When we last left off we identified the following problem: how and where can you find a blaster that has the accuracy and durability that can match the armor you’ve spent so many hours completing?
This article will cover the topic of accuracy...relatively speaking. Why relatively? The problem with replicating any kind of prop that originated from the 1970s is that it’s often more of an archeological dig than it is a simple matter of referencing the archives. Despite the plethora of resources and original film assets that are in the archives of the Lucasfilm Museum of Cultural Archives (what you might commonly refer to as the Lucasfilm Archives or Skywalker Ranch Archives), the only E-11 blasters in their catalog were sub-par castings from The Empire Strikes Back and the MGC Sterling from Return of the Jedi. We knew the blasters from A New Hope had been rented from a local rental house and were returned to that rental house after filming.
Unlike a lot of our earlier projects, nothing we found in the archives had true lineage to the original deactivated Sterlings that were used. We had to rely on other types of research that has long existed in the ethos of prop replication.
The key references we ultimately came upon were a set of very good photos of the blaster commonly referred to as the “Bapty” blaster, so named after the rental house from which the original deactivated prop was procured. We found both photos from the time of filming and more recent photos of these blasters that had made their way into the hands of private collectors. The Bapty blaster stands out because of its additional detailing and its slight variance to the standard E-11 blaster we all know and love, ultimately leading to our decision to base the first kit on this beloved piece.
- Different Greebles
- Casting Line and Receiver Cut
Grip: Looking at the grip, one can’t help but notice the bold departure from the well-known Sterling checked grip featured on the E-11. The grainy grip of the original blaster is not present, but replaced with a relatively smooth grip instead. Additionally, the overall shape of the grip has been simplified to a degree. The only question is "why?" We will never know for sure, but it is presumed this is the result of casting the grip and trigger group to make the Sterling non-functional. This may have been done in a hurry, maybe even on location, and resulted in less detail than the original.
Different Greebles: Like Industrial Light and Magic, who coined the term, when we refer to ‘greebles’ (not to be confused with 'nurnies' which are CGI detailing of a similar nature) we are identifying the small detail pieces purposely placed, sometimes seemingly at random, on a prop to give it a more complex and interesting appearance. Greebles are typically found parts from various unrelated kits and models, often at all sorts of scale, and repurposed to provide depth and on screen ‘realism’ to the piece. In this particular blaster, we noted that the greebles we ever so slightly different with unique additions to the magazine and the counter. Again, why?
Casting Line and Receiver Cut: To top it all off, there is an odd cut line that was present on the body of this blaster that wasn’t on others. As part of the deactivation process, the receiver tube of the Sterling was cut and a solid-cast replacement metal receiver was riveted to its tail end. There is a very obvious line down the side of the new rear receiver due to the casting process where the two halves didn't quite align. While this wasn't an intentional deviation from the standard E-11, it is an obvious identifier of the Bapty blaster.
Now at this point most people have dozed off, but to enthusiasts of the prop this discussion has spawned all kinds of theories as to why the Bapty is the way it is. One of the most prevailing ideas (none of these can be definitively validated) takes into account that we do know some of the blasters were taken to Tunisia, crossing international borders. It is speculated that because of differing deactivation prop laws, perhaps more care than usual was needed. It would at least explain the odd cut line; perhaps it was used for additional proof of deactivation. Secondly, perhaps that iconic grip had to be removed and replaced by a quickly cut and sanded down version that worked more as a plug than anything. This would help drive home the the notion that the prop held no more threat than a broom handle. Lastly—and this is a shot in the dark—maybe the additional greebles were purposely placed to demarcate this as a true variant, perhaps only something a Sandtrooper would love. We’re fans, we can dream!
There you have it! With all the mystery and history, how could we NOT choose this as our first E-11 base kit? It’s clearly unique and perhaps the most easily identified variant of the E-11 seen in A New Hope.
In the next segment, we’re going to take a look the thought process in redefining how a blaster costume accessory kit should come together, from design principle to actual execution. Don’t miss the final chapter in this three piece series!
Questions? Comments? Let us know below what you think! Ready to get yours? Click here!
Part 1 of Developing the E-11 Blaster Kit
Back in my ol’ Stormtrooper cosplay days I often spent hours, days and WEEKS making my white armor perfect. You know what I am talking about: measuring your armor, scoring it, making the perfect cut. Then you measure if it fits, make the proper adjustments, measure if it fits, adjust...then see if it looks right, detect asymmetries...the whole kit and caboodle. Then finally, if your fitting mirror could only talk, you have… the PERFECT set of armor that fits you flawlessly! You couldn’t be prouder and you’re ready to hit the convention or event.
