ANH Lightsabers Timeline and Miscellaneous Theories

LOM

Well-Known Member
Hi everyone!

Spurred by some of the recent discussions on the “”prototype”” MPP and Graflex that were recently auctioned, I wanted to share some information I collected and put into a timeline. I've found it helps me understand what might or might not have gone on during production.

I've been gathering info on and off on this for the past six months or so now... This is more of an informative post that is going to bounce around a LOT because I organized this a bit oddly in my doc. I kind of just want to put this out here as some handy information because bits and pieces in here are relevant to quite a few other saber discussions I think. Also, I've tried to credit and link much of the relevant bits as well.

Also, I mention a lot of production memos and stuff without inserting the original documents. If you want to check them for yourself, you can view most of what I mentioned here in this google drive. In addition you will find a lot of BTS photos I've collected, and there is also a doc in there that is just a wall of Roger Christian interviews because I was curious to see how his story evolved, I've pulled most of my quotes from him from there.

I should also say - I can't 100% confirm if I've got this right at all of course in the theory department, so if you see something that doesn't make sense, feel free to poke holes in it. I've generally tried to leave most of this more factual so that others can draw their own conclusions or theories.

Also, I am continually updating this first post with quick small changes and more info as a heads up. Last Updated: August 6th

Early Ralph McQuarrie Concepts

“[McQuarrie] did it like a Jousting Handle.” – Roger Christian
1083_083462_p001 1.jpg
Per: The Making of Star Wars TimeLine : 1975
February 14-15, 1975
In one day, Ralph McQuarrie completes a second painting based on a scene described in the second draft of The Star Wars entitled "Laser Duel." [Image above]

“I was given the problem of how the artistes were to actually fence with a light source. Neon light tubes were too fragile and potentially dangerous; I had to give the actors something to fight with which could withstand several blows.” – John Stears

Original McQuarrie Concepts:
Proto sabers.png

Images Courtesy of the Original Prop Blog and an RPF Thread somewhere
Interestingly, two of these concepts on the sketch to the left appear to match the hilts wielded in "Laser Duel" above, and seem to match two of the concepts presented on the January 19th meeting.

Early Production, “Elstree Testing” Early 1976

January 14th – First Special Effects Tests Completed

“The Wizards at Industrial Light and Magic complete effects tests for "laser swords," R2-D2 and illuminated control boards.”
Source: The Making of Star Wars TimeLine : 1976


January 16th – Notes of Meeting Held In Conference Room On January 1976.
“Gary Kurz suggested we try hampered hand sword where base of sword has a cup in the hand and put materials in the convex so you get an idea of what it looks like. Gary Kurtz would like to try one with the bowl slightly up with the material inside. John Barry thought it would be better if it was flat across the bowl. John Stears said he had tried this and it doesn’t work. It was decided to try it both ways. It was decided to meet on Monday with query about laser sword.”
* Monday query refers to the January 19th meeting.

January 16th – Notes Pertaining to HOD’s [Head of Directors] Meeting held at EMI Studios at 5 p.m. on Friday, January 16th, 1976.
“The Sp.Fx. Dept. hope to test new swords on Wednesday (21/1); it will not be necessary to test the rotating swords. Test to be made on the tapered round sword. Test also to be tried on the on sword which has small cup in convex dish.

John Stears and Roger Christian to have a meeting Monday morning 19/1 on the type of sword handles George Lucas Prefers.”
The document additionally notes:
“Laser Swords Tests on Wednesday. (Now changed to Friday.) 23rd Jan.”

January 19th – Meeting between George Lucas, Roger Christian, and John Stears
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Images Courtesy of the Original Prop Blog and an RPF Thread somewhere
I find it more than likely these are the hilt parts that were discussed on this day:
Photos are dated as circa January 14, 1976 – January 25, 1976.
Source: Star Wars “Original Prototype Lightsabers from 1976 Meeting”

We see:
  • 1 Safety Torch
  • 1 Diving Torch
  • 1 Unknown black handle (?)
  • 1 Unknown skinny handle (?)
  • 1 Hales No. 3 Mk 1 Grenade
  • 4 Balance Pipes in an assembly

“The laser sword was one of the most challenging props to find. Several attempts at mock-ups made by John [Stears’] SFX department had been rejected.” – Roger Christian
Because of Christians' account that the Stears' prototypes were all the torch/flashlight style handles, he probably brought the grenade and balance pipe assembly to the meeting.

Roger Christian additional quotes on initial SPFX prototypes:
"The special effects team under John Stears made quite a few torches that looked terrible. They looked like just metal round things, that George kept rejecting and rejecting." - Roger Christian on Forging the Lightsaber, Han's Blaster, and More from Star Wars: A New Hope | StarWars.com

"The special effects made some [flashlight]-like ones but they just didn’t cut it. George rejected them." - https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/greatest-movie-props

"The SFX team made some that looked like bare torches and George rejected them." - Roger Christian, Set Decorator of Star Wars: A New Hope and More - Lift-Off Global Network

1:00:24: "And the special effects boys had done some mock ups and they looked like torches and they were rejected. They looked terrible."
- [This one is interesting because he also says:] "And then the special effects took about 30 handles cause they had to make lightweight, all sorts of different ones." (at around 27:50)

January 20th – George Lucas and Gil Taylor Discuss Filming

George Lucas: As it stands now, we’ve got three scenes with the light sword. The first scene shows what it is. Luke just turns it on. The next one is a very quick scene in the cantina-it’ll just be a flash. In both those cases, it’s just one sword. The last is the final battle between Ben and the warlord. That’s going to be a tricky one where they actually fight, but at least now it’s down to a very controlled setup.

Gil Taylor: Are the laser sword and the laser gun one and the same thing?

George Lucas: No. Laser guns are going to be essentially real guns that fire a blank that makes a big flame. We’ll make it into a nice laser-gun sound later; then we will optically, in cases where it is necessary, animate the blasts, so you’ll see the bolts ricochet around. But you’ll never actually have to deal with it photographically.
Interesting tidbit, as in the film there are actually 4 shots with a saber. It seems that the Falcon training scene was a late addition?

