Behind The Real Life Iron Man Tech At SDCC

Published on Player.One 7/20/17.

Despite what a quick Google search for Richard Browning’s jet-powered flight suit may imply, he didn’t start developing this technology because he’s a fan of Tony Stark. He did it because he wants complete freedom in the sky.

"It’s cool because I like the Iron Man film. It’s a cool concept and it’s nice having built something that’s not too entirely dissimilar. We could have painted it gold and red, and that would have made the point that we are really trying to aspire to recreate it, but no. It has nothing to do with comic books,” Browning told Player.One. "We are trying to make it our own way. It’s just accidental it ended up looking and behaving like Iron Man."

The suit, known as Daedalus, consists of two jet-powered engines on each arm and another on the pilot's back for balance. Pointing the thrusters down pushes him away from the ground, lifting him up. Shifting his arms back propels him forward. It’s coming down the that’s the most tiresome because it takes the most endurance, strength he builds with rigorous workout routines.

“You're deadlifting. You have to lift them up to go down."

The stance, Browning says, is very similar to the way Tony Stark controls his suit in the films and comics. But the aesthetics and safety procedures on Daedalus still need work. His footwear is synthetic; anti-rattlesnake books, to be exact. He wears a black, stretchy suit that at first glance looks almost like scuba gear.

“It’s not very pretty, don’t look too close,” Browning said after the demo outside Mission Brewery, a 10-minute walk from San Diego Comic-Con. “The aesthetics are not a priority, but they are quite important. Some of the stuff on it is not very critical, only providing a bit of protection. There’s no point in not taking the opportunity to look cool, but function is the priority to get the most powerful, the least weight, the most control, the most safe."

One of the most developed parts of the suit is the helmet, which projects and visualizes data from the engines and fuel systems into the visor. Made by DAQRI, it’s an augmented reality display conceptually similar to Iron Man’s helmet.

"Fifteen thousand dollars of augmented reality. It takes data from the suit and paints it holographically in front of me."

Browning says he has flown Daedalus at a top speed of 45-50 mph and as high as 30 feet in the air (unintentionally). Next on the list is developing wings to transition from vertical takeoff to horizontal, which also reduces energy. This would help achieve the “complete freedom of the sky” he envisions.

"If I really had to now, I could go up to 1,000 feet. I could then put it on full power, lean over, then at 120 mph streak across the sky and then come back and land in front of you. The problem is not so much the parachute support because above 300 feet, or 150 feet, a base jump rig will help. It’ll save your life. But what do you do on the way up to that? If I go thunder up to 70 or 80 feet and get an engine failure, I’ll be dead ... So we are working on technology to solve that, and if we solve it, we have complete freedom to do everything. Frankly, you can see it in Iron Man.”

As his technology becomes better, faster and stronger, Browning is willing to take some calculated risks. If one of the engines suddenly develop a fault, spinning him around and landing him on the ground, Browning says the worst that could happen is he breaks an ankle or a wrist. He overcomes the fear by understanding the science behind the tech.

“I lost engines, a lot, in the early days of development. I was never that high and because all of the protective equipment, I never suffered. I will admit that we are now going higher and faster to the point where it's going to hurt more if I have an accident. But you know what, I could get run over by a car crossing the street. It’s a risk-reward thing. I’m confident in understanding the equipment, understanding the risk of there being a problem, so I’m fairly comfortable.”

This isn’t just a side project for Browning. He founded Gravity Industries in March 2017, a startup focused on human propulsion technology with the mission of completely changing the way we think about aviation and flight.

"It’s vision of imagining the challenge of flight but in a way that would leverage the mind and body rather than just sit in a machine. The balance and control, I’m already carrying it, so I may as well use it.”

For more on Richard Browning and the technology he’s developing, visit the Gravity website.


The Story Of Jessica Jones And Her Only Pair Of Jeans

Google Jessica Jones or watch the show on Netflix. She only wears one pair of jeans. This fact did not get past a fan at Book Con in New York, who decided to confront Krysten Ritter about her character’s fashion no-no.

“She actually has a few pairs,” Ritter responded while cracking up,  “One is a little tighter than the other.”

However, Ritter didn’t stop there. She’s got a really good reason for why Jessica only rocks one pair of bootcut, light-blue wash jeans.

“She doesn’t give a shit. She doesn’t give a shit about her jeans,” Ritter exclaimed, passionately, before giving a very detailed explanation of the thought process behind JJs fashion choices and personal style.

