May the music be with you! Thanks to 'one crazed inventor,' 95 Lego 'Star Wars' droids stopped fighting long enough to play the iconic 'Star Wars' theme on 42 instruments.
British inventor and musician Sam Battle teamed up with Lego to produce the epic "orchestra," which required a combination of iPad programming, many of the new Lego Star Wars Boost Droid Commander sets (opens in new tab), perfect timing and a vision that persisted through 3,148 hours of creation (including five all-nighters). You can watch the whole video here.
"I'm making it up as it goes, literally," a disheveled Battle says in a "making-of" video. "This is the art of making art and music and electronics. Usually you're just making it up and hoping it works."
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The unique orchestra demonstrates the capabilities of the brand-new Lego Boost Droid Commander set, which allows children to build and code functional R2-D2s, Gonk Droids and Mouse Droids through computer programming. Presumably because of secrecy surrounding the set's Sept. 1 launch, Battle says that most of the time, he worked on the orchestra in a warehouse 328 feet (100 meters) underground, with no windows to let the light in or help him keep track of the time of day.
While Battle may have been joking about the depth of the warehouse, he surely wasn't joking about the intensity of the work. "Oh God, I'm tired," Battle says in the video. "I didn't sleep last night, very much. I was doing this until about 4 in the morning."
On his website, Battle describes himself as a workaholic who decided to make a living for himself after suffering repeated layoffs from music groups. "I figured f--- it. How far can I get without that utter brain crapness of a business model," he writes.
Battle's knack for improvisation comes out again and again in the behind-the-scenes video, which shows his process and the preparations he made for the project. There's the matter of programming droids to play on "a rather large table with a rather large amount of iPads," he says in the video. This was a big obstacle for Battle until he realized he needed to jack more voltage through the iPads to make it look like real fingers are playing.
There were also complications with getting the droids to play. While the Gonk Droids simply punched the required keyboard keys, getting the R2-D2s to play miniature xylophones needed to account for their swiveling heads. In the finished orchestra, as the R2-D2s heads turns, there is a pivot point that lifts up the beater to slam on the xylophone. "It is at a very definite part in the spin," Battle said. After some work, he said he was impressed by how well the R2-D2s picked up the xylophone. "Tap on the head for them all. Round of applause!"
Finally in the video, launch day arrives and the orchestra moves to yet another warehouse in another secret location. The new location came complete with cameras and several members of the Lego team, who appear to be in awe of Battle's work as they assist him with putting on the final touches. "I never thought about making them [the droids] play music instruments, especially not violins and cellos and all these actual orchestra-type things," Carl Merriam, a Lego product designer on site (who happened to be sporting a branded T-shirt), says in the video.
Battle's seemingly mad plan works perfectly, and the droids play on key (and on time!) while Battle conducts in front of the group. The final number of players and instruments tallies up to 46 R2-D2s, 25 Gonk Droids, 24 Mouse Droids, 4 cellos, 10 violins, 8 xylophones and 8 keyboards — plus one conductor, Battle himself.
In the official music video, Battle asks R2-D2 how many Lego bricks were used. And, while R2-D2 gives an answer, Battle doesn't translate it, just responding "That many? Nice." Battle quickly moves to catch R2-D2, who falls off the table. It looks like Battle wasn't the only one who was exhausted at the end of this wild and creative Lego endeavor.
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