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The Art of Making Remote Mines

Despite their short screentime, the magnetic mines provided by Q (via Jack Wade) to 007 in the climax of GOLDENEYE are among the most remembered gadgets of Pierce Brosnan's stint as James Bond. This is mainly due to the popular video game adaptation of the 1995 film, which came out for the Nintendo 64 console in 1997. The game allowed the player not only to carry the explosives we see in the movie, known as the "Remote Mine", but also two slightly different variations: the Proximity and Timed Mines. As their name indicates, one could be detonated through Bond’s watch, the other was activated whenever someone got close to it and the third variant had a five-second fuse.

Xavier has grown under the influence of GOLDENEYE since his childhood in Paris, where he was born. Currently living in Lille, next to the Belgium Border, he accomplished a longtime dream and made replicas of the mines seen in the third most-sold Nintendo 64 video game, a project he titled “Making The Mine”. Having worked in the cartoon industry and recently founded his own animation movie studio, after studying 3D and computer-generated art, he gave us a couple of minutes to chat with him about this new project and all things GOLDENEYE.

First of all, how did you become aware of GOLDENEYE? Was it the game that led you to the film, or the other way around?

Like many people of my age, the Nintendo 64 game was my first introduction to the world of James Bond. It is a vivid memory because that was my first console and my first game on it. Back then, I couldn't read English so I needed to figure everything out by myself. Me and my friends still play the single-player campaign once a year and we still pronounce the names of levels and weapons with a strong French accent just like when we were kids in 1998. I then saw the movie and what struck me at that time was how faithful the levels were compared to the movie. I recognized the stairs and the lab from Facility, the Severnaya base on Surface and Bunker, the stairs again and the library in Archives and above all the control centre and the antenna in Control and Cradle. I felt very strong emotions seeing those 3D low poly levels having a real physicality in the movie. But maybe sometimes I overthink. I guess that I'm still running after that feeling where the game I love becomes a real thing. Making the Mine is directly inspired by that feeling, I think.

The whole GOLDENEYE experience, game and movie, were a huge part of my childhood. But I need to confess that I'm not as involved in the whole franchise now as I used to be as a kid.

There are many gadgets in the film and the James Bond franchise overall. When it comes to GOLDENEYE you have the piton gun and belt, the laser Omega watch, the GoldenEye keys and many others that were also replicated in the N64 game somehow. Why did you decide to replicate the mine?

For me, the world of Bond world has always been a source of inspiration to make things. It is a very rich universe that I absorbed as a kid through movies, books, and games. As a kid, it has always served as an excuse to do videos, animations, video games (I started making small games at a very young ahe), comics, and now CG art, mobile apps (I made a very pointless Remote Mine application, but it is very fun to use) and of course props replicas. I remember being very impressed by that guy who made a fake GOLDENEYE game for Game Boy featuring a faithful Dam level but in 2D with Game Boy graphics! I then said to myself that it was a brilliant idea to explore and hack the lore of the game to do something else and deliver new experiences based on GOLDENEYE 007.

About the choice of the mine, I need first to say that, unlike the piton gun, the belt or the GoldenEye key, the mine is, for me, more iconic as it is a key weapon in the game that also appears clearly in the movie. It has a very distinctive shape, very graphic and I think that's what appeals to me. That being said, I tried once to reproduce the GoldenEye Key device, with the laser disc and the orange lens but I couldn't compete with the official prop that was still available at that time. But, above everything, I started making mines for one very simple reason: The original mine seen in the movie is very easy to make, and anyone can do it. I remember reading a blog about GOLDENEYE in 2012 when I learned that the Remote Mine was made out of the base of a simple Saitek Joystick. It really blew my mind that props from movies could be made out of something that I could buy from eBay! When you think about it, it is logical that if a prop department can save time and money, they won't always make something from scratch. Especially, in the case of the mine, if it is seen only for a few seconds on screen.

So I started to investigate and I found a very great tutorial on telling exactly what was needed to make a GOLDENEYE Mine out of a Saitek Joystick with an electronic kit and few LEDs. I bought like eight or nine joysticks. Two of of them weren't the accurate model, and another four were destroyed in the process as I wasn't very good at making things back then. But in the end, and after a few trials, I was really able to make working mines. It was a very rich experience because I had really never done any painting or electronics. I think I made three or four mines that I gave to my friends. With the big mines, I gained experience in electronics and I understood that it wasn't that hard to do if you had the right circuit board.

But as I could experience the big mine in my hands, at last, I started thinking about the practical usability of that kind of explosive device if it was a real thing. I mean, who thought that it was a great idea to make a 20 cm diameter explosive beeping with a big red button and six red LEDs? If you think about it, it is not very tactical for a secret agent on the field to carry those big mines. And in the movie, if you look closely, he has two with him without carrying a bag. It is cinema magic! I love that kind of detail actually, movies back then didn't have to be realistic. However, the mines in the game are smaller and more tactical and I started thinking about making remote mines with the aesthetic of the movie but the size of the one in the game. And there began my long journey of making the mine...

Of course, there are secrets you wouldn't like to share. But would you roughly describe the creative process behind the mine replicas? What materials do you use, how long does it take for it to be made?

Being able to make working mines today required a year of prototyping with four iterations before finding the right one. As I said, I don't do electronics at all so everything is empirical. It was long and frustrating, but I'm very glad of that journey. I've learnt a lot along the way as this project is frankly more rich than I would think at first. The mines are 1:2 scaled replicas of the big one with blinking LEDs, sound, magnetic back, and what I'm very proud of… a small vibration motor. Like if you could feel the explosive heart of the bomb. Again, here, I'm working for the 8-year-old me who thinks that this is a very, very cool feature.