January 23rd – Special Effects Tests of Laser Swords. (Rescheduled from 21st)
Industrial Light and Magic complete effects tests for "laser swords," and Jawa eyes.


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“The blades were designed to break to minimize the risk of injury to the actors.” – Jon Bunker

We see that many of these hilts are based on the McQuarrie Jousting design, but what I found interesting is that Mr. Bunker's quote regarding intentionally breaking blades possibly seems to be this hilt above? As I've not seen any other hilt or blade that seems like it was supposed to break.

Types of Laser Swords tested on this day:
  • X2 “Lances” - dish downwards, designed to break.
  • X1 ''Sword,” likely to fit the description of “Excalibur”
  • X1 “Motorized” test hilt - 3-sided blade(?)
  • X2 “Epee” Fencing Swords
  • X1 Small Sword
  • X1 Small sword with guard
Note: Clapperboards indicate a T-Stop of T2.8 – this should give us a ballpark about what F-stop to use in a camera for a proper front projection effect for those with reflective tape blades.

Below is the first motorized test saber:
1625256445096.png


[Unknown Date], Early Production – Alec Guinness, David Prowse, George Lucas, Gary Kurtz, and Peter Diamond meet on an Elstree stage(?) to rehearse with early lightsabers.
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[Images likely taken on Gary Kurtz personal camera]

Here we can see the early “lance” hilt that was apparently designed to break being used in practice as George Lucas and stunt-coordinator Peter Diamond watch. They appear to have flipped the dish above the handle, likely to test how that would look in camera per the discussion on January 16th. Also, this design would give an effect very reminiscent of McQuarrie’s original paintings with the bulge of light above the emitter of the hilt.

Shipping Notes

As of Feb 5th

“Both Speeders to go on freighter. Also 10 robots and other essentials such as laser swords may be fitted into [personnel] charter.”
This document indicates that hero hilts have likely been selected as of February 5th. Personnel Charter planned to depart March 20-22.

As of Feb 10th
Feb 20, “One Subercube” (Construction, SP.FX. and Props anticipated)
Smalls & Bits from Props Dept.
March 5, “One Road Track”
SP.FX. “Prop” Box
Alternate dates the hilts may have been shipped out on indicated above, because of the emphasis on props.

It is therefore very likely that the Hero Luke and Obi-Wan hilt designs were settled on between January 19th and February 5th.

My Theory:
Production was clearly running late. Props and special effects items were approved in very short times before filming. That much is apparent from the production memos.

The only noted special effects test for sabers took place on January 23rd (after being rescheduled from the 21st), and those aren't anything close to the final product save for the motorized one. So when did they make the stunt sabers? Obviously the hero hilts have to be approved before you can make correct stunt sabers, so there is now about a two week window for heroes to be selected, so stunt saber development probably began shortly after, probably before the personnel charter was set to leave to Tunisia with the hero hilts. But, with the tight schedule it seems there was almost no time for Stears' to work on continual development of these stunt sabers with key pieces falling behind schedule.

That brings us to this quote...
“Bert Hamilton[-smith] was the main responsible guy for the construction of the SPFX lightsabers.” – Jon Bunker

If I had to guess, the stunt sabers were not finished before filming began. Bunker quotes a "Bert Hamilton" as the guy in charge of developing the stunt sabers. Why isn't it Stears? Could it be because Stears was in Tunisia operating R2 during their construction, and the remaining SPFX team at Elstree scrounged up the materials, possibly out of whatever they could because of a nonexistent budget as all the key players are in Tunisia filming? Just with the goal in mind to have the sabers ready for when they returned as the cantina and hut sequences were filmed fairly early on if I recall. It would also explain the lack of documentation of the development too.

Though, it's probable that Stears' was responsible for coming up with the spinning effect/the final electronic set up because he is the one handling the motorized saber in the test footage.

I personally think the SPFX Obi hilts began to be worked on pretty early, but I'm not exactly sure what variation its based on. I feel that the angles of the cubes on the Tunisia version are closer to the buck, but the groove below the cubes on the Chronicles is a match for one of the details on the buck. (I admit I am not an expert in real parts Obis at all, so I might've botched my description)
pommel-collage.png


The windvane positioning also does not match the chronicles build at all, the part above the neck and below the windvane is quite long and the Tunisia version looks closer to it from the blurry pic we have:
windvane-collage.png

Alternatively there could have been two heroes and 1 was kept for reference for the SPFX department?

I recall reading that Stears’ supplied some of his own technicians to assist the engineers in the development of R2, which means to me, it seems like they may have had influence on metal casting Obi’s after seeing the cast metal flippers. Perhaps now that sabers are their primary focus now that everyone is in Tunisia, they got an idea to use the same method to make hilts.

However, the OpenR2 project noted that professionals cast the R2 arms after supplying a company with a 'drawing' not a buck. I have many doubts about the stunt hilts being professionally cast based on the seamlines and wonkyness.

One other thing to note: production documents mention:
We can do basic casting.
In reference to casting the then named Dia Nogu... Casting metal seems a bit more involved than basic casting. Food for thought.

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FILMING

Filming the Cantina – April 13, 15, 20. 21


Harrison Ford and Alec Guinness film their scene together in the Cantina Set.
Cantina 1538826_573285079430153_1906069299_n.jpg