But what’s a classic trooper without his or her’s blaster?!?
If you’re like me, this is where things go, “eh”? After all this time to create the perfect piece of armor, you’re suddenly scouring eBay, forums, friends and family looking for an E-11 blaster. It then dawns on you; when it comes down to it, you really only have three choices:
- A Real Sterling Conversion
- A Foamy
- A Kit
The crazy thing about it all, you’ve put in all this work into making your outfit incredible, but the finishing touch was a scramble to find something suitable that, honestly, didn’t match the caliber of your suit.
I am sure you’ve had similar experiences and it’s what framed our design of the E-11 kit. Many of us in the company have worn suits and have the bathroom scars to prove it. But with our kit we wanted it all: accuracy, durability and, most importantly, the ease of putting it all together whether you were an experienced kit builder or a beginner.
It all started with one rule: Make it super accurate but super easy.
This is going to be a three part series that looks at just that.
Wait, why three parts? Because the finishing touch is easily overlooked as the best part to the costume—next to the helmet of course—but it gets the least love!
Obviously, this is the intro into the problem that has existed for most of us. Be on the lookout for the following segments where we will dive deeper into how we chased the accuracy of this piece, and how we made it easy.
Questions? Comments? Let us know below what you think of these insights.
Some straight talk—when we first saw you, Patrol Helmet, you remember us, from the pre-movie product review. About a year before your film debut we thought, “Look at you! Yes, you are the coolest helmet we’ve seen in a long time, and we can’t wait to show you off!”
Then we sat there in the theater on the big day, scanning every scene… waiting, and squinting, and scanning… then BOOM!
A whole three seconds of screen time featuring you and most of that a blur.
Now, editing is necessary and we understand when certain things have to be cut for time. We love props and costumes, whereas the producers and editors love story. We’re truly thankful you didn't end up entirely on the cutting-room floor, or stuck to Ron Howard's shoe! We just wish viewers had a better chance to catch what a show-stopper you are.
Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. Now the onus is on us to bring you back into the limelight you so deserve.
Surprising Complexity in Real Life
So what is it that 2D or even video reference can’t give you, that the ability to handle, hold, weigh and 3D scan does? Right off the bat, in one word: Complexity.
When we held the original film asset in our hands it was amazing how complex it was and how many details were packed into an area no larger than the stormtrooper helmets we have seen for 40+ years. The Patrol Trooper is a digital merging of the classic Stormtrooper (as reimagined for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Death Trooper design (also seen in Rogue One). It couldn’t have been easy to design, but that level of complexity that ended up capturing our imagination. In fact, there were at least 50% more parts to assemble with this helmet than previous helmets we’ve done—and we’ve handled most of the helmets from this universe so that’s surprising to say the least.
Along with this complexity came a truly stunning level of engineering and precision of design, far exceeding the value of its three-second screen time. In the tug of war between both styles, meaning the “old” and the “new”, there were concessions made by each design to give way to this stunning combination. We honed in on the most essential elements and then carefully noted, scanned, and 3D sculpted them.
The Key Elements
- The Visor Merge
- A Lesson in Cubism
- Vocoder Dogpile
In other words, these are compound curves on top of compound curves, and we were extremely lucky to have had scanned and taken multiple reference photos to capture this incredible feat of design work.
Now how does that work within this universe? Well, another surprising moment for us was finding detail present where one typically never sees it… underneath the helmet! The vocoder on this unit was really complex, not only in its multilayer construction but in its cubism-inspired design!
Though subtle and not caught until later examination of the scans and reference photos, the angles were different from those we typically take for granted in that galaxy far, far away. Most helmet’s vocoders utilize 90 and 45 degree angles, but that’s not what was observed in the bottom of the Patrol Trooper helmets. Instead, we found a unique design of angular boxes and swoops unlike anything we had ever seen before. It was such an interesting and artistic bit of design that we instantly knew we needed to do it justice.
The last element shouldn’t be surprising at this point--what we noted was just how many layers the vocoder had in this helmet. Not only was the vocoder itself composed of a few different pieces, but the ‘mic tip’ was also done as an inset body!
Yet again, it’s an interesting mix of the Classic and Death Trooper helmet designs. How cool is that? Once again, you’d never notice it on the screen or even in the Blu-ray’s extra scenes.