“Here’s the thing with Jessica, in building her look it was very important to me her body was hidden, that she wasn’t wearing something that would attract any kind of attention from a man or a woman,” she said.

These jeans are filthy. Netflix

These jeans are filthy. Netflix

The goal was for no girl to come up and say, “I love your dress” and no dude to come up and say, “Hey hot body.”

“She disappears,” Ritter said. “She wants to be hidden, and so that’s what the jacket is … it’s too big for me. The pants do nothing. The boots are flat and practical. The t-shirts do nothing for me. I’m in boxy clothes. I can sit on the floor indian style and I’m usually filthy.”

While Jessica’s effortless, wake up and go, morning breath style attracted the likes of Luke Cage, her outfit is the last thing on her mind.

Jessica’s dirty jeans didn’t bother Luke Cage. Netflix

Jessica’s dirty jeans didn’t bother Luke Cage. Netflix

“I didn’t ever want her to change her clothes, just like real life your jeans live on the ground you put them back on. Also she has a self inflicted uniform because that takes out 15 minutes of her day thinking about what she’s going to wear,” she said.

Ritter added that Jessica’s look was very important to her and she was 100 percent involved, even with hair and makeup.  “That’s half of feeling the character. Hair, makeup wardrobe…I have a vision how how the character should look and feel,” she told the fans at Book Con.


Let’s hope Jessica tossed this pair of bloody jeans in the garbage. Netflix

Let’s hope Jessica tossed this pair of bloody jeans in the garbage. Netflix

The downside, though, is that Jessica’s style is similar to how Ritter dresses in real life … minus the knitted sweaters.

“When I was coming here, I literally took of my leather jacket. I was like, ‘I can’t.’”

Considering Ritter’s statements, the chances of  seeing JJ in the blue and white comic book costume Trish Walker tried to get her to wear during Season 1 are very low.  In the scene, Trish says, “You can’t keep saving people dressed as a giant hoagie.”

Well, actually yes, that’s exactly what she’s going to do.


“Tell me you’re kidding,” Jessica Jones says when Trish suggests a costume and a new name. “Jewel is a stripper name, a really slutty one.”

“Tell me you’re kidding,” Jessica Jones says when Trish suggests a costume and a new name. “Jewel is a stripper name, a really slutty one.”

“Tell me you’re kidding,” Jessica Jones says when Trish suggests a costume and a new name. “Jewel is a stripper name, a really slutty one.”


In Conversation with Black Lightning Creator Tony Isabella

Just hours after Tony Isabella saw The CW’s Black Lightning trailer, he was on his way to Philadelphia to appear at the East Coast Black Age Of Comics Convention. Isabella, who created Black Lightning with Trevor Von Eeden, was one of five recipients of ECBACC’s lifetime achievement award. Isabella is a longtime attendee of ECBACC, but this year his presence was particularly exciting, considering the Black Lighting TV series will premiere this winter and he’s working on another Black Lightning comic series.

“I loved the costumes. There are some smartass lines in there and I love writing smartass lines so I love the fact that’s a little bit of me in there, that they’re doing that,” Isabella told Player.One. “I love the tone of the show. I had read a script, which was I think was the second draft when the show was at Fox. I’m sure there will be some changes for the CW, but the Fox script was really edgy, and not fantasy edgy like Arrow. Real world edgy. Police brutality, driving while black, the gang. It really is real world edgy and the more of that they keep I think the more the TV show will work.”

Isabella cleared up rumors that a pilot had been filmed ahead of the series pickup. He said The CW filmed an eight-to-twelve minute presentation piece, which is where the trailer comes from.

“I loved it [the trailer] more than I can adequately express,” Isabella reiterated during a panel discussion. “You have to understand, I’m not 100 percent in the loop. DC and the showrunners Salim and Mara Brock Akil have done their best to keep me in the loop, so I have known stuff before it hits online. For example, people kept talking about a Black Lightning pilot having been filmed. No. No pilot was filmed. They did a presentation piece, which was then cut into the trailer. And when I first heard that from DC, I thought it was a bad thing. And then they told me no, well, we sold Legends of Tomorrow with a picture of the cast and brief synopsis.”

Black Lighting going to series was unexpected, but it wasn’t a surprise to Isabella because Luke Cage’s popularity nearly crashed Netflix and there’s been a more conscious effort in the comic book industry to be more inclusive.

“I knew Luke Cage was partially to blame, or to thank, because the Luke Cage show was depending on the survey, you see anywhere from the fourth to first streamed show last year. I knew, obviously, CW couldn’t get Luke Cage, but they could get Black Lighting. The people at DC already wanted to do it, so I was 99 percent sure it was going to get picked up. The affiliates went crazy for it.”