Thanks again to dcarty opening his copy of "The Cinema of George Lucas" and looking up the additional filming reports I did not have!
Report No19: Thursday April 15
Sets: Stage Stage 3-INT. Docking Bay 94; Stage 6-INT. Cantina
Scene Numbers: 50 PART [Obi-Wan uses his lightsaber in the Cantina]
Scs. Completed Today: 1
Screen Time Taken To-Day: 48s
Report No.20: Wednesday, April 14
Sets: Stage 3-INT. Docking Bay 94; Stage 6-INT. Cantina
Scene Numbers: AA53 RETAKE, 50 PART
Scs. Completed Today: -
Screen Time Taken To-Day: 10s
Report No. 21: Thursday, April 15
Sets: Stage 6-INT. Cantina
Scene Numbers: 50 PART
Scs. Completed Today: -
Screen Time Taken To-Day: 30s.
Daily Status: 1 Day Behind
Report No.22: Tuesday, April 20
Sets: Stage 6-INT. Cantina
Scene Numbers: ZB50 (EXTRA SCENE) [Luke and Obi-Wan meet Han Solo]; 50 PART (EXTRA SCENE) [Han and Greedo]
Scs. Completed Today: 1
Screen Time Taken To-Day: 2m 00s.
Report No.21: Wednesday, April 21
Sets: Stage 3-INT. Docking Bay 94 (retake); Stage 6-INT. Cantina
Scene Numbers: AA53, etc.
Scs. Completed Today: 1
Screen Time Taken To-Day: 1m 22s.
Daily Status: 1 Day Behind



Call sheet for April 20th notes:
PROPS:
Drinks, breakaway tables (& repeats), stools, laser sword & laser sword handles, Stormtrooper weapons, coins, guns for other creatures & pirates. Han’s and Chewbacca’s guns. Jugs of foul-looking liquid. Tables & chairs or benches required for crowd.
SP.FX:
Dummy to explode & burn. Han’s smoking gun. Smoke effect (atmosphere.) Laser hits as directed. All R2 units. Hole to be blown in table.

Note: No front projection effect was used according to the call sheet.

3 Known Takes:
  • Film Take
  • Star Wars Black and White “Rough Cut”
  • Color Footage on YT (211, take 3, “Guide Track”)
On Take 3 – Guinness flips the switch and turns off the motor after the strike.

The V2 appears to be used in the cantina sequence. The blade appears to be extra-long compared to subsequent uses of the V2(?)
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Filming Ben’s “Cave” – April 23, 26

The scene inside of Obi-Wan's home was filmed at this time. After filming inside of Obi-Wan's home was completed, George Lucas and John Barry did a quick walk through of the set the crew would be filming on the following Monday - the Death Star corridor.


Luke ANH stunt_zpsixednxyl.jpg



Report No. 25: Friday, April 23
Sets: Stage 7-INT. Ben Kenobi’s Cave
Scene Numbers: 42 PART [Obi-Wan views Leia’s message]
Screen Time Taken To-Day: 4m 00s.
Report No. 26: Monday, April 26
Sets: Stage 7-INT. Ben Kenobi’s Cave; Stage 2-INT. Death Star
Scenes Numbers: 42 COMP,; 111 [Vader espies Kenobi]
Screen Time Taken To-Day 57s.
((Is there a day 3 Report Missing? I've seen reference to a 3rd day of filming but I did not see a report for this.))

Day 1
empiredayuk-0004.jpg

Image: Kurtz-Joiner archive I believe via Star Wars Aficionado.

You can also catch a glimpse of the front projection set up being used for filming in front of the camera!

I believe this day of filming included Kenobi giving Skywalker the saber, but Guinness demands rewrites of his dialogue so they probably rewrite it then and there, and film a few more scenes before the end of the day because of the 4m screen time taken.
hut-collage.png

(I believe the woman in the first pic is Ann Skinner, she has a continuity script binder(?) clearly in another photo I've seen but apparently didn't save.

I believe the SPFX lightsaber malfunctioned on Day 1 substantially.. So....

Day 2
Likely consisted of just waving the SPFX hilt around and getting that right ignition right. I don't have a lot of evidence for this, but some pictures seem to indicate that they mainly focused on filming the hilt for awhile on this day. Since Anthony Daniels isn't on set on this day, you can kind of spot when images might be from day 2.

lukeobigraflex2_scottjua.jpg

Image courtesy of: Scottjua

April 26th – Note: AFTER filming the Cave
Alec Guinness is interviewed by the Sunday Times about his character in the film.

Alec: "I tried to make him uncomplicated. I'm cunning enough now to know that to be simple carries a lot of weight. The laser sword seems to be a marvelous weapon. It's rather like a Japanese sword with a row of laser buttons. But I must confess I'm pretty much lost as to what is required of me... What I'm supposed to be doing, I can't really say. I simply trust the director."
*reference to the bubble strip on the hero saber most likely. Thought this was a cool mention.

Filming the Falcon – May 10


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* Footage of the 2nd image somewhere online, I didn't save the link it's a blooper and the helmet falls off.

Report No. 35: Friday, May 7
Sets: Stage 9-INT. Pirate Starship Hallway
Scene Numbers: 67 PART [Luke training with seeker; hologram board game]
Scs. Completed Today: -
Screen Time Taken To-Day: 2m 50s.

Call Sheet for Monday, May 10th, 1976 Notes:
PROPS: Ben’s and Luke’s sword handles. Continuity weapons for all principles. Computer Chips. Charts & computer readouts. Large helmet.
ART DEPT: Lighted table for computer game. Flashing warning light.
SP.FX: Mechanical arm on R2. All R2 units to be available, white powder spray for R2. Laser swords. Various floating chrome ball effects.
WARDROBE: Cloak.
CAMERA: 1/2 silvered mirror.
Note: This sequence was also filmed using a front projection effect per call sheet.
Note: This is possibly the day when some Chronicle photos were taken. Note the call for “all principles” continuity weapons.

Motorized Graflex stunt appears to use a similar blade to that used in the Hut. (To me anyways)

On Filming the Duel – May 27, 28; June 1
“So that classic duel between Ben and Vader, on the Death Star, in A New Hope. I often hear how it's dated now, it's a little hokey, and out of step with the later films. But we've had forty something years of this amazing saga in which to shape and to hone. This, though. This was the first ever lightsaber duel, filmed right back at the beginning; when the ground rules were still being laid down; when Star Wars and what it encompassed was all still being pieced together; when no one knew if this kind of thing would even work.

