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Professional Case Modder Interview - Crimson Sky

Page: 1/1
Person Interviewed: Paul Capello / Crimson Sky
Company Position: Professional Case Modder
Date: 9.12.03
Interviewer: fishstick

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(Click Thumbnails for Larger Version)

Paul Capello aka "Crimson Sky" is the webmaster of and creator of Matrix Rebirth 8.0 case as seen on The Screensavers. I got the chance to sit down with him to discuss his latest case and see what makes him tick.

Hello Paul, thanks for joining. The first que..

The first answer is: "'s purple."

?Okay. Let?s start by introducing yourself, where were you born & raised, what?s your current occupation and leisurely activities?
I was born and raised in New York City, on the mean streets of Brooklyn. Currently, I'm forging ahead with case modding, building contacts in the hardware sector and getting contracts for custom modded cases. I've been talking to Intel lately and they are interested in working with me on a new case for their trade shows. Basically?I'm an out of work web designer.

By choice?
Well I used to be a carpenter, building homes, cabinets and dabbling in props and sets for motion pictures. I retired from that about 5 years ago to pursue graphic design and web development.

Your bio tells us about your early fascination for movies, was there a particular movie that sparked the interest in the backstage happenings?
I'd have to say the original Godzilla movie. I was very interested even at an early age to discover how they built the model cities that would get destroyed. At about 12 I began building my own miniature houses from scratch and smashing them in the back yard.

Any feedback from the parents that saw their son wreaking havoc on mini New York?
Well to be honest, my father was really impressed with the models I was building, but had no clue why I would destroy them as soon as the paint was dry.

Your first case is a dedication to H.R Giger, technorganic artist extraordinaire. I take it you were impressed by the Alien movie?
I remember seeing that movie the week it was in the theatres. I was about 13 at the time and very impressed with the special effects and production design. And being scared shitless as said father was snoring in the seat next to me.

That was about a year after you first started showing an interest in the 'behind-the-scenes'. Are you still impressed by some movies' effects, or is it like knowing how the magician pulls the rabbit out of the hat?
That?s the problem I have with the gratuitous digital crap that directors insist on having in their films. None of it looks 'solid' or doesn?t have weight like the old effects using mechanical models and props. I laughed all the way through the new Star Wars films. Correction: the Star Wars animations. I was not well liked in the theatre. I think a lot of people feel the same way now...We have become too tech-savvy; when we can do the same effects on a home PC, it?s no longer magic.

You just answered my next question as well. I was going to ask what your opinion was on the trend of overusing CGI in current movies such as Matrix Reloaded, where a huge part of the fan base was disappointed because of the 'useless, sterile fight scenes' as opposed to the fights in Matrix where Keanu would do his kung-fu while attached to wiring.
Yeah it looked really cartoonish. On the other hand, I can see the directors was in fact a 'digital world' so anything would seem fantastic and animated. Sad to say I wasn?t as impressed with the second film.

Nor was I, for a lot of the same reasons. The Hulk is another such example. I can imagine it's hard NOT to use CGI to create a neon green 9ft guy in purple pants, but still?
The previews and commercials for Hulk was enough to make me NOT go see it. What a piece of crap, and waste of good film stock.

You've worked on several props and special effects; is there any particular effect that is extremely hard to accomplish without reverting to large amounts of CGI?
The first thing that comes to mind is scenery. Since the early 1920's, matte artists would paint fantastic scenery on glass plates, and then they would be put in front of the camera to simulate strange or ancient worlds. It all comes down to money. Rather than pay a gifted oil painter thousands to create mattes, today they resort to CGI because it's quick, cheap and effective.

And maybe because the audience expects it? If they'd filmed Star Wars Episode 2 with men in suits as droids and panels as background, I doubt it would've gotten the sales it has now.
Actually, I thought there were many scenes in Episode 2 that could have (and should have) used costumes. They will never match the lighting, or give the weight to the characters until the technology advances. Lucas Films is in the wee baby infancy of CGI tech.
I wish...just wish?I could get my hands around Jar-Jars neck...just once...and squeeze...never taking my eyes off his as his life drained away.

Trust me, you?re not alone. When and why did you decide to move to PC cases as a new canvas to work on?
In the Summer of 2000 as the dot bombs were dropping, I was laid off from a cushy web designing job and found myself with way too much time on my hands. I had seen a few case mods here and there on the web, and having an old empty PC case lying around I decided to cut a few fan holes and try out this new type of 'canvas'. Not satisfied with a hulking steel paneled rectangle, I decided to apply my old prop-making skills to the case, and what resulted was my Alien Case Mod. (see October's Wired Magazine for an article with photo!)