So, Mr. Patrol Helmet, while you didn’t get the screen time you deserved, we did our very best to do you right. It is my sincere hope everyone gets to finally bask in your glory and recognize what a true achievement of design you really are!
ANOVOS JoeTake a look for yourself here, and let us know what you think in the talkback below: http://bit.ly/patroltrooper
Have you ever bought a collectible from a movie, took it home, torn it open with complete excitement… only to realize it just doesn’t exactly match what you had seen in the film? I mean, it captures the overall look and feel but it’s not exactly right, the color is off and the detail is not right here and there...ever wonder why that happens?
We have too. It actually plays a major part in our design process and our quest to capture all of the accuracy possible!
Interpretation can be a huge sticking point when we create props, kits or costume replicas that originally only existed in digital form. Let's look at the Clone Trooper helmet as a great example of when reality diverges from what was seen on screen.
When the digital models used in the film were delivered to us, there were certain details that appeared to be missing from the basic 3D geometric map. It became apparent that additional details were layered on top of the basic form in later stages of the visual graphics process. Thus we had a unique situation. We had a great form to work with, but we would need to account for the missing details seen in the finished film.
Continuing our ongoing series on ANOVOS’s replica making process and the unique challenges each new project can present, this segment will focus on the art of taking given assets from the official archives and combining them with some good old fashioned reference pics.
- How to tackle the digital conundrum of taking a model created in earlier versions of CGI technology and bringing it into the newest iterations of that technology.
- Using the final results in the film as reference to bridge the gap, via the use of image captures.
This hit home when we received the nearly two decade old digital assets. The resolution on the models were considered low by current standards, and would have to be reworked.
Imagine, if you will, watching a film on an older television… playing back something on VHS. For the time that the technology was first introduced, it was considered “cutting edge”. Try playing a VHS tape on a high-definition television, and you wouldn’t be able to do it. Why? Simply put, our perception of quality has changed, and we now need to have every detail sharper, clear, and vibrant.
The same effect transpired here: The files we were given would need to be smoothed, reworked and perfected in some way before we could move on.
- Do we 3D print the model that we were given, using that as a base to hand-build a prototype in traditional media?
- Do we digitally re-model the helmet first (using the original model as a basic foundation to build up from), and then 3D print a prototype closer to our ideal?
Seeing as our digital models were missing some nuanced details, we decided to take it old school and do just the same. We painstakingly reviewed the footage repeatedly, documenting and analyzing every detail possible. Once we had thoroughly debated the ‘true’ final design on the helmet, we went ahead and digitally sculpted the missing details back into our base helmet. There are times where the “old ways” are still the best ways, nostalgia notwithstanding.
One such feature is what we have affectionately called the “butter cup”, which is in the center back of the helmet. If you’re familiar with peanut butter cups, particularly those in distinctive orange wrappers, you’ll see why as evidenced in the screen captures below.
Click to enlarge. Note the horizontal ridges in the "butter cup" that were included in our sculpt.
We’re continuing to push our efforts farther and farther and we have no intention of slowing down. We hope that you’ve enjoyed this little look into our process—if you did, let us know by leaving a comment below!
"Look, sir! Droids!"
Truth in advertising—this is my favorite Stormtrooper. Ever. I've always loved the look of the Desert Stormtroopers on Tatooine, or "Sandtroopers" as they came to be known. As a kid I would do whatever I could to make my Stormtrooper action figures look as dirty as possible trying to recreate the look. So yeah, this is a helmet I've been looking forward to for a long time. A long time.
When we set out to bring this particular Stormtrooper helmet to the fandom we of course wanted to ensure that it was as faithful to the original Sandtrooper design as possible. So with that in mind we went again into the Archive and found one of the most recognizable Stormtroopers ever—the Sandtrooper who pops into the frame and says, "Look, sir! Droids!".
Now, the archive is filled with all manner of amazing things, but nothing brings back the feeling of being a kid in the theater watching Star Wars as much as holding a simple Stormtrooper helmet. And THIS helmet is one that we all remember seeing on screen.
Having found the helmet we wanted to recreate, we went to work examining every aspect of it. We started by carefully documenting every nuance of its intricate, painted, weathering pattern.
We wanted to convey the story of the original prop in our replica, so we could best create an accurate representation to the original prop:
- The actual colors used to weather the helmet.
- The technique used to create the weathering patterns.
- The replicating the technology of the 70’s.
Pictured: Colors sampled from around the chin.
