There are few items of clothing that I put on with as much pride as a Starfleet Uniform. However, one of those items is something I wear so often that it could be considered part of my daily ensemble—a baseball cap. The cap I wear represents my favorite team playing the sport I love, Baseball, and you can almost always find me wearing one.
I am a baseball fan through-and-through, and I suppose there’s an unspoken tribal pride associated with the wearing of a baseball cap when you truly love the game. Even Captain Sisko wears a San Francisco Giants cap at the beginning of “Take Me Out To The Holosuite.” Do you suppose that team’s cap was a choice made by Ben Sisko or Avery Brooks? I have a feeling it’s a little of both.
Baseball caps can be a utilitarian item; just a simple hat you wear to protect your head and eyes on a sunny day, or it can also convey meaning. I wear my favorite cap nearly every day to display my affection for and allegiance to my favorite baseball team (Let’s Go Os!).
Only right now, the cap I’m wearing belongs to my favorite fictional baseball team in the Alpha Quadrant, and their home games are played aboard the Deep Space Nine station. Go NINERS!
Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that one of my favorite episodes of DS9 is “Take Me Out to the Holosuite.” The only other thing that comes close to my love for Star Trek is my love of baseball. And so, when the NINERS took to the field for the very first time I remember thinking, “I want their uniforms! I want a NINERS cap!” Apparently, I wasn't the only one. Fans at Star Trek Las Vegas would always ask us if we’d ever make anything from “that baseball episode.” Well, considering we just celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of DS9 and baseball season just stepped up to bat, what better time to show off your NINERS pride?
This is the ANOVOS Deep Space Nine NINERS Baseball Cap from our Shore Leave Collection! This is an official replica of the player’s On-Field fitted ball-cap worn by the NINERS during “Home” games! Moreover, this cap isn’t one of those inexpensive, adjustable, “Stadium Giveaway” souvenir caps. This cap is the equivalent of professional level on-field ball-caps. It’s a flex-fit cap, meaning that it has a fitted appearance while still allowing each of the three sizes (small, medium, large) to cover multiple head sizes.
The ANOVOS product development team thoroughly researched the classic navy blue caps (with 90s era gray under brims) worn by the NINERS humanoid team members during their historic game versus the T’Kumbra Logicians. As part of our research, CBS provided us with the original team logos and wordmarks (designed by fellow baseball fan and DS9 production designer Doug Drexler) to ensure that our replica caps were as faithful to the originals as possible.
We even went as far as creating a stitch-by-stitch template for our cap manufacturer to recreate the texture and color gradient of the original cap’s symbol into the modern embroidery found on our NINERS Baseball Cap. Finally, trying to hit this one out of the park—we made subtle improvements for comfort and attractiveness surpassing the original caps used twenty years ago to bring our cap in line with the ballcaps worn by professional baseball teams today.
I said before that there’s an almost tribal pride in wearing the ballcap of your favorite team. I suppose that could be doubly true where this cap is concerned. Could there be a better symbol (hats off to Doug) than the one on this cap? I love the image of the Deep Space Nine station and a baseball flying together in space—it’s perfect. To me, that symbol represents a shared love—freedom and fun, fandom and friendship, baseball and Star Trek.
Live long, and play ball!
Perfect isn’t always perfect!
I’m sure you’ve had this happen before: a glossy, spotless new replica gets released of one of your favorite movie props. It’s got all the bells and whistles you could ever ask for and the smooth, consistent finish catches the light just so. So why does it still look so...wrong?
It’s missing the grit that made it so special. Somewhere along the way, the replicators buffed out all of the tiny faults and nuances of the original in favor of idealization. Part of our uniqueness as a costume/prop replica company is that it's the faults we seek to make reality. You’ve seen it in our past goods and Boba Fett's BlasTech EE-3 Carbine Blaster as seen in Return of the Jedi is no different. We believe, it’s the asymmetries and flaws that made it “feel real” in the original films, so why not include them in the kit.
Prop making in the film industry wasn’t always what it is today. Back in the time of these great films, budgets were smaller and pieces were routinely thrown away at the end of shooting once they had fulfilled their purpose. Props were a means to achieve an end on screen and little more.
Furthermore, film quality was lower than today’s blistering 4k and beyond, so things didn’t have to be nearly as pristine to look just fine on screen. This often resulted in a lot of tiny details, bumps and bruises that, all together, created the final look that we all know and love so well. With idealization, those details are lost.
We toyed with the idea of modeling the EE-3 from scratch, using measurements from a real Webley flare gun, but that had been done previously and we knew the original prop had a lot of character that isn’t easily captured in a traditional, scratch-built model. We decided the best way to do it justice was to use a 3D scan of the original prop, warts and all.
As is so often the case, we turned to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art which retains the hero Return of the Jedi blaster (one of many used on set) at Skywalker Ranch. Our research team discovered that the Return of the Jedi EE-3 actually started out as a casting of the original Empire Strikes Back version. That prop was a real flare gun and had been stripped of its greebles and molded. (Note: the original Empire Strikes Back blaster is no longer available.)
For Boba Fett's appearance in Return of the Jedi the EE-3 was remade with several new greebles and newly designed barrel added to the base casting. We meticulously scanned, photographed and studied the Hero prop to bring you a replica which captures the unique characteristics of this legendary blaster's family tree.
Here are the most interesting nuances we retained for our prop.
Like many props of the era, the EE-3 is comprised of several found parts. Without the aid of 3D printing and other modern techniques, the surefire way to make something look cool was to find as many neat odds and ends out in the wild as possible and cobble them together. This technique also helps ground the prop in reality—because it’s made of tangible parts that the viewer subconsciously recognizes, you’re more likely to accept the fantasy as true to life.
Without giving too much away, (leaving some easter eggs for you to find) there is a set of parts found on the EE-3 that were originally nothing more than plumbing components. Do you know what pieces these are…?
Here’s a hint, we left its maker's marks on it.
You may have thought to yourself that the fins surrounding the barrel of the blaster look awfully familiar. You would be right! The same style is used on both the E-11 blaster and Luke’s lightsaber… but why stop there? We then focused on the irregular spacing of the fins. Believe it or not, the negative space created in the spacing is just as telling as their placement. Instead of mathematically plotting an even distance between fins, we used the photos taken and 3D scans and captured the irregularities with purpose. We want the wonkiness and admittedly crave it.
All the Etchings
Sometimes we run across things that even surprise us, on site. While scanning the original prop we ran across a serial number left stamped into the metal of one of the components, untouched. It wasn’t in Aurebesh, so didn’t seem to belong with the continuity of the prop. To us though, these are “gems” of knowledge that was not known prior to scan. Thus, we chose to reproduce it exactly as it was found on the part, numbers and shapes. Just as we were surprised to find it on the original piece, it was our way of sharing the experience the real prop with you.
Bringing it All Together
In our eyes, imperfect can be beautiful. With the current technology and opportunities given to us, we don’t have to settle for idealized and best guesses. When given a physical artifact, we can unapologetically tackle the level of detail never before possible. We know that you, like us, find that the devil is often in the details and that the bumps and bruises of a piece of history are sometimes what makes it so worth loving. By recreating wonkiness, asymmetries and other un-intended artifacts on the original pieces, we attempt to make these as real for you as it was for us.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this insight into some (but not all!) of the exciting little details to be found in our new kit. We’re excited about this one! She was a long time coming and we couldn’t be more proud of the result.
We'd love to hear your thoughts. Let us know if you’re enjoying these posts by leaving a comment below!
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.”