I modified the design of the original mine a bit to be able to fit my components in, the battery, and to add the double magnets at the back to support the vibrations while stuck on a metallic surface. Otherwise, the vibrations would make the mine move around. The outer shell is 3D printed by a professional French 3D printer to have the best possible quality, and the electronic circuit is a repurposed board from a rare toy that I need to buy for each new mine. The toy had the chasing LEDs behaviour but, for each mine, I need to put smaller LEDs, and I need to add the motor, the buzzer and a more powerful battery with resistances here and there to juice the motor without burning the rest of the board. And as I said, as I don't really know what I'm doing in electronics, I burnt a lot of circuits before being able to replicate the one I want each time. It was really the hardest thing. Since this is a hack of a board with a specific design, the pattern of the LEDs is not screen-accurate, but I like to see that as a new version from Q branch.

I prototyped the circuit on a breadboard just trying different configurations. At first, I had very poor results with very dimed vibrations, or with constant noise over the beeps. But the hardest thing was to figure out the way to turn it on. Finding the right 7mm red latching button was a real project in itself, and I found only one small electronic shop in the middle of England to provide me with those precious switches. The red switch is the most expensive component of the mine, after the 3D printing and the board.

About the colour, I decided to paint it with a kind of camo colour scheme, because the original mine was painted with quite ugly mustard yellow (probably to fit in with the lighting on the set, that's my theory). The mines in the game have metallic colour of sorts, but all my tests so far with metallic paint weren't good enough. In the end, it takes about half a day to make one mine from the start to the finished packaging. It is a long and tedious process.

You have made a replica not only of the mine we see in the film, which would be the Remote Mine from the game. You also replicated the game's Proximity Mine, which has green lights and a different shape. Do you see a preference for any of the models when people buy your products?

That's a very interesting question. I haven't done enough sales yet to have stats, but despite being liked, the alternatives to the classic movie Remote Mines haven't met their audience. Today I'm very proud to produce the low poly remote mines made out of the 3D asset from the game engine, the Proximity Mine with the movie aesthetic, and the Timed Mine will come out soon, but it is still in prototyping. I think that, so far, most of my small but very engaged audience (I'm very thankful to them) is more into the movie and the franchise than into the game. My subject is already very niche, and the other mines are niches of the niche probably.

Are you planning on replicating any of the other gadgets or emblematic objects seen in the film or the game anytime soon?

Frankly, this project takes me so much time and energy that I already know that I won't do it for very long. I have a wife, a kid, a cat and my brother Axel, and I prefer spending time with them than making the 39th remote mine. The project is not my job, it is a really good hobby and it needs to stay a really good hobby until I find something else. That's why I don't make that much mines to sell actually. That being said, one day I would like to replicate the door decoder from the movie, but I haven't yet figured out the way it is built. I know the case comes from a Tiger Electronics game but it is much harder than the Remote Mine I think.

Not counting NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, GOLDENEYE is the only James Bond film to be scored by a French composer, Eric Serra. Many weren't keen on the modern and experimental style of Bond. How would you rate the contribution of your countrymen to the series?

Well, I suppose it was the trend of the mid-90s to have a Serra soundtrack like the one for LE GRAND BLEU, which was a huge hit around the globe. But I remember well that when I was young, the gun barrel intro sounded very weird even to my 8-year-old ears. All those screeching notes for the iconic theme. Very, very weird... But we need to say that, at least, that soundtrack has a strong identity with that weird pipe sound always hitting in the background and I wouldn't want to have another one for that movie. As we're talking about Serra's work, I'd like to highlight the work of Yannick Zenhaeusern who did an incredible job at reproducing Serra's sound and way of making music to compose the soundtrack for a now abandoned fan remake for GOLDENEYE 007. He used all the same keyboards and synthesizers as Eric Serra to create a mix of the music from the movie and the game. It is for me kind of the same intention as my mine project! It is not that obvious at first but you can hear subtle hints of the N64 soundtrack all along the listening. Go check The Janus Files on Spotify or YouTube!

Now, let's move on to some serious questions: you can have a drink with Xenia or Natalya, who do you choose?

This is total journalism! Thank you for asking! Natalya, because I'd like to know if back then they used to program in Cobol. And because the other one is dead.

Let's assume the date goes incredibly well. Would you take them for a ride in an Aston Martin DB5 or a BMW Z3?

Is that what you do when a date goes incredibly well?

Do you have a favourite multiplayer character in the N64 game? And a favourite single-player level?

I'm not really into the multiplayer mode, even if I have opinions and preferences on it. I used to take Civilian #2 or the Female Moonraker Elite. And I think the most fun and fair mode for beginners and pros to play together is License to Kill mode with throwing knives in Temple. Or with Slappers Only. But I'm more into the single-player. My favourite level is Control in 00 Agent: challenging, badass music with the funkiest bassline ever, many extremely different phases throughout the mission and the Remote Mines as a key weapon, of course! But I love playing Facility, Bunker 2, Statue, Aztec and Train.

How can people get in touch with you and/or purchase your products?

I'm only on Instagram at @makingthemine. I answer to anyone's questions. and if someone wants a mine, he can now order one there if a new batch is planned. I think I'm friendly so come talk with me! I used to do Etsy sales with one batch of four each month, but it was too time-consuming for me. I think making one mine at a time each time I have an order seems more smart to preserve my mental health. We thank Xavier for his time and wish him the best on this new project!

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