Handling the “Look sir, Droids” helmet had its benefits. The first striking element was that the color palette used to weather the original helmet went far beyond what we had expected from simply watching the film. Previous attempts to replicate the weathering of Sandtrooper helmets and armor usually used warm, "desert colors" like tan, taupe, ochre, and lighter browns. But, the actual weathering on the helmet had to compensate for the blinding light of the sun on location. In the desert of Yuma, California, and under the brutal Tunisian sun, warmer colors wash-out. These harsh lighting conditions necessitated the use of darker, heavier and cooler colors in order to show up on film.
As a result, we carefully selected the palette that matched the colors from the original artifact as it was used on set.
The Finer Techniques of Weathering
Pictured: Weathering close up of the lower eye "ridge" from the artifact.
As a result, each individual helmet has its own unique weathering pattern, and thus no two helmets are exactly alike… a fingerprint with its own unique and distinct hallmarks, if you will.
Replicating 70’s Tech
Pictured: Closeup of "tear-drop" decal, noting the hand-drawn shape and varying thickness of the black border.
We also documented all the surviving decoration on the helmet, including the distinctive "stripe-less" grey accents, a detail that further set the Sandtroopers apart from other Imperial troopers. Armed with this research, we created new decals for the teardrops, temples, and rear trapezoid shaped areas while recreating the intricate pattern of weathering we found on the original helmet.
Secondly, because patterning and illustrator programs didn’t exist in the 70’s the actual cut outs didn’t match the actual shape of the indention. We deliberately replicated this feature including the varying thickness of the decal edges to replicate the hand-drawn borders of the original… yes, we don’t mess around. We also applied this “handcrafted” approach to the physical helmet itself wherever we could.
Pictured: Closeup of the eye socket from artifact, noting the wavy cut-out from hand-cutting into the material.
For example, if you examine the openings for the lenses you’ll find that they look like they were hand-cut just like they were on the original helmets. That’s because they were. We could have opted for a cleaner, automated, cut-out for the visor openings but chose instead to have them hand-cut. Sure, it complicates the manufacturing process somewhat, but it adds an extra level of stage accurate detail that serves to make this piece truly feel like a piece from the film.
As a result, this helmet looks like it was made in 1976. It’s like we went to the archive, and selected a helmet for you from among the Sandtrooper helmets that have survived all these years.
Combining all of these elements with our beautifully asymmetrical classic stormtrooper helmet, we've crafted the first accurately weathered, wearable... troopable, Imperial Sandtrooper Helmet this side of Mos Eisley.
We didn’t set out to exactly copy the pattern of the archived helmet, but focused on replicating the technique used to bring the helmet to life on-screen. The beauty of this approach is not only the individual care in weathering but also the individuality of each helmet pattern, which precisely mirrors just how different each on-screen Sandtrooper helmet was from another.
Now, if you'll excuse me I'm gonna grab my Sandtrooper helmet and try to find these droids everyone seems so concerned about.
Here at ANOVOS, we tend to get a lot of questions about the action behind the curtain: what goes into a piece, how do you design it, and why does it take so long? Well, today I’d like to invite you into our world of costume design and creation. Now you might be thinking, “It’s a replica so you must just copy and go, how hard could it be?” Believe it or not, it’s not nearly that easy… we wish it was. Meticulous planning is required and a series of decisions have to be made to ensure that each piece is:
- Maintains the level of accuracy to the original prop that you know us for.
Every helmet, armor kit, and costume is different. Unfortunately, most of the time all three points can’t be perfectly achieved without some give and take in other areas. Our job at ANOVOS is to make sure that each product is as close to that perfect trifecta as possible, and we like to think we always make it pretty close.
A great example of this is our newly released Clone Trooper Helmet.
Right off the bat we looked at the following features:
Sixteen years ago, we all got to enjoy the classic film that ushered in this incredible looking helmet. It also brought us a new, inventive age of digital modeling and computer generated imagery in movie storytelling. This change actually resulted in a new challenge for us as replica makers -- as no physical Clone Trooper helmets were ever actually made. They only existed as digital models.
With the helmet digitized, animators and effects artists could easily duplicate the Clone Troopers by the thousands as needed. Because of the helmet’s purely digital nature, it was impossible to simply clean up the files sent directly to us from archives. The resulting prototype would have had no way of fitting onto an adult head!
The helmets simply weren’t designed with wearability in mind because actual physical limitations didn’t apply. Ultimately, we had to do several fit tests before we could agree on an average sized helmet that would suit most customers. For those with smaller heads, we would offer more padding options to be purchased through the site; for those with larger heads, our solution was to simply remove some of the velcro padding that came with the helmet.
