Barbara's Beat: Real Steel's world of robot boxing

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Real Steel's world of robot boxing

When Real Steel opens, it's 2020, and the World of Robot Boxing has been around for seven years. In 2013 the first televised robot vs. robot fight was a hit, then WRB was formed. By 2014, underworld robot boxing was well under way.

The “super bots” were ruling the WRB by 2016, and robot boxing was a global sport. A new breed of robot boxer hit the scene in 2018: Zeus, a larger, more powerful robot was built for domination and intimidation. His only goal is to dismantle and annihilate his opponents.  Zeus is the reigning world champion.

The WRB is a world of global televised events, trading cards, sponsorships, big money, prestige, media hype and excitement. It is the world small-time boxing promoter Charlie Kenton, Hugh Jackman, wants to be a part of — and he’ll do whatever it takes to get there.

Atom may not be the biggest or flashiest bot in the ring, but he is the most extraordinary. He is the “hero” robot.

ZEUS: He is the champ of the WRB. He is enormous. He is described as “The Death Star.” Zeus is painted reflective black. He has piston-programmed punch mechanisms in his arms. Not only has he never been beaten, but also, no other robot has even survived beyond the first round with him.
MIDAS: Colored in gold and red, he sports a mohawk. He’s a brawler. He follows no rules. He’ll use whatever means necessary to win a fight.
NOISY BOY: This robot is a former league bot. When he started losing fights, he was exiled to doing boxing exhibitions in South America and Asia. He’s now back,
but he’s no longer league caliber, so he’s fighting in underworld venues.

AMBUSH: Ambush is a low-rent circuit bot. The best fight that Charlie can arrange for Ambush is literally against a piece of livestock.

TWIN CITIES: With a block-shaped upper body, Twin Cities is a vicious two-headed robot.

METRO: With one green arm and one blue arm, both of which are different shapes and sizes, Metro looks like a beat-up Frankenstein.

In “Real Steel,” there is a very clear line between the two worlds of robot boxing. There are two levels to the sport. There is the league, the WRB (World Robot Boxing), which is equivalent to NASCAR or the NBA. It’s corporate-sponsored, with big money, sanctioned venues and strict rules.

On the opposite end is the gritty underworld, which has unsanctioned fights, with no rules, and no restrictions. The robots fight to the death. It’s down. It’s dirty. It’s no-holds-barred. 

The WRB is driven by huge budgets, delivering stadium-filling spectacle that culminates in the Real Steel Championship. The league features the most advanced robots in the world on its roster, all custom-built with state-of-the-art technology, exclusively for the global stage.

“Welcome to the WRB League, the highest echelon of robot boxing. Home to the greatest robot fighters of all time, our roster of mechanical magnificence is the driving force behind the most powerful sport in the world. Two robotic warriors enter the
ring, programmed for destruction. Only one will leave.”
— The WRB datasite

THE WRB✓ sleek steel arenas
✓ eventized global entertainment
✓ boxing regulations and rules
✓ high-performance steel ring
✓ woven steel-cable ropes
✓ sophisticated ght deck
✓ corner crew of operators, programmers & techs

✓ grungy ght dens
✓ unsanctioned regional brutality
✓ no holds barred
✓ jerry-rigged ght ring
✓ metal chains
✓ hand-held controllers
✓ oil-smeared crews and repairmen

In “Real Steel,” Charlie Kenton pounds his way through the dangerous underworld venues with his robot boxers, driving hard to have one of his bots make it to a WRB league venue, where big money prizes and fame await.

The flashy, hard-hitting, mega-bucks, league-sanctioned robot boxers have pedigrees that extend from the robotic engineers who designed them to their owners and handlers. Each robot is distinct and unique, with its own personality, color scheme, and graphics, fighting style and traits. They range in size from 7’6” to 8’5” in height. Based on human form, they each have two legs, two arms, a torso and a head—with the exception of a two-headed bot aptly named “Twin Cities.” An entire league was envisioned for the film,  complete with statistics on each boxer.

In addition to their distinctive personas, every robot has a specific sound personality. When a robot lands a punch there’s a sound specific to his skeletal material, his mechanisms, his bulk and his mass. There’s also an aura sound so that just by being turned on every robot has a an engine hum or the sound of a computer.

Filming the robot boxing scenes was done with motion-capture technology and practical-built, full-scale robots. The motion-capture elements were performed and shot months earlier on a stage in Los Angeles. Fighters were put in the ring wearing data-capturing jumpsuits and as they fought, their motions were converted into robot avatars in the computer and instantaneously appeared on the monitors on set. Then, during principal photography, the filmmakers lined up their cameras on an empty ring and the motion-capture data streamed through their cameras, allowing them to watch and frame the robot fighting in the ring in real time.

Real Steel opens in theatres on Friday, Oct. 7.