From what my father told me, George originally felt that the lightsabers ought to be coursing powerful weapons needing two hands to wield at all times. They weren't flashing foils. Ben and Darth were two grandmasters, sizing each other up, at the end of days. No Errol Flynn here. No derring-do. You can see some kendo in there, if you squint. That was deliberate, a continuation of the eastern influence behind that first adventure. And somewhat necessary, in truth, because there was no cg-enhancement, no wuxia wires. Just look at those blades. They were the flimsiest things, so easily broken. Dave Prowse was a heavy-handed fellow. And Sir Alec was no spring chicken. Neither of these chaps were going to perform any highflying acrobatics, not without doubles and extra staging and rehearsal time. The film had a tight budget and an even tighter schedule. They had to keep moving. They needed a fight in the can."

See, this is the thing that bugs me, when folks judge this fight so harshly nowadays. It's all about context. I have seen some pretty derisory comments about this duel on social media, of late, ones that even go on to question my father's abilities in the field and that's where it grinds with me. My father had already proven many times that he could swash and buckle with the best of them. At this point in his career he had earned a handsome reputation for working to the very tightest of budgets. He knew how to work quickly, how to cut corners and reduce set-up time. That was Star Wars, back then. By all means, question the differences between then and now. The fights have developed in every film. Vader being a badass in Rogue One? That was a creative choice made forty years down the line, on a mult-million dollar production, with an endless credit list. Back at Elstree, in the middle of that long hot Summer of 76, this was their first stab - pun intended - shot on a shoestring, and on the day, by golly, it worked for this youngster and a million others who cried out with Luke as Ben made his sacrifice. And all these years later, kids and adults are still rocking those lightsabers, up and down toy aisles, in playgrounds and conventions, so they must have done something right... right?”

-
Fraizer Diamond, son of OT Stunt Coordinator Peter Diamond, on the duel.

1625086836211.png

Report No. 49: Thursday May 27
Sets: Stage 3-INT. Death Star - Main Forward Bay
Scene Numbers: 117 PART [Obi-Wan is cut down]
Screen Time Taken To-Day: 29s
Report No. 50: Friday, May 28
Sets: Stage 3-INT. Death Star - Main Forward Bay
Scene Numbers: 117 Part
Screen Time Taken To-Day: 16s
Report No. 51: Tuesday, June 1
Sets: Stage 3-INT. Death Star- Main Docking Bay
Scene Numbers: 116 PART [Vader to Obi-Wan: "We meet again at last"]
Screen Time Taken To-Day: 1m 39s
Note: Reshoots potentially did take place for the “cut down” scene at later times besides these 3 primary filming days. *Reshoots possibly on June 3rd(?)*

Day 1:
333B 5 119704022_3356560321102601_3728958632236660639_o.jpg
333E ig 33 38b14c49137dbc4d1d9d7b1eabd312677.jpg

Entering more theory/speculation again...

The primary hilts used in filming on this day are the V2 and the Barbican. However, this day would show some unusual features of the Barbican as well what seems to be another unmotorized stand-in stunt for Obi Wan.
Primary Hilt (V2): Secondary Stand-in Hilt(?):
31652869-C980-495A-8D7E-4CF5009FD8CE.jpeg
336C 2 KIlyrSy.jpg


Barbican:
The age old question, "Was the Barbican wired on set?" Yep!
321A CROPPED 19 1533364000708-3504.jpg
321AA obi duel stripaaa.jpg

I've seen a high resolution unpainted version of the image on the left, in front of the control panel you can see a wire hanging down with a red connector (jack plug perhaps? hmm...) Also, please note that on the image on the left, the shroud of the Barbican being white is not from the airbrush. Although I so wish this was evidence for a 2nd hilt, looking at the 2nd image, it probably just caught the studio light.

Day 2:
319D 403 6 403 73212515_2735711613115112_4326101900475760640_n.jpg
321 406 7 151215103556-obi-wan-vader-millennium-falcon-super-169.jpg

I *think* the images above are from day 2 but I'm not 100% sure.

I'm fairly certain most of the Day 2 consists of takes of Vader striking Obi-Wan down and the use of the collapsible skeleton constructed by Stears’ team. In addition, the scenes of Vader cornering Kenobi in the main hangar bay is filmed as well.

The Barbican is still used for filming on this day.

I believe they filmed the "cloak collapsing" scene something like 6 times. We have evidence of a couple at the very least:

415 23 20080713-184705.JPG
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Skeleton does not fully collapse in the Making of Star Wars film. (Interestingly in the documentary, you see one of the guys on set handling a special effects blade as well. Footage:


414 24 z4ee8d899428e55064aec28a1e7a7bbdc.png
417 29 13507210_1145454105493760_6312225080709381180_n.jpg
Possibly one take

417 29 17 413714e7-d743-4f75-a249-c3bf341f7417.jpg
Note the different cloak location and saber blade along the wall.

And the film take is different than all of these I think.

2 different takes based on hood position... 2 different hilts? First pic looks a bit narrower, and is wired. The 2nd image has that solid black emitter with specks on the edge that we can see in a film still I think.
IMG_0907.jpg
318AAA 401 5 8 sfm_starwars314.jpg

2nd image can clearly be seen in the film:
1625087634514.png


Day 3, the Hallway Sequence:
317 profile_mag-max-1280x722.jpg


Here's an interesting hilt on this day of filming. Minimal edge visible wear on emitter plate. Potentially a “tall collar” on the blade. Visible throughout most of the hallway sequence. And makes it in film:
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What appears to be a second hilt on this day, identifiable due to wear pattern on emitter faceplate. (V2?)
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What went wrong with the Barbican?
Jon Bunker noted that he did not recall what went wrong with the Barbican, but that it might've had something to do with hiding the wires. I believe Mr. Alinger or the Rinzler book backs that up, and I think those images show that might've been the problem.

"Lucas began shooting the duel between Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader on May 27, 1976, with the second half of the duel. As rehearsed, the swords were spinning, but the wire could be seen in the shot. It became apparent that the best shots were when Vader's sword was not spinning but these were also the takes when the action was more static." - Paul Duncan, The Star Wars Archives, (quote courtesy of dcarty, thank you!)