Once we agreed upon the size, we now confronted the issue of how customers would actually get the helmet on.
Do you remember the scenes from with films where troopers are running around, ripping their helmets off and putting them back on with relative ease? Digital Magic! Because, yet again that’s NOT how these helmets were designed to functionally perform.
Once we landed on our average digital head size, we found that the neck hole was too small to pass a head through. Thus, we ran into a major philosophical conundrum: Do we sacrifice accuracy and eliminate the neck ring (which previous companies have done in the past) or widen the hole? In the end we opted to forgo both options and maintain our dedication to accuracy. Another solution had to be found.
As some of you may already know, the two guys who founded ANOVOS were themselves cosplayers and members of the 501st! One of the projects that Dana Gasser (co-founder) participated in was the replication of the Republic Army’s 41st Division (Grey Squad), which ultimately faced a similar design problem. That group, creatively engineered a method in which the faceplates of their helmets were cut out in order to create a separate, removable panel that could taken on and off through the help of magnets, allowing the wearer to get in and out of the helmet. It worked!
Above: Removable Faceplate Concept (Rejected)
Years later, we decided to try this method, and tested it against long term usage. What we found was that while the original method tended to be a bit too fragile, through the power of digital modeling we could take advantage of the helmet’s aerator seam lines and use them as the magnetic panel’s breakaway point resulting in a more stable connection.
It took a few years of on-and-off design to understand the nuances of this engineering, but in the end, we feel that we have accomplished our goal of both maintaining the accuracy of the helmet, AND being able to actually get it on your head!
Please let us know your thoughts on our Clone Trooper Helmet, we would love to hear your feedback. To make it the ultimate collectible, what engineering choices would you have made? Leave your comments below!
It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about a product because I can verifiably say that I eat and drink this stuff 24/7. Every now and then though, we turn something out that reminds me of why we went into this business. It’s not because these pieces belonged to the coolest characters in the galaxy, but because when you know something looks as perfect as our team originally envisioned, it’s like tasting a fine wine or beer.
The First Order Stormtrooper kit is just that. Yes, it took an inordinate span of time to create as this went through three renditions before we felt it was truly ready for prime-time.
It wasn’t enough to know that it was “just right,” we felt that it had to be darn near perfect. We now feel absolutely positive that this is the most accurate, and easy to put together armor which makes even our Classic kit look relatively complex in comparison.
So how did we do this? It boils down to these three primary focus points:
- Metal Molds
- The Power of Inversion
- Sourcing Multiple Screen-Used Suits
Why Full-Metal Molds?
To reproduce just about anything, you need to create a mold of your original piece. A mold is a hollow container used to give shape to your injected material of choice, or a solid object (often called a “buck” in this case) that can have material formed over it to create copies. There are a few ways to build a mold, and many material options to consider depending on your project.
First you need to determine how many “pulls” (or copies) you will need the mold to generate, and how to best optimize the molds to make the most use of each sheet of material.
Each mold has what is called a “pull life,” which is typically measured in how many times a mold can be used to create multiple copies of a piece before the mold degrades from overuse. Much of a mold’s life is determined by the materials it is constructed from, as temperatures and other normal wear-and-tear affect the mold’s life.
After making earlier versions of our prototype armor out of more malleable materials (to test construction, accuracy of detail, and other factors during the development process), we elected to go with a full-metal mold for our larger key projects such as our First Order Stormtrooper. The pull life of a metal mold is much longer than other alternatives, like medium-density fiberboard (“mdf”) or fiberglass, and can handle the thousands of pulls our factory required.
Metal molds also affect the final product itself! The metal surface of the mold has the advantage of retaining and holding heat during the forming process, creating smoother surfaces and better pulls due to longer work times.
Often, the shorter the work time, the greater the chance a pull will come out poorly and will need to be re-done. As one might imagine, this reduces efficiency and wastes material. Once a pull is finished, there’s no way to go back and re-use the same sheet of plastic so into the scrap bin it goes!
What is “inversion”?
Thermoforming uses air in order to suction heated, malleable plastic tightly down over a mold via a strong vacuum (hence the hobbyist term “vacuum-forming”) to create a copy. In some instances, using the traditional method of thermoforming may mean that the plastic can’t be formed tightly enough to the mold, causing the deeper corners and features to be softer looking and less defined than the original.
In the case of our First Order Stormtrooper armor, we opted for inversion casting on key pieces that require sharp detail. Utilizing an “inverted” mold forces the plastic into the mold details rather than over them, thereby creating sharper details in the finished product.