The CW trailer for Black Lighting set the series to premiere in the 2017-18 midseason, but the show being labeled as a midseason replacement doesn’t worry Isabella; he thinks placement matters less and less these days.

“Midseason replacement is a meaningless term now. Networks put shows out whenever they want, they don’t even put them on networks. Netflix, I mean look at Netflix. So I’m not concerned when finally it debuts on TV, as long as it’s good and I really think it’s going to be really good.”

Isabella hasn’t been on the best of terms with DC Comics due to conflict over Black Lightning attribution, but he’s confident the industry changing when it comes to keeping creators in the loop. He got a laugh out of the fact DC sent him a copy of the trailer after it dropped online.

“This is new territory for them, they are not used to keeping creators in the loop on this stuff and they are trying really hard so I’m not going to nitpick them for not getting it right. So I see the trailer, two hours before we go in the car to drive here on Thursday. Loved it. I know basics of what’s going on with the show. It’s in my wheelhouse. I love the show. I love the showrunners. I love the acting picks they made.”

Isabella said he had a discussion with the Akil’s about the potential for crossovers with the rest of the Arrowverse. Since then, other reports have indicated no crossover is planned, but Isabella explains why he thinks the series should hold off on connecting to The Flash and Arrow, at least for the first season.

“We talked about that, not that I have any say in it. I said early on, I said, ‘You know I’m a little tired of Black Lightning being subservient to other characters. I don’t like him teaming up with Batman and Superman. They pretty much give him orders.’ We could always change it later on. When it was at Fox, I said, ‘You really got to find a way to cross it over with Lucifer.’

When Black Lightning was first rumored for a Fox pickup, fans had one question about the cast in particular, and they still do. What about Static Shock? Jaden Smith was once rumored to star as the live-action version of the hero millennial audiences fell in love with in the early 2000’s on Kid’s WB each Saturday morning.  But Isabella is not fond of the prospect of Static in Black Lightning series.

“It was frustrating when people say, ‘I can’t wait to see Static in there.’ Static is a great character, but you put him in Black Lightning, he’s a sidekick, or you reduce Black Lightning to just a mentor role,” Isabella said, adding that Young Justice Season 3 would be a perfect place for Static. “I love both characters, I mean, I love Black Lighting more.”

Fans are also calling for Metamorpho and The Outsiders. Isabella is not opposed.

“I got to tell you, I love the idea of Metamorpho at some point in the future. I love the character. I’m trying to convince DC that some of their b and c characters, they don’t necessarily have to do them themselves. I know a studio like Asylum, they would love to do a DC or Marvel superhero, but their budgets are not Warner Brothers budgets. But Metamorpho you could do. With the technology to do Sharknado, you could do Metamorpho.

Isabella also said, “I think he is,” about the possibility of Tobias Whale appearing in Black Lighting. 

“But I think he will be more like the version you’ve seen before,” Isabella added, noting his new comic book series contains a different take on Tobias Whale than we’re familiar with.

So far, Black Lighting on The CW, like Isabella said, appears to capture the tone of the character from the comics, but the most important value he hopes stays true to the character is responsibility.

“Responsibility. He doesn’t want to be a superhero. He does it because he can and because there’s a need. I always refer to him as a reluctant hero. He would rather be a teacher, he would rather be principal, but he can’t turn his back on what else he is. So he has to use that for the benefit of the community and the world. A lot of superhero comics these days are so self absorbed, every issue the heroes are fighting their old enemies. They’re not actually doing stuff for the community, and that’s what I want to change. Those are the characters I want to write.”

Originally published on Player.One May 22, 2017.


A 70-Foot VR Dome Stole The Show At Panorama NYC — Here’s The Guys Who Built It

Hundreds of sweaty concertgoers are waiting patiently in the baking sun. But they’re not seeking respite from the 95-degree heat in one of Panorama’s many cooling tents. They’re not posting up to see Arcade Fire or Kendrick Lamar or LCD Soundsystem on the main stage, either. They’re interested in a different kind of hype, one that spread like wildfire on Randall’s Island this weekend. They’re here to see “The Dome.”

The Dome (officially The 360 Virtual Reality Theater) was a VR art installation built for Panorama. It wasn’t just the structure itself (which, believe it or not, was set up in just a day) that attracted music lovers. Three-dimensional caves, whirling light rings, and rumbling acoustics captivated the hundreds of sweaty bodies lying side-by-side on the floor of the 70-foot structure.

