering and not on tv. the guardian baseship would also be a real treat, since there arent any good shots of it in razor. THANKS!! ;)

  38. 38 PoklahFX
    July 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    you did a really awesome job man.
    I watched the original Battlestar Galactica when I was still a kid back then in the early 80s…
    Recently I watched the latest incarnation but so sorry, to me the new BsG somehow looks wrong and too Terminator-oriented in design..

    hope to see more..

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May 2008

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