Using Multiple Screen Used Suits as Sources
Above all, this point is probably the most pertinent. The lineage of an item is unquestionably important and, in our case, we always go to screen-used pieces as reference whenever possible for scanning, photography, and documenting fine details. These are the things that make it to screen, and thus inform the most recognizable details, or those “holy grail” attributes, which when replicated bring a “right off the film” level of quality.
When we started with this project back in December of 2015, long before the release of TFA, we were tasked with creating suits for marketing purposes to be on stage for Celebration Anaheim. While the task was daunting, our source material was a cleaned up 3d print from production and not a screen-used suit. While the impression was wonderfully achieved, the source was a print that was rooted in poor scanning and reference technology. These first marketing suits were always considered passable versions that were larger and clunkier than they were supposed to be.
Nearly a year later we were given the opportunity to examine not just one, but many screen-used outfits from the film. This was extremely helpful — we could now photograph, Pantone color match and, most importantly, take our own 3D scans of multiple suits.
Having now acquired the best possible reference, we undertook the task of creating a new 3D model based on all these elements. The comparison between the previous, bulky, passable marketing trooper, and our final model was staggeringly different.
The new armor has finer proportions, and sharper detail.
Armed with this new reference, we could not only generate our own 3D model, but continuously compare our own physical prototypes to ensure faithful replication down the entire manufacturing line.The conclusion: Darn near perfection.
“Temba. His arms wide.”
The story of our newest release, the Captain Picard “Darmok” Uniform Jacket, is about stagecraft. You see actors love to stand out, lead actors especially so, and a classically trained Shakespearean actor would absolutely understand the value of having a costume that was unique especially in a large uniformed ensemble cast like The Next Generation. And so it was that in the run-up to season five, Patrick Stewart asked production for just such a uniform. Something that could be put into a rotation of sorts very much like the Command green wraparound tunics had been for William Shatner during The Original Series. Ordinarily a budget conscious production like TNG wouldn’t normally go to the expense or effort to create a new uniform for one character, but this was an easy call to make. A dashing new uniform was not only a good fit for the more action oriented stories they had in mind for the ever evolving Captain Picard, but a new uniform would provide additional options for the new toy line that would launch a year later with their first Captain Picard action figure. Not coincidentally that figure was wearing the new uniform.
The new uniform was a perfect piece of design work on the part of The Next Generation's costume designer Robert Blackman. Taking inspiration from World War II Submarine Captains and fighter pilots, the new uniform cast the silhouette of a dashing officer who was ready for anything.
The pants were plain black uniform pants, but with a wide cuff that was bloused into his boots much like any uniform ready for battle. In fact, they were the same pants worn with The Original Series movie era uniforms, only without the department color stripe that ran down each leg. The gray tunic, perfect in its restrained patterning and color palette is all business, and perfect when paired with the jacket.
As for the jacket itself, there were a few of them made and worn over the last three seasons of the show; it turns out that uniform was worn in over twenty four episodes far exceeding Capt. Kirk’s green wraps in screen time. However, it’s the first jacket that caught our attention, made of real leather suede with vinyl shoulders, and designed quite literally to be Starfleet's rendition of a pilot's flight jacket. It makes sense. Captain Picard was a polymath: an explorer, diplomat, archaeologist, strategist, and an excellent pilot. It’s the last one that comes to mind when we see Picard in his new jacket, and that’s exactly what the production intended.
There was only one small problem: the shiny shoulders on the jacket. Fans have presupposed a number of reasons why after only one appearance a new jacket was constructed with soft, micro-suede shoulders. There’s even been a tall tale or two told at conventions about it. The reason for the change was that the shiny, smooth vinyl shoulders reflected bleed-light from the set, including residual ambient green light from Chroma key green screen set ups used during effects shots. Ergo the first and, let’s be honest, the coolest version of that jacket made only one appearance. Until now.
We loved the original version of that jacket so much that we decided to make it as accurate as possible to the original including constructing it from real leather suede. Going even further towards a perfect replica of the jacket, we took reference not only from an original jacket but also followed the original patterning for the “Darmok” version. That version called for a casual jacket without closures as it was to be worn open. Later iterations of the jacket would employ a series of hooks and eyes to close the bottom of the jacket, but not in “Darmok” where you can clearly see Captain Picard trying to wrap the jacket around himself to keep warm. The only thing we added to the jacket were a couple of pockets to the interior which adds functionality while not changing the visual look of the jacket at all. Why would we want to? It's already perfect.