Is there a type of material you love to use, because of any special properties for instance?
I like to use polystyrene plastic, the same material that model kits are made from. It can be bought in big sheets from 1/32 to 1/4" thickness. Styrene is also cheap and very strong. It's used a lot in industrial design and architectural models. It can be carved, sanded, tapped, drilled. It's amazing material.

That's the same material you used for the Alien and Biohazard case? The Matrix stalk was made up via kit bashing, right?
Exactly. Having a good supply of model parts lying around makes it easy to sculpt difficult shapes and textures. The Biohazard mod was made from spare model parts and plastic household items like clocks from a 99 cent store.

I'm sure you get this question often; on the Biohazard case, how did you get the rust effect? Is it 'simply' layering paint or is a matter of using acids, etc.
Acid would have been cool, but my girlfriend would have killed me before the chemical did. The rust effect was achieved by first painting the case with chrome spray paint. I then bought a 'faux rust kit' from "That Large Home Store". It comes with orange spray paint and a brown acrylic in a can. You basically spray on the orange in spots and then stipple the brown over it with a sea sponge until you get the desired effect. Having the chrome underneath gives it a hint of what it may have once looked like before it rusted.

How do you plan your mods? Do you actively seek out a theme or just go with any idea and work on that, planning along as you go?
When I come up with an idea or theme that excites or challenges me, I basically build on the fly. Planning only goes so far when creating art, as the project begins to take a life of its own, it guides you to what it wants to be. A lot of coffee and staring at the shit for hours.

Do you get advice from your fianc? on some parts, or does she just let you go your own way as long as you're not setting things on fire?
::laughs:: Well she knows where the fire extinguisher is. Actually she is great, giving me second opinions on stuff like colour and composition. It helps when you are tired, and have been looking at the same thing for hours to have a fresh perspective.

While working on a mod, how much time do you usually spend crafting away at the case? Total and daily?
Well for project Rebirth 8.0, I worked nearly seven days a week full time for three months to complete it. Biohazard and Alien were spare time mods, and took much less time.

Any specific budget you have to take into account?
I really don't keep track of the expenses, lots of times I have parts or supplies lying around from other projects that work their way into new ones. If I need something, I buy it. To have to worry about budget and expenses would diminish the artistic freeanufI enjoy.
Couldn't have asked for a better answer.

What does your typical day - if there is such a thing - look like? How much time do you spend with and on your pc?

Right now I'm using my day to update the website and get the new pictures of the Matrix mod up. There are so many people to thank for their support and enthusiasm, particularly the forum users and the fellow modders who have been following the progress from the start. It's the first time I started posting a work log on forums and you well know that?s a really time consuming task. Taking pictures, getting them web ready, posting... and writing about it is tough work. I need a vacation.

Speaking of vacation, what do you do when not hacking up cases?
Well I'm into video production and editing, and have a new case mod video in the works with a studio here in NYC. My fianc? Jean enjoys helping in production as well. We also enjoy REALLY cheesy sci-fi movies and watch a lot of films together.

"It came from beneath the sea" ?
::laughs:; exactly. even cheesier. So bad you can see the strings and zippers. I also have a big family (I'm the youngest of five, three sisters and a brother) and we enjoy kicking back and hanging out together. Oh...and frequent trips to the country house to forget about mods and computers and all this crap. Trees...I need?trees.

What does your current setup look like, both looks and specs?
Well my workhorse is basically a stock blue full tower Dragon. An ancient AMD 2400, ECS K7S5A motherboard, 768MB RAM, Sony DVD burner, Firewire capture card, 260GB storage (RAID stripped for video editing) SB Live Platinum, various Nexus fan/CPU controllers, 19" CRT, Logitech Z560 THX speakers, JVC Super VHS editing VCR...blah-dee-blah. Of course it?s all networked to three other PC's in a small apartment.

Do you dabble with gaming?
No, I should though...who the fuck has time? I don't. I'd get absorbed and obsessive with games.

Where do you see yourself and in say, 5 years?
...well hopefully the modding scene will stay strong for the next few years, and I can complete some cases for big name companies. I'd also like to continue with the instructional videos as a way to help modders think differently about their projects. Also hope to have a few kids with my future wife =)

That?s it, you?re off the hook. Thanks for the opportunity! Anything you?d like to add, shameless plug, corny quote, meaning of life?
Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave. Nuff said. EAST COAST baby!!!
SpLiZaaT's Note: It's all about the West Coast, Paul! :)

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