From Digital to Reality: Just How Do You Wear A Purely Digital Helmet...?
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!