So whatever you call it; “Captain Picard's Flight Jacket”, “The Captain’s Alternate Uniform” or “Picard’s Nifty New Uniform Jacket (PNNUJ)”, the best uniform piece in the 24th century is coming, and we can’t wait!
“Temba at rest.”
"There are those who believe - that life here, began out there. Far across the universe. With tribes of humans, who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man - who even now fight to survive - somewhere beyond the heavens." ~ read by Patrick Macnee.
Pictured: Publicity photo of Dirk Benedict.
From the day ANOVOS announced that we had secured the Battlestar Galactica license, you have asked us for this jacket. You told us at conventions and through social media conversations just how much this costume means to you and we’ve been listening and taking notes. The Battlestar Galactica Colonial Warrior Jacket has been on our Production Wish List for a long, long time, and our team is truly excited to finally see it come to fruition. Not only is it accurate to the beloved series, but fully functional as well, making it an everyday wearable jacket rather than simply a costume.
Pictured: Original Dirk Benedict screen used jacket sold at auction by Prop Store.
During the years of research and development for our replica, we were able to directly inspect original jackets used in the filming of Battlestar Galactica. We had at various times inspected the jacket worn by Tony Swartz as Flight Sergeant Jolly, and the one worn by Dirk Benedict as Lieutenant Starbuck. We also garnered advice from the late Richard Hatch (Captain Apollo) about the jacket a few years ago. These invaluable resources enabled us to not only find modern equivalents of the original textiles to work with, but assisted in matching the colors as closely as we could to the originals.
Pictured: ANOVOS CEO and eFX CEO with Richard Hatch holding Tony Swartz screen used jacket.
This was our quest to recreate the iconic jacket...
In 1978 series creator and executive producer Glen A. Larson hired noted designer Jean-Pierre Dorléac as lead Costume designer for Battlestar Galactica. Inspired by the show’s romantic concept of WW II fighter aces in space, Jean-Pierre illustrated the design of the Colonial Warrior costume. A costume that, along with others from the show, earned Dorléac the Emmy Award for Outstanding Costume Design. His design was then translated into a physical costume by the men's tailor shop at the Universal Studios lot.
Pictured: Revised costume illustration by Jean-Pierre Dorléac.
Initially, costume supervisor Mark Peterson envisioned the uniforms to be made of a fairly new space-age material called Ultrasuede but it ended up being hard to source at that time. (Ultrasuede® is the trade name for a synthetic microfiber fabric invented in 1970 by Dr. Miyoshi Okamoto.) The studio men's tailor shop sourced a cheaper and readily available pincord-velvet style fabric which is similar to Ultrasuede still featuring a fuzzy type brushed face but with a tiny wale or cord to it. Our reproduction uses a modern fabric equivalent called micro corduroy or micro suede to approximate the look and feel of the original pincord-velvet style fabric.
Pictured: Original jacket pincord-velvet fabric showing the micro cord/wale pattern.
We are grateful to have been granted access to the original paper patterns drafted by Universal Studios men’s tailor shop for Dirk Benedict's colonial uniform provided by the NBC Archives. Our jacket is modeled directly off of Dirk's pattern measurements and graded for US sizes by our astute softgoods team here in California. Placement of key trim elements was carefully considered as the jacket changes sizes from small to double extra large.
Pictured: Production made paper patterns used to cut fabric for Dirk Benedict’s jacket.
The pin cord-velvet used in the original jacket is a lightweight fabric, but the jacket behaves very stiffly in nature like a leather jacket on screen and in person. The men’s tailor shop accomplished this stiffness by flat lining the back of the thin pincord-velvet with cotton denim and then lining in satin on the inside for comfort. In comparison, our jacket features the modern technique of applying a thick interfacing to the back of the fabric to add an appropriate amount of stiffener without being uncomfortable or overly complicated like the original construction.
The original buckles were made by a metal goods company in France. Unfortunately, supplies of those buckles dried up in the early 80’s and the supply of knockoff buckles from Hong Kong, in turn, dried up yahrens ago. Utilizing a set of original French buckles, we painstakingly drafted up working blueprints to manufacture the buckles ourselves at one of our factories. To duplicate the surviving artifacts finish, several iterations of the antique brass plating were made to ensure a screen accurate look.
Pictured: Original Made in France buckle. Despose is the French equivalent to Registered. Note the navy blue lining and russet brown fabric colors.