After what was likely some initial test shots and photos for lighting, the decision to cut the wires on the Barbican was made. Only those two photos I've found show a wired Barbican. So, it must have been a fairly early decision on set to remove the motorized effect, and I can totally see it being done because they couldn't hide the wires now.

Oddly, Luke’s motorized Graflex serves on day 3, acting as Vader’s stunt hilt...
315 10 20 star-wars-behind-scenes1.jpg

However, the Barbican also makes an appearance on this day! It is visible in the film as well as on some of the BTS footage as seen below. It is identifiable due to the way Prowse holds it. So why what caused the need for the Graflex stunt to take its place in one scene or take? The Barbican was on set, was it suddenly unable to take a blade? I don’t know.
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(teecrooz has a gif of this footage below)

On Lightsaber Construction
[WIP]

Regarding the Motorized Obi-Wan Sabers:
[WIP]

Regarding the Barbican:
Barbicanhighres (1).jpg

(As the hilt is today)

The “Barbican” was initially planned to be Vader’s motorized stunt hilt. Construction consisted of an aluminum tube, a real MPP clamp, an Exactra bubble strip, 7 T-Track (Plus a small 1.5” piece used to replicate the MPP bulb release button.), an open-hole end cap, and square aluminum shroud reminiscent of an MPP.

Although the prop has been refinished today after years of filming in RotJ and ESB, we can still gather some details about it. Based on the size of the switch hole, it is likely the Barbican utilized a toggle switch similar to the V2, as a lamp push button as seen on the motorized Graflex requires a larger hole to be drilled, as seen above.

Note that due to the switch location, the motor in the real Barbican would be seated remarkably high up. I believe this is likely why some issues were encountered. The heavier HMP/Antenna based blades probably dragged on the motor, the clashes likely loosened the core as well, assuming it was held with a set screw under the shroud. Note that the shroud was likely not secured as to why Prowse holds it in such weird ways to stop it from falling off. It’s likely this was intentionally designed to allow you to access the screws that would allow you to change blades and accounts for the images where the shroud is attached on reverse.

The reason it was ultimately ditched in favor of the Graflex stunt on the final day of dueling is somewhat a mystery because the Barbican was present on day 3 of filming. Perhaps by then the other Barbicans had completely failed, forcing production to utilize Luke’s stunt saber.

321A CROPPED 19 1533364000708-3504.jpg

Also, in this image here, you can also make out what appears to be a jack-plug connector, as described by Bunker on his notes and diagrams. I personally have many questions regarding this image.

Regarding the Motorized Graflex:
lukeobigraflex2_scottjua.jpg

The motorized Graflex was Luke Skywalker’s motorized stunt hilt. Construction consisted of an aluminum tube, a real graflex clamp, an Exactra bubble strip, 7 T-Track, a “thin-knurl” Folmer Graflex button, a “beer tab,” a Graflex Glass eye, and an end cap seemingly scavenged from camera parts.

Later, this saber would go on to serve as Vader’s stunt saber on the final day of the duel with either a painted or taped off shroud – wires cut as well. It was then subsequently utilized for promotional photos in its post-dueling state.

It is again possible multiple of these were made. Note in ESB, there appears to be a stunt featuring a similar long lever as seen on the V2. Unfortunately, after filming ESB it appears this saber was walked off set and hasn’t surfaced since.

1628279067348.png

The wires utilized “power pole” connectors in white and red specifically. There appear to have been some difficulties getting the saber setup while filming the hut sequence.


On Blades
Recommended Reading:
https://www.therpf.com/forums/threads/the-anh-lightsaber-blade-reference-thread.301164/
https://www.therpf.com/forums/threads/the-ot-stunt-lightsaber-blades-research-thread.298206/
(This section includes many quotes taken from Mouse Vader's reference thread above, including quotes shared by Vadermania, scarf man)

“[Bunker] kept replying that there was a bunch of people working on those effects sabers, and they used whatever they thought was suitable for the job.”

the first swords were bits of wood with front-projection material wrapped around them... I had to teach them, if that was the sword, to stop before they touched ‘cause blades were breaking – we broke… broke so many blades - they just kept snapping...” – Peter Diamond

“… the effect of the light saber was basically a rotating pole that had movie screen material applied to it so that it would reflect its light source back at many times the intensity. The problem was that when you moved it out of a certain area it went from glowing and looking great to just a rotating pole.” – Mark Hamill

[w]e rotated with reflective tape so that it would flash and it would create light on the actors [& all that], that never really worked, as soon as they hit each other they broke the lightsabers, so then we just used the sticks with reflective material in it...” – George Lucas

yeah it was movie screen material [snip] because that reflects the light sources-source back at hundreds of times the intensity… well you know – and you had a wire up your sleeve and a battery pack on your belt - so you you’d wa.. you’d go like and freeze and they’d run in and put that pole, that you’re talking about, on it and then run out – just like they did the effects on ‘I dream of Jeannie’ or whatever – poink [clicks fingers] and pop pops in…” – Mark Hamill
1628278370823.png


The first blades...
1625256371108.png

"[Bunker] does not remember billard/snooker queues. He does remember lightweight (balsa) wooden sticks, painted black, and then covered with scotchlite partially. And those were round, not square. The blades were designed to break to minimize the risk of injury to the actors.”

1628278459185.png

"The lightsabers were just triangular bits of wood which were covered in reflective material that I projected a spotlight on to” - Gil Taylor

[Jon] said that they experimented with triangular blades for ANH, but went with square (wooden) blades for the shooting.

they experimented with different blade "speeds" in combination with camera shutter to get the best flicker effect

they experienced wobbling/vibration and tried to eliminate it by the choice of wood of blades and varying the length of the blades

they used a front projection setup on the camera

Jon himself worked with round, untapered balsa poles which were painted black and partially covered with reflective tape.

The First Filming Blades:
The 'blade' part of the Light Saber is actually a four-sided blade attached to a small motor in the handle. The motor is used to quickly rotate the blade.

Two sides of the blade are coated with a highly reflective material similar to the material used on motion picture screens. One of those two sides is painted four inches higher than the other side. When spinning, this gave the blade its flashing effect.

