Babylon Podcast #23: Interview with John Vulich, Optic Nerve

Welcome to Show #23!

Interview: John Vulich, owner of Optic Nerve Studios

John Vulich, Optic Nerve

Tim, Summer and Jeffrey chat with John Vulich, owner of the special effects house that created all of the B5 aliens we’ve all come to love.

John tells us about getting involved with the show, with creating the show’s new aliens and refining the ones established in the pilot, about working with the prosthetics to make them less invasive for actors, on designing and creating robotic creatures, and much more. John also tells us a what little he can about NBC’s new Fall series, “Heroes”.

Listener Feedback: Tim, Summer and Jeffrey dive into emails and comments from the blog: Sun comments on technical tidbits in “Survivors”; Matt comments on “By Any Means Necessary” and labor negotiations; Michael lets us know that JMS mentioned the podcast in recent comments published in Volume 8 of the script books.

This week’s voicemail is a message from Ivanova in Wisconsin about the importance of the B5 station in the Shadow War, and how the Shadows may have been more interested in all of the Babylon stations much earlier than demonstrated in the series, and Tim muses on whether they were really responsible for the demise of the first three stations.

Your feedback does matter, and is welcome! You can call us, or email us and tell us what you think… and likely hear it played or read on the show. Please try to keep the voicemail comments as brief as possible.

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  1. Charles Yearsley Jr. says

    This is more an observation and comment than question. I noticed that B5 and its prior iterations are clearly based on the L5 colony concept as theorized by Gerard K. O’Neill in the ’70s. I wonder if JMS used it as inspiration. The superior use of the entire inside surface and lack of or reduced gravity along its axis point to some fascinating prospects.

    I realize the show had a limited budget but more usage of the interior would have been welcome. If you think about it, why would so many skulk around the Sokolow and other cramped places “in the hull,” when they could breathe free and spread their legs in the interior. Let’s get real here!

    This may have come up in a discussion somewhere, but I’ve never heard it bandied about on your show or others. I think it would be neat to take off onto conversational tangents with subjects like these. Please give it some thought.

    Keep up the great work people. I love the episode breakdowns, though at this rate it may take a LONG time to complete them!

    p.s. Summer and company – your recent responses to entreaties for photos of all of you was rather flippant and borderline rude from my prespective. What are you hiding? We’ll repect your reasons, but I think you really owe your listeners at least some explanation – not some cryptic blow off. Posting some lame cartoon graphics for personal identifiers that never change over time grows VERY tired! Try reconsidering that policy. We’re your FANS folks. We love yah! Come on there.

    Take care.

  2. I didn’t think our response was flippant, and I’d guessed that the reason why no pictures was easy to figure out: privacy, and safety.

  3. Charles, I noticed the L5 colony design back during the show’s initial run. I’m sure JMS and Co. used the design on purpose; in fact, they had contacts at NASA to help with accuracy of such things (and, as you’ll learn, the NASA folk just loved the Starfuries).

    The obvious reason we didn’t see much of the interior is budgetary. However, I also think that the special effects weren’t up to the task as much. There are plenty of scenes looking through office windows, but the vista outside aren’t terribly convincing. We really don’t get extensive -and convincing – CG exteriors until the third or fourth year, if memory serves.

  4. whoops – one last point, in a nutshell: I think the reason the lurkers are all shoved in down-below is the same reason you don’t see bums wandering around Disney World: the cops keep ’em “in their place” so the elite won’t have to be bothered with such undesirables.

  5. I respect summer and Tim’s point in the privacy and photo part. Jeff’s photo would obviously be available through IMDB or similair contacts but I think B5 can attract such a degree of nutty fandom that I’d not be too keen on putting my photo out there either.
    Good show this week, shame about no episode discussion but ye did cover twqo last week so I suppose there is balance in this. Any hints as to who’s on next week?
    on the “discussed B5 in phazecast #1 have a listen” ID

  6. Jonathan says

    I really enjoyed this episode. In watching B5, I had noticed that the Minbari warriors definitely had more jagged looking bone crests, and assumed it was something to do with their caste lineage, and I had always wondered why some (i.e. Delenn’s in the first season) looked so smooth and didn’t even consider the idea that the Optic Nerve people were thinking that they might be sculpting them, like we would have hairstyles. Very cool. And I rather like the character transformations they did from the pilot. The Minbari seemed very…ugly I guess, harsh, like the Narn, but that isn’t appropriate for them. The rework by Optic definitely gave them a more Elven disposition.

    I’d also like to say that I didn’t take any offense to Tim and Summer’s angle on not releasing their pictures. I appreciate that they are willing to spend their time to bring us this podcast. Thanks guys.

  7. I thought that was a neat thing about the Minbari bone crests, too. I figured it was strictly a gender thing – males are jagged, females are smooth.

    The other thing I liked about the Optic Nerve changes were the Narns. In the pilot, they looked too reptilian, IMHO.

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