Monday, September 20, 2010

Nilo Rodis: Costumes From the Final Frontier

Nilo Rodis (or Nilo Rodis-Jamero) worked at ILM in the 1980s.  He served as a visual effects art director on The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.  He is credited as the designer of the popular Klingon Bird of Prey first seen in Star Trek III.  He went on to work as a costume designer for Return of the Jedi and as an art director on Star Trek IV, V and VI.  When William Shatner saw the detail that Rodis put into his storyboards for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, he hired him as a costume designer.  He shared those duties with Dodie Shepard.
Nilo Rodis in the Star Trek V DVD Bonus Features

In his designs for Sybok, Rodis displays his knowledge of Vulcan design from previous Trek films.  I really like that he put so much emphasis on including triangular shapes.  Triangles have been important visual cues in Vulcan design since William Ware Theiss created the IDIC for TOS.  Designers in for ST: TMP continued the trend and brought it into Vulcan architecture.
Robert Fletcher continued to develop the idea with his costumes for Spock in ST: TMP and for T'Lar in Star Trek III.  
Here are some sketches and a storyboard featuring Sybok by Nilo Rodis.


Maintaining these kinds of design archetypes really helped Star Trek continuity over the years.  Vulcans are easily distinguishable from Klingons, Romulans and everyone else because of design tricks like this.  These designs provide Vulcan clothing with a sense of geometrical order which seems to me, perfectly logical.  The resulting costume for Sybok displays echoes of the previous designs so he can be identified as a Vulcan even though he's the most different Vulcan we've ever seen.
After Star Trek VI, Nilo Rodis has continued to build a rich career in design for film.  Most recently, he served as visual effects art director on Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.  His attention to detail is a trait shared with most Trek designers and one of the things that allows Star Trek's designs to hold up so well over time.

A good source for more of Rodis' work is The Art of Star Trek by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens.

No comments:

Post a Comment