Remember those fantastic digitigrade leg extensions sculptor Kim Graham made? Remember how she landed a deal with Weta Studios to mass produce them affordably- and then after months of production and only a short while after its release, was suddenly scrapped?
Yeah, it sucked.
I had been looking forward to owning a pair for over 2 years since the project first began, so I'm sure have many of you shared this disappointment. Well you may have heard sometime after that the project was picked up by a UK company, Area 51... and then you never heard a word again?
I finally bring you the long awaited news about the silly things!
Whatever possibly could have been the reason to compel me to once again give the Area 51 company site another go, I was searching for any sort of hint that they were even attempting the digileg project. Kim said they would be ready by Spring 2011. Nevertheless I'm glad I checked again. And after more research, I've determined this is practically the soonest you could have even heard any sort of update about the project, as confirmed with a quote from Kim herself posted yesterday (Aug 01) on YouTube:
"Regrettably my leg extensions are in stasis, but my co-inventors are going ahead with their own design. Their leg extensions are being made by a company called Area 51 in the UK. This company just put up a web page this week announcing their own version. It is good to see that they have overcome the enormous difficulties in bringing any such invention to the market. Bravo, my hats off to them!"
Turns out both Kim and I just found out that Area 51 has indeed released the newly designed Digilegs THIS WEEK- possibly even as recently as yesterday. This news was so exciting, I knew I had to spread the word to all of you immediately as I drooled over my keyboard daydreaming... (as I then reminded myself of the fact that I have no money at the moment and it brought me back to reality a bit.)
So these are notably different than Kim's/Weta's design though of course heavily inspired by all their hard work. As stated on Area 51's site, "Much research and development has gone into this revolutionary product to ensure usability and functionality." And how right they are- digitigrade foot extenstions have made leaps and bounds in the past few years by professionals and amateurs alike. I'm just happy to see someone picking up the project again, though have my concerns that it won't live up to the expectations in quality I had placed so earnestly on the Weta version. They darn well have better got it right this time round. They'll need to be confident in their work if they expect to not face a flop like Weta did.
The most crucial thing however will be the overall performance- considering both the actor's level of comfort, ease of use, and of course the movement. I couldn't stress that enough. Area 51 states on their website that they are in the process of creating a demo video of the stilts in action, so the moment it's learn this has been done, expect this post to be updated along with an observational critique.
Small update: (08/22/11) Area 51 is aiming to have video up within the next 2 weeks from now. If you take a look at the original digilegs videos from Kim and Weta, the studio says that these stilts move just like that. So you can imagine it walking around in your head for now. Once again, an update from me coming shortly!
Big update! (03/20/12) Aera 51 finally got us a demo video... and it wasn't 2 weeks of waiting, nor 2 months, but the delay seems to be for a pretty good reason- because they finally have a costume to properly show it off with. Two actually.
So we got us a pair of Xenomorphs running around now! Some great features about the video is that is answers the big question- YES you can do everything with these that the Weta legs claimed to including a wide range of movements such as walking quickly (and limited running) and going down stairs/inclines. Balance is what you'd expect for them as well- honestly you'd only be most limited by your own physical strength and endurance. These of course do not have any sort of footpad/joint/hoof/whatever at the base that would make the toes feel more alive when walking, but that's an attachment that will be developed in the future. They've told us the hoof-style will be available April 2012.
- Main structure –Powder coated steel
- Thigh and calf panels – ABS
- Cabling and fixings –Stainless steel
- Tread and cushioning –EVA profiled foam
- Straps –Nylon Webbing
- Paddings – Neoprene
- Adjustable foot and cabling for personal preference
Interestingly they appear to have added a feature the Weta stilts did not have I'm excited to see: 3 adjustable height settings. Plus it comes in two overall stilts sizes and 3 calf sizes. One simply adjusts the cable to accommodate for the different height settings. This is something I had hoped to see in a future Weta upgrade and guess others had the same idea for improvement. Good job on that one guys! See all the details here: [link]
So getting down to business, how much can one expect to sacrifice towards owning a pair of these engineering marvels?