A device was made to lock a light source onto the camera, allowing the camera both to move freely and to be aligned with the light source and the blade's reflection.


– The Official Star Wars Fanclub Newsletter #1

“I decided to have them contain a section of flat sides rotating by means of a small motor in the handle. The four-sided blade had two-sides painted black and two coated in a reflective material, with one side extending four inches higher up the blade. When lit with front axial lighting, this gave the glowing effect.” – John Stears

The Duel Filming Blades:
“Blades for OB1/Vader duel were round wood (some hardwood, some balsa, some tapered, some not)” - Bunker

==================
Addendum:
Shipping notes expanded based on documents for reference:
Plan as of Jan 16th
Feb 28 for Speeder (3 weeks before location shooting, 1 week before last truck to leave)
Feb 2 Shipment 1 leave expected

Plan as of Jan 23rd
March 22 Deadline
Feb 14 – Speeder body ready
(Idea of air freighter for speeder and late shipments entertained)
Jan 30 Load Shipment 1 (3, upped to 4 total trucks) <Construction Materials
Feb 2 Shipment 1 Departure
Shipment 1 contains Dinosaur
Feb 8 Shipment 2 Anticipated
Shipment 2 anticipated to have “props on board.” But construction gets priority if gear doesn’t fit on first shipment
Noted last viable date for departures by truck:
March 5 Load
March 8 Departure

Plan as of Feb 5th
Feb 5 Shipment 2 Load (3 trucks)
Feb 8 Shipment 2 Departure
March 16 - Air freighter settled on, a plan is requested for what to bring on plane and what to leave behind in Tunisia
“Both Speeders to go on freighter. Also 10 robots and other essentials such as laser swords may be fitted into personal charter.”

Plan as of Feb 10th
Feb 20 shipment, “One Subercube” (Construction, SP.FX. and Props anticipated)
3 Speeders
1 Life-Pod
2 Sections of “Christmas Tree”
2 [Bins?] of large fuelage
1 [Boner?] (SP.FX.)
Smalls & Bits from Props Dept.

March 5 shipment, “One Road Track”
Animals
Speeder Shells (3 or 4)
RIG (SP.FX.) For Suspending Speeder (5 ton)
SP.FX. “Prop” Box
SP.FX. Ancillary Equipment
SP.FX. Tools
SP.FX. Fog Machine

Plan as of Feb 16, (Loading Air freighter)
Feb 17, Customs
Feb 18, Flight
Speeder 1
All Robots (7?)
[____] of speeder shells
SP.FX. Smalls (Remote Control Units, etc.)

Plan as of Feb 13th
Feb 20 Shipment 3 Departure
March 5 Shipment 4 Departure
March 15 Air Freighter Flight Departure
March 20 Personnel Charter
On Rotoscoping:
Interviews with Nelson Shin (Rotoscope artist on ANH)

“I explained to them since the light saber is light, and the light should look a little shaky like fluorescent tube. I suggested that when printing with optical printer, one frame should be inserted so that one could be printed much lighter than the other. By that way, it would look like a fluorescent tube or laser. I also asked them to pass on the information that when adding the sound, a degauser, which is used in deleting tapes, should be placed on the top. Then, this device would make sound, because it has magnetic field like light streaming.

So that's how the light saber came to life. In fact, I did not need one month, but finished it in a week. My company was very surprised because I finished it within one week. When people from the Lucas Films picked it up, they put me into the director's chair. They showed the product from behind with over the shoulder on the small screen, and it was excellent. I did not expect such effects at all. The team had followed my advice on adding sound, and on using an exacto knife to cut the paper to give a very sharp look of light.”



(2) “I came up with the idea of a black and white paper being cut and used respectively as a matt for composing process of animation and live action. Then, I suggested two kinds of light exposures when filming the saber, which gave an effect of continuous vibration of the light saber. Finally, I added the sound of magnetic degausser, which was a tool used to remove the contents of the tape of sound in the past, for threatening sounds.”

– Nelson Shin
Sound
Ben Burtt - Sound Designer of Star Wars

'Star Wars': Sound Designer Ben Burtt Reveals Inspiration For Iconic Lightsaber Sound Came From a Film Projector Motor and a TV Set


“Immediately something went off in my mind and I had a feeling for what they would sound like,” Burtt said. “In the booth where we projected the films, those projectors made a hum…the motors would sit there with this magical, mysterious humming sound… I thought ‘that’s probably what a lightsaber would sound like.’”

“I was searching for some other element… I had a tape recorder with a broken mic cable,” he said. “When I walked past the television set in my apartment, it picked up the hum… that made a buzz, and I said ‘that’s a great buzz, that sounds dangerous.’


- Ben Burtt
Odd Stories/Quotes:
You can find many Roger Christian quotes in the google drive folder. Here are a few other odd stories that don't exactly make sense, as these two were involved in the US side of Special Effects at ILM.

“I started out the deal with the lightsabers by suggesting that we put retro-reflective material on sticks and shine[d] a light from the camera.”

“We just knew we could make the lightsabers whatever color we wanted by filtering the light. But of course with two lightsabers in the same scene, that became problematic because the light source hit them both.” … Dykstra therefore turned to compositing via rotoscoping, …“You can tell [it’s practical], because when you bring [the lightsabers] together, stuff flies off of them!”

- John Dykstra
It's interesting to note what Dykstra says, as the filtering of the light seems to refer to the trials on the 23rd.

“It was producer Gary Kurtz’s idea to use front projection material on a stick, have a beam splitter on the front of the camera and reflect light off the beam splitter towards the front projection material. That brings light back very brightly to the camera.
It was a good idea on side shots, but when it starts getting into this angle, the effect goes away because it has to be almost plane to the camera. So it was very limiting in terms of what you could do.

Basically, they fought with sticks, and each shot had to then be rotoscoped. So all of the light sabers in [the original] Star Wars [trilogy] were rotoscoped. They were animated.
- Richard Edlund



==========================
I have some more stuff floating around my head regarding blades and the Obi's specifically but that is probably better served in their respective threads (and because I just reached the 50 file limit and can't add any more pics lol.)