BoBo Do and Nicholas Rubin worked closely together at their Brooklyn-based projection design studio, Dirt Empire, on The Dome. They’re no strangers to big projects; they once mapped the interior of the UN for Beyonce, but this was a unique opportunity.

“It’s not normal square content. You don’t have people locked down sitting looking at one thing. It’s not just their eyes traveling. In a dome, you’re whole body has to move to get everything. You can make mountains feel like big mountains, you can make giants and canyons feel vast but you have to know where to situate them within the sweep of the hemisphere for the illusion not to break down,” Rubin told Player.One.

Outside of museums and planetariums, very few have had a chance to experience such an immersive art. This type of three-dimensional storytelling is still a relatively new idea, even for the three studios that produced it. The dome, situated in a huge exhibit dubbed ‘The Lab’ (curated by and presented by The Verge) was a case study to bring technology-driven art into the festival world. It proved successful, but it was a particularly challenging project for everyone involved.

Dirt Empire visually produced the content alongside Elliot Blanchard of Invisible Light Network, an integrated creative studio specializing in interactive motion design.

“How do you structure motion in a dome environment as opposed to on a flat screen?” said Blanchard. “There are certain things you do to tell a story; you have cuts, change camera angles. Here it’s a totally different environment. If you move things too much, people will get sick.”

Testing out their content was a challenge of its own. Without having the physical structure to preview their work, Do, Blanchard and Rubin found a way to build The Dome in VR. Just a week before the festival, a test dome was set up in Greenpoint.

“We had Vive headsets to watch the film while we worked on it. We needed something that was in scale so we could see what people field of view was,” Blanchard said.

While the visual images may be most memorable, the experience would have been incomplete without the help of Antfood, the audio studio that produced The Dome’s original score. Creative Director Wilson Brown worked closely with Blanchard, Do, and Rubin to make their story feel like a fluid composition. Brown and his team used a technique called third order ambisonics, an elaborate mixing process that gave the dome a fully immersive experience.

“It allows us to mix in a hypothetical sphere. We had this 3-dimensional spatial sound that was mixed and would bounce swirl or twist around the dome,” Brown said.

The film was broken up into multiple sequences. Generally speaking, Invisible Light Network is responsible for the first half, and Dirt Empire the second. It was Antfood’s contribution that really tied everything together. Brown said one of his favorite parts is the light rings bridging into the leviathan scene.

“Musically and sound design-wise there are two things that are successful. One, the light rings are so simple and captivating. We had just a simple little swell every time the light passes by you, you get a ‘Vmm’ that shakes the floor that everyone was lying on. Then, it opens up into this world where there’s a big giant monster standing above you. There are these big sound design footsteps, but it has a nice chord progression that pulls you along musically,” Brown said.

Do describes the overall concept as “different scales of the universe,” drawing inspiration from Eames’ Power of Ten from the 1970s, where they zoom from the molecular level to the cosmic level.

“It was supposed to be a journey through various octaves of reality, ones that people can’t necessarily see — like vibratory realms, geologic realms, and human realms,” Rubin added. “We have some Buddhist undertones in the content. It’s fairly apparent if you watch. There’s some Buddha faces and a sky burial ground in one scene.”

Blanchard’s interpretation is a more emotional experience. He views the progression as a journey of becoming.

“We move from a very safe environment to a cave, which is also sort of a womb-like underground environment with the birds echoing and then you’re kind of shot out of it into this world that’s challenging,” Blanchard said “Then by the time you get to the cities, you’re kind of alone and there are arrows raining down on you. It’s a very threatening. That’s our section on the challenge of life.”

That’s when the dancers come in, which Blanchard describes as the first feeling of community.

“They are these mysterious figures but they’re friendly and coming toward you. The leviathan is the idea of you meeting the other, but you’re prepared for it. The rest of the film is about you working on yourself in an abstract space.”

Throughout the 12-minute show, festivalgoers cheered and clapped with excitement. Some even came back a second time.

“For us doing stuff mainly for animation, we never have an audience. People may like our video on YouTube or write a comment; this is cool because you can sit with the audience and hear their reactions,” Blanchard said.

With the many hours spent creating the dome experience, Blanchard, Rubin and Do want to figure out a way for people to watch after the festival. There’s talk of licensing the content out for other domes, pitching the dome to a new festival or even making the experience available for VR headsets like Google Cardboard. Sweaty concertgoers not included.

Originally published on Player.One.