Building a bed that looks like a Snowspeeder requires very careful planning and precise execution. Making that Snowspeeder look GOOD mostly involves just making things up and having fun.
The Star Wars films are full of unforgettable vehicles, from the formidable Death Stars to the dueling X-Wings and TIE fighters to the behemoth AT-AT walkers that also make an appearance on Hoth in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Like all of these, the Snowspeeder has a unique and memorable look. Its distinctive angles resemble head of a viper, complete with laser cannons for fangs. So the very first thing we needed for our bed to recreate that unique look was a sleek, angular structure.
This was easy enough to capture in a 3D model, but it took quite a bit of mental and computational flexibility to translate those angles into plywood – a pretty inflexible material. In the end, despite having computers which can do careful calculations for us and can cut out sheets of plywood precisely to our specifications, sometimes things just don’t quite fit the way they do in the model. For this particular project, that meant carefully sawing and adjusting miters and literally cutting some corners.
But fortunately, our bed doesn’t actually have to fly into battle against the military might of an evil Empire. The rough but sturdy structure just needed a bit of spackle and careful sanding to smooth over those tricky joints and to start looking good.
Making things look good is where this project really got fun. With those distinct contours in place, our bed had the profile of a Snowspeeder, but it still didn’t quite “feel” like something from the Star Wars universe. “The dark side is in the details,” as they say (No one actually says that, but maybe it’ll catch on?). What makes any fantasy world FEEL real and immersive, whether it’s Middle Earth, Westeros, or a galaxy far far away, are the little details. The vehicles in Star Wars are not (other than a few examples) graceful, smooth, and polished. They are covered with “things.” There are panels and vents, conduits and supports, and other shapes that probably have a specific purpose. But no matter what illustrated guides to the Star Wars universe might tell you, from a design standpoint the real purpose of all those thingamajigs is simply to look cool. That panel “could” provide access to the stabilizers, and that vent might be exhaust for the blasters, but the explanations for all of those little details is far less important than the simple fact that they are present. Taken as a whole, they blend together, creating that oh so important feeling that these imaginary vehicles are functional and “real.”
So, while we could have gone to extroadinary lengths painstakingly recreating every individual gizmo and doohickey, we took a note frome the creative designers who originally brought Snowspeeders into existence and go for the “feel” without getting too bogged down in the specifics. Since we already had the overall shape of a snowspeeder, the smaller add-ons could be more flexible. This meant raiding the scrap piles of the shop for anything that could add life to our speeder. Circles and rectangles leftover from the laser cutter could be quickly nailed to the wings to serve as the panels, controls, or thingamabobs. Thin strips of wood could be lined up to create vent-looking-things. Spare boards were cut into rectangles of varying dimensions to fill in the otherwise empty and uninteresting space on our vehicle. Then, all it took was a nice coat of laser-gun-metal-gray to transform these random scraps into something that looked like a genuine movie prop. Even the blaster canons mounted on our bed, while a much more specific accessory, could be flexible. A few different sizes and connectors of PVC pipe, the same sort of supplies a plumber might use, was all it took to make our bed look combat ready.
The final touches were some red stripes and airbrushing some dirt and battle damage – more of those little non-specific details that give things realism. And the end result is the perfect bed for cold weather and Imperial invasions.
Ultimately, we even impressed ourselves with how well the bed turned out. What made it work was relying equally on those two distinct veins of creativity – careful, analytic planning as well as free-flowing whim and imagination.
*Guest blog by Greg Fox