There wasn't really a specific aim to this thread, just some loose points all around. I just wanted to lay everything out in a timeline and address a few things while I was at it. I hope this was informative and might help other discussions regarding specific aspects of these sabers at the very least. Perhaps this thread can serve as a place to discuss all those random small theories poking around in one's mind. :)

And special thanks to the people who I bothered in PMs discussing this stuff at length with haha.

edit: fixing some of the image that came out small for some reason. And added some more quick words in a few parts.
 
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PoopaPapaPalps

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Very well collected and supported, LOM!

For the Obi stunt hilts, my impression is that the wooden master for the casting process was derived from a photo of the Obi hero taken and given to the team sometime before the trip to Tunisia (after both designs for Ben and Luke's hilt settled on---mechanisms for both carry over and the Graflex seems to have been chosen close to the last minute based on these memos) for them to work on and have it ready once the crew returns to the UK. It's fairly close in size and proportion and, like you pointed out, sports some details mimicking the Obi Hero, particularly the cut in the pommel butt plate (it's ultimately cut down on the final thing to about the surface of that cut, so it eventually becomes redundant). The Obi Hero is never seen again after production beyond the Chronicles photo and some of the parts were sourced from the same supplier of the firearms, so it makes me believe there was only ever one.

By the time the interiors for the cantina and Death Star corridor are shooting, I'm under the belief that the V2 is either the only stunt used that sequence, or for the majority of them. Its size in the clearer, closer photos match that with what I've recreated in relation to Guiness' hands. After a number of takes, the paint begins to wear off on the emitter, and multiple wooden blades swapped. These things just sat on the nipple over the drive shaft. I don't believe the collared fiberglass stunt blades were pressed (for Obi, anyway) into service until later. No evidence suggests they were used on the Obi stunt at this point. (I also believe it's rigged to the dummy for when Vader strikes at Ben in the end).
 

DaveP

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Oh my word! What an awesome post! I've been working away on something with a bit of overlap that I'll be posting later today hopefully (currently in word). I haven't gone in to nearly as much detail though. This is phenomenal. I'll be watching this one with great interest! :)
 

Halliwax

Legendary Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
LOM so glad you released this. Again can’t thank you enough for all your hard research

LOM has been collecting this for months! We all owe him a big High five

again, thank you for all the time you have put into this, it means a lot to me. You are a great asset to this community man
 

LOM

Well-Known Member
Great post! This could be an appendix to the ultimate guide.
Well that's some high praise! Thanks! Perhaps the timeline can find its place there, maybe if we can iron out some more details first.

Very well collected and supported, LOM!

For the Obi stunt hilts, my impression is that the wooden master for the casting process was derived from a photo of the Obi hero taken and given to the team sometime before the trip to Tunisia (after both designs for Ben and Luke's hilt settled on---mechanisms for both carry over and the Graflex seems to have been chosen close to the last minute based on these memos) for them to work on and have it ready once the crew returns to the UK. It's fairly close in size and proportion and, like you pointed out, sports some details mimicking the Obi Hero, particularly the cut in the pommel butt plate (it's ultimately cut down on the final thing to about the surface of that cut, so it eventually becomes redundant). The Obi Hero is never seen again after production beyond the Chronicles photo and some of the parts were sourced from the same supplier of the firearms, so it makes me believe there was only ever one.
Thanks!

I could definitely see the buck being based of a photo, but I feel like today we all have a hard enough time working from the dozens of photos we have! And for as close as the buck is to a lot of details on the hero, I'm not sure the SPFX technicians would bother going to the lengths they did working from an image. I think the scaling of the buck matches the hero exactly as well, I had some great reference to work from on my buck model and it ended up scaling it to about 278mm... The size of the hero. I was hoping to try and cast my own hilts this summer following your research, to get some hands on experience myself and play around with a few ideas but that ended up not happening, so far anyways.

And fair enough about that second bit, it's kind of an old question now and I was kind of beating a dead horse with suggesting there could be two heroes. So yeah, you're probably right about there being just one!
By the time the interiors for the cantina and Death Star corridor are shooting, I'm under the belief that the V2 is either the only stunt used that sequence, or for the majority of them. Its size in the clearer, closer photos match that with what I've recreated in relation to Guiness' hands. After a number of takes, the paint begins to wear off on the emitter, and multiple wooden blades swapped. These things just sat on the nipple over the drive shaft. I don't believe the collared fiberglass stunt blades were pressed (for Obi, anyway) into service until later. No evidence suggests they were used on the Obi stunt at this point. (I also believe it's rigged to the dummy for when Vader strikes at Ben in the end).
I personally haven't studied the blades as much as other people here have so I tend to go back and forth on that bit a lot. I had some written up on that but I'm not confident that I was even close to correct on that, I'll probably drop it in the OT blade thread sometime.

I think for the rest of time we can go in circles wondering if there was more than one motorized Obi on set lol, without clear direct images of hilts (which I'm fairly certain do not exist) it's hard to prove that more than one existed on set for sure.

This part though was my strongest evidence, in my opinion, the difference between these two:
1625157006099.png
1625157382642.png


1625158575398.png
1625158580823.png

I feel like that's quite a substantial amount of paint loss between takes? Especially if in the first pic, it looks like there's no wear meaning it would have had almost no wear for the two prior days of filming, then suddenly the paint is chipping substantially in the next take.

But the V2 was definitely their primary choice of hilt, being used on set every day of filming when an Obi stunt was called for whereas these potential 'stand ins' make quick appearances and then are gone.

Oh my word! What an awesome post! I've been working away on something with a bit of overlap that I'll be posting later today hopefully (currently in word). I haven't gone in to nearly as much detail though. This is phenomenal. I'll be watching this one with great interest! :)
Looking forward to seeing what you've got! It's always in those long word docs haha.

^ Thanks to these two fellas for bearing with me and letting me throw a million theories and ideas at them to see what sticks. Appreciate both your insights :)


Going to add a quick addendum to the end of the post as well, forgot to paste some more misc information bits last night.
 