The Colonial Warrior's Galactica Patch was one of the simpler aspects of the jacket to accurately reproduce. Having access to original screen used jackets and knowing how patches were produced back in the late 70’s afforded us a few tricks to get the patch to look right. The size and shape of the triangles along with the embroidery stitch density of the metallic gold thread and fabric backing were all accounted for in our patch replica, right down to the distinctive asymmetrical layout.
Pictured: Original screen used patch on pincord-velvet fabric.
By now you may be wondering why we are not including the Colonial Warrior collar pins with our jacket. During pre-production of the show, the costume department - in an effort to militarize the costume - added pins and decorations to the costumes from their supply of real military accouterments from the countless military films and shows the studio had worked on.
The gold collar pins are in-service U.S. Army Military Intelligence Branch Insignia pins, but worn upside-down when compared to standard military usage. As such, we are not permitted to reproduce these, as per the United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 32, Subtitle A, Chapter V, Subchapter A, Part 507, Subpart A and Title 18, Part I, Chapter 33, Subsection 701. Those regulations prohibits the manufacture or sale of U.S. military medals or decorations without expressed authorization or certification by The Institute of Heraldry: Secretary of the Army Office.
U.S. Army Military Intelligence Branch Insignia pins on service uniform.
Part of ensuring an accurate replica is to reproduce the fabric color of the thirty-nine-year-old costumes just right. Through our years of experience and observation, we discovered that differences in lighting, color timing, and display medium can drastically influence our impressions of how the fabric color of the Warrior jackets (and capes) appeared to us.
Many fans who watched Battlestar Galactica growing up, including ourselves, have particularly diverse recollections of what we believed the color of the jacket to be. When an image of the jacket is reproduced on a TV screen, a 30-year-old magazine page or a fading photograph each of the different mediums can show dramatic shifts in color. In many instances, the fabric color can appear as reddish umber and in outdoor scenes the color can appear as dark tan.
Pictured: This promotion photo makes the jackets look darker and redder than in real life while this daylight filmed action sequence makes the jackets appear dark tan.
Fortunately, we had the unique position to PANTONE color match the jackets in-person instead of relying solely on color matching from images. Our mandate for this and other high-end replicas is to dispel any confusion on color accuracy by matching fabric colors directly from the existing artifacts to PANTONE color reference under normal incandescent lighting conditions and to make note of any possible color shift under erroneous lighting conditions like fluorescent lights or direct sunlight.
Pictured: Screen used Tony Swartz flight jacket used as color reference.
The original shoulder caps were made from real split leather suede cowhide, and while they look great, they also presented a number of problems for our replica. Our goals for this jacket were to make it comfortable, easy to wear, easy to maintain, and affordable. The increased maintenance and care along with a higher cost of incorporating real leather elements into the jacket were deciding factors to make the change to Ultrasuede for the shoulder caps to enhance its usability as an everyday jacket for wear in all sorts of weather.
Finally, in an effort to take this replica from costume piece to functional jacket we decided to add a hidden zipper to each sleeve cuff so that cold winds could be kept out if you so choose or you could keep it unzipped for the classic Colonial look seen in the show. We also added two inside pockets to the interior of the jacket for better functionality, after all, Starbuck needs to put all his cubits and cigars somewhere.
This has been a long journey… and during the course of it, we happened upon a great many insights which dispelled many assumed notions passed down throughout the yahrens. We are happy to share our discoveries through articles such as this one and hope to revive nostalgia for Battlestar Galactica through this replica.
We hope you'll be as delighted to wear the Battlestar Galactica Colonial Warrior Jacket as we have been in researching and making it."Fleeing from the Cylon Tyranny, the last Battlestar, GALACTICA, leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest. A shining planet, known as Earth." ~ read by Lorne Greene.
At ANOVOS, we’re always looking for new ways to not only bring you high-quality costumes, props and accessories from our favorite sci-fi franchises, but also to improve the clarity, consistency and quality of our communications. While using a quarterly system to indicate when a project will be complete and ready to ship is common to those in the business world, most consumers are more familiar with seasonal delivery times. In order to make our Shipping Calendar easier to read, we have decided to move to a seasonal system (Northern Hemisphere).
Here is a breakdown of what this change looks like:
January - March
December 22 - March 20
April - June
March 20 - June 20
July - September
June 21 - September 21
October - December
September 22 - December 21
As always, this system is intended for those who have pre-ordered products. Any products not listed as pre-order or reservation are considered in-stock and shipping and are processed within 3-5 business days plus the shipping carrier's transit time.
Check out our updated Shipping Calendar now!