Alien Helmet Build

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HadronMM

Active Member
Hey. When Alien came out in theaters, I bought a ticket and snuck into it. The environmental suit has been obsessing me ever since, especially the helmet.

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I started this helmet build several years ago by buying a 16" hemispherical acrylic dome off the internet. The project sat on my bench for a long time; I was struggling to figure out the big shapes and where to start. But since the pandemic, I've had some time to work on it and I'm making big progress. Some early pictures and then more recent developments:

I tried making a plywood form, wrapping it with plastic to form the collar/cowl.
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then I fiberglassed over that.

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A lot of bondo, sanding, and some cardboard mock up.

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HadronMM

Active Member
Then I spent a lot of time trying to get the dimensions of the three pods on the back just right:

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Just getting the pods located on the radius of the helmet in space, and getting them to be the right size took several tries.

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A lot of the big features depend on each other for their proportions, so I mock up a lot in cardboard, trying to get templates.
 

HadronMM

Active Member
I realized when studying a lot of the reference pictures, like this one, that parallax with the camera was distorting some of the dimensions, making objects in the foreground look bigger than they are. So I ultimately scaled down the size. Notice also that these three pods are actually three different sizes, which is counter intuitive, but there's a lot of photo evidence for it.
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I used foam here to try to get these located correctly.
 

HadronMM

Active Member
Then I replaced the foam with MDF. I also scrapped my first attempt at the fiberglass collar. The angles weren't right on it. So I tried again with new plywood hoops, an armature inside, and plastic sheeting on the outside:
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I made a clean plastic template, wrapped it on the hops, and then fiberglassed it. I'm getting better with the fiberglassing:
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Prep work really pays off. Get the surface clean, straight and smooth, and as close to what you want the final product to be. Also lay out your glass mat and trim it to size carefully, get it ready to lay onto the resin, and move fast with the dry time. You can also see an early attempt at the lower neck box for the back on the bench here. And I started playing around with getting the chin box squares to sag/curve in. Get styrene to just the right temp, like vacuum forming, and it'll droop.

Sanded, trimmed some, and with some big feature attached:
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This lower neck box is too big, but in the ball park.
 

HadronMM

Active Member
I started to assemble the collar that wraps around the dome here. I'm using PVC foam board, which bends nicely for all the compound curves:
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Lots of trimming on the collar, and the pods, and the MDF pod holder got me to here:
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HadronMM

Active Member
And once some of the big features like the pod holder, the pods, the face collar, etc. were right and secured in place, then I could start piecing in some of the details:

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Very tricky to get these angles, curves, and proportions right. I scoured hundreds of photos, from lots of angles, and made lots of drafts.

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That catches me up to today. I'm going to keep filling these edges and details in. There will be a lot of sculpting on the back. I've also got styrene half round rods on order for the ribs under the chin. I tried 1/8" half rounds, but they are too small.
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The ribbing on the wrap around face collar is 1/8" half round, I believe, and the ribbing under the chin on the neck is 3/16" .
 

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HadronMM

Active Member
Today I added a lot of pieces. I glued and shaped this strap over the top.


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And I shaped the pieces that will go on the back, under the oval pods. Expanded cell pvc foam board is excellent for this project. I have been able to boil a big pot of water, put the pieces into it to get them soft and bendy, then I can shape them right onto my dome to get the compound curves right.


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Those wide pieces got shaped and trimmed to form the back of the dome, under the pods:

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Some more small pieces, and some sanding and shaping is getting the big shapes all into focus.
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I also added a lip/seal around the bottom and top of the dome opening. I cut these out with an Xacto, trimmed them, then glued. Lots of clamping:

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Next I'm puzzling over the rectangular block and sits on top and runs back to the top pod. The light unit will sit on top of that. It's got a curious set of curves blending into the pod.
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I will be getting to the point soon, I think, where I've built all of the big shapes I can, and the rest will require filling in the curved areas with bondo and shaping them by hand. But I'm trying to actually construct everything I can before that.

More soon.
 

HadronMM

Active Member
Started shaping the ridge over the top. It really brings out the distinctive look and shape of the helmet. I've wondered a lot while I've been building it how the original was fashioned. I suspect that they used some found parts, but that large sections of it were sculpted in clay and then it was molded. I recall that during filming there was Kane's, Lembert's, and Dallas' helmets. And I think one of them was destroyed when they cut the helmet off of John Hurt in sick bay. Then I think one of them was repainted white for Ripley's at the end of the movie. The Lembert helmet ends up in a private collector's hands. The Prop Store put together the Kane suit and helmet several years ago. And Ripley's is in Bob Burns' basement in LA. He's also got one of the small scale ones that Ridley Scott's kids wore.

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HadronMM

Active Member
Once I got the mohawk on top, I could start taking the light unit seriously. I referenced a lot of pictures and played around with the dimensions, made several cardboard mock ups and settled on this one:
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I even took some pictures trying to recreate the angle and distance from some reference pictures to see if I was getting it right. I can even see some distortion in these pictures that makes it look too tall and fat. In 3-D it looks right. The cardboard mock up let me build the PVC unit.

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The top back came off on the real thing to hide the battery pack for the lights, so I'll do the same.
 

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HadronMM

Active Member
Honestly, I think modeling this for a 3D printer would take about as long. The helmets for the film were made this way, then pulled from a mold with fiberglass. That's how I want mine.
 

Octipig

Member
Honestly, I think modeling this for a 3D printer would take about as long. The helmets for the film were made this way, then pulled from a mold with fiberglass. That's how I want mine.
And to be fair, if someone were selling 3-D printed parts, I'd be first in line to buy.
 

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