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PoopaPapaPalps

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
...
I could definitely see the buck being based of a photo, but I feel like today we all have a hard enough time working from the dozens of photos we have! And for as close as the buck is to a lot of details on the hero, I'm not sure the SPFX technicians would bother going to the lengths they did working from an image...

That's exactly why I believe the buck has the details that it has. It's not an exact mimicry of the Obi Hero rather an impression of the Obi Hero; that's all it needed to be. How it turned out once cast in metal and machined are for various reasons of its own. Some of which I only got a taste of.

I think for the rest of time we can go in circles wondering if there was more than one motorized Obi on set lol, without clear direct images of hilts (which I'm fairly certain do not exist) it's hard to prove that more than one existed on set for sure.

This part though was my strongest evidence, in my opinion, the difference between these two:
View attachment 1472310 View attachment 1472313

View attachment 1472320 View attachment 1472321
I feel like that's quite a substantial amount of paint loss between takes? Especially if in the first pic, it looks like there's no wear meaning it would have had almost no wear for the two prior days of filming, then suddenly the paint is chipping substantially in the next take.

But the V2 was definitely their primary choice of hilt, being used on set every day of filming when an Obi stunt was called for whereas these potential 'stand ins' make quick appearances and then are gone.

The size of this stunt hilt and the correlating details between the set of photos does it for me regardless of paint chipping, which may already be there but isn't caught on film. Trying to debate paint chipping I group with guessing multiple motorized stunts on set: superfluous. :lol:
 

LOM

Well-Known Member
That's exactly why I believe the buck has the details that it has. It's not an exact mimicry of the Obi Hero rather an impression of the Obi Hero; that's all it needed to be. How it turned out once cast in metal and machined are for various reasons of its own. Some of which I only got a taste of.
Ah yeah, I can see that then. This is probably something we'll never get a definitive answer on though sadly.

The size of this stunt hilt and the correlating details between the set of photos does it for me regardless of paint chipping, which may already be there but isn't caught on film. Trying to debate paint chipping I group with guessing multiple motorized stunts on set: superfluous. :lol:
I'm going to have to agree to disagree with ya on this bit :p. Perhaps debating paint chipping might be a tad excessive, but I just see some things that are hard for me personally to unsee at this point on those images.


Also, I just zoomed my way into something interesting!

This McQuarrie concept:
120 Rinzler-- John Sears Original Prototype Lightsabers from 1976 Meeting (2).jpg

"______ on G. E.C. Torch" ?

as in - this thing:
super-collectable-vintage-miners_360_e38a797c7f291e7c5d30cf0673a21f3a.jpg
1625184594594.png



Which would probably make this....
1625184417543.png

(I can not make out any of that text from this pic at all, but it would be cool to learn what this is)

this:
1625184431187.png


If McQuarrie was making drawings for these ones in particular... could that mean they were Lucas' provisions to the meeting?

Then these two would be Stears,' and the Obi parts Christian's. Also, just realized it conflicts with Christian's own account that it was mainly Roger Shaw responsible for the Obi-Wan hilt.
1625184683973.png


Not sure if anyone else has a strange fascination with these really wacky early prototypes, but I find it interesting as these are the actual prototype designs :) Would be curious to see if that McQuarrie artwork is dated something too elsewhere... Might be able to see how it fits in with the rest of development.


edit:
hmmmmm
uhm.JPG

And the McQuarrie (painted} artwork is from 1975....
 
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Halliwax

Legendary Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I’ve watched those safety torches on eBay.. but I hate paying more for shipping then the actual item purchased lol
 

dcarty

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Excellent write up! (I've been wanting to do something similar tracking the appearance of Vader's Helmet/costume as well).

Some brief information to add that might flesh out and confirm some of what LOM has written. This is from Paul Duncan's "The Star Wars Archives" (page numbers taken from the smaller 40th Anniversary edition). It's an excellent, if skimpy, resource. There is a brief discussion of settling on the lightsaber design and practical blade effects on page 111, shooting the duel is discussed between pages 133 and 135:

"Lucas began shooting the duel between Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader on May 27, 1976, with the second half of the duel. As rehearsed, the swords were spinning, but the wire could be seen in the shot. It became apparent that the best shots were when Vader's sword was not spinning but these were also the takes when the action was more static."

There is also a mention that the shooting of Ben Kenobi's cloak collapsing (I'm assuming no Lightsaber blades involved) was shot by the second unit and took numerous takes at different camera speeds.

Dave
 

PoopaPapaPalps

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
...
There is also a mention that the shooting of Ben Kenobi's cloak collapsing (I'm assuming no Lightsaber blades involved) was shot by the second unit and took numerous takes at different camera speeds.

There's video of the slice across the torso cutting through and igniting the cloak before it clumsily collapses over. I always assumed it was slowed down during that shot because it was the best take they had but it was one where the squib fired. Paul Hirsch mentions in the Empire of Dreams special that they were using any and all the film footage they had, up to the very last frames of some takes, and I always figured that was the case for that sequence. They slow it down and cut right when the blade hits and the before the cloak clumsily ignites; cut to probably a second, third, fourth unit shot of the cloak and lightsaber falling, and the movie magic is made.
 

LOM

Well-Known Member
I was about to buy one of those torches too, then I saw the shipping prices :lol:


Thank you for those snippets! dcarty I really need to start picking up more reference books... Added those bits where they are relevant in the original post. I'd love to see a Vader write-up! There is so much to learn, every one in awhile I get curious and research but it's quite intense.

Here's some gifs I just made, quite compressed from the videos though:
Obi-Gif-1.gif


Obi Gif 2.gif


The film take appears to strike the dummy in a different location:
1625250494951.png

The effect in the film is quite different than those two bts takes, I wonder if they encountered issues with the collapsible skeleton that forced them to rig something else up.

Not what Halliwax was talking about, but I had these saved.
These ones are quite interesting because they clearly show the Barbican being used on the final day of filming!


Slightly off-topic…but does this hilt design remind you on anything?
Huh, well that is quite a curious spot in the storyboards!
1625250106837.png
 

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