£718.80 or approx $1,170
This is without shipping of course, and it's actually still unknown what role that will play because, as stated by the website, "Please note that there is a temporary issue with the shipping calculation which will be addressed as soon as possible." So more updates to come there. I sure hope it's reasonable; it hurt seeing how much further I was from my purchasing goal learning that Weta was shipping them all the way from New Zealand.
Update: Site is now up and running and shipping costs announced, so prices have been altered.
£599.00 ( £718.80 inc. VAT for UK customers) or approx $975
Turns out legs+shipping= less than original realeased cost for us non-UK folk. That's pretty nice :) The original released price stays unaltered for UK + minimal shipping costs tacked on. I was surprised on the low shipping costs there for something like this for locals. Then again I haven't seen them in a storage/folded position and also no where can I find the total weight of the stilts so maybe the shipping's rather average. Still a hefty pricetag for many, but all the same became more afforable.
So you wanted Weta legs? You'll pay for Weta legs after all- the prices remains where the standard was set. Honestly I'm not surprised in the least by the final numbers Area 51 chose, though had my fingers crossed they strove for the same "professional quality, affordable for the average joe" ideal Kim and Weta were all about and that they would be a little on the lower side. No early-bird discounts Area 51? Ah well.
Start saving! Heres' the order page: [link]
Updated: One last tidbit I want to throw at you guys, this is a very early use of the newly released Digilegs: Mr. Tumnas + Aslan.
Neat as it is, the leg covering is obviously a last minute job- poorly fitted and rushed. We all know this LJ community of amateurs and hobbyists could make those leg coverings better ourselves ;)
Luckily this was not intended to be a demonstration of the work Area 51 can do with covers for the new stilts. The performer, Adam, was placed next to Aslan simply as a sense of scale for the newly constructed lion. Area 51 has said they plan to create a variety of properly fitted leg coverings and will also do custom work. In addition, they plan to create different attachments for the footplates to make them look and behave more realisticly- true to the original spring-hoof design idea Kim was including in her earlier work. (Please and thank you for this A51!)
Edit: (03/20/12) By the way, there is indeed a "revamped" version of the Mr. Tumnas fawn-style legs with sculpted leg padding posted to the website now. They obviously want to show that they are capable of building you fully finished creature legs and it won't suck as much as the photo I posted above. Also this is the protoype for the soon-to-be-released spring hoofs. So check it out:
But of course, the bottom line behind the studio offering the "naked" stilts was to encourage the idea of letting people devlop their own characters and help bring them to life. They are more than excited to see what their clients will come up with on their own using the stilts. Question is... who will be the first?
I'm anxious to see.
(Thanks Matt [Director of Area 51] for providing more info about the stilts!)
A final note, one of our very own "Manojalpah" (manojalpa on LJ, zaland on FA) did receive her ordered pair and is the first one that I'm aware of to have done so posting a video of them in action. Of course this was after only 20 minutes of practice and she's sure to get a lot better, but this is more what you expect your average person's experience to be like instead of professional spandex alien men.
It'll be rockin' to see what she does with them. If I'm not mistaken, she's working with Qarrezel to make her Heaven's Beast character Zaland come to life.
From Zaland's FA journal:
This is after 20 minutes from standing up, with no previous experience whatsoever on stilts.
You'll notice I have a bit of a limp - that's thanks to be short. The thigh pads dug into my crotch and gave me a pretty nasty bruise, but it's an easy fix as soon as I can find someone who can drill through the material. Area51 (the makers) suggested moving the entire pad down an inch or two for increased comfort, so that's the plan.
Other than that - standing is incredibly difficult. You can watch me try at the end of the video. I think that the tension wires weren't quite appropriately adjusted, so I'll give a better update when I've finally got those tuned to my center of gravity.
Overall, I am having a blast playing with these things, have no idea how I would ever be able to be in a fursuit with them, and life is good.
By the way, Digilegs now has a Facebook Page that you can join if you like 'em and want to chat about them and share the projects you've created with them: facebook.com/digilegs