Thoughts on "idealized" vs more "Screen accurate" replicas? Vader Helmet Example

Inquisitor Peregrinus

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I hate the Black Series R1 TK helmet more the more I work on it and find various issues with it. Although, my goals have changed over time. In the beginning it was to have been a representation of a sloppily put-together ANH helmet, but now I want it to be my vision of an idealised version, and so my standards are set so much higher.
Yeah, I would definitely steer people wanting to recreate the asymmetry of the original prop away from the Black Series TK. Even if one is wanting a good representation of the R1 helmet, work is required. I have some lineage helmet kits to work from in correcting the R1 alterations -- reshaping the tears and traps, correcting the number and size of pinstripes, recreating the OT earcap greeblies, etc. -- as well as good reference to correct the other things -- leveling the brow band, filling the tube indents to paint them as topical stripes, extending the front undercut and replacing the annunciator cover with one that goes further back, and so on.

I find it to match the original prop in most gross and fine dimensions, with a level or correction and tweaking I'm comfortable with. Everyone's mileage differs. :)
 

jkno

Master Member
I prefer my prop replicas to be with warts and bumps like the screen used. Still I realize that many times, even with all these intended imperfections, the prop replicas might be not perfectly accurate to the screen used, being, intentionally or not, idealized in some way. Collectors need to understand that 100% accuracy doesn't exist. In the end, if I like a certain replica, accurate or less accurate, then I get it.
 

Ned Figglehorn

Well-Known Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
First thing I want to get out of the way is, you look like you could be related to Tony Hawk :lol: I sit on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to idealized vs screen accurate.

A few examples, The proton pack from Ghostbusters, when you take a look at the original packs, there is wonkiness everywhere you look! Very few straight lines, and lots of just interesting texture and detail that we've grown to love over the years! I love it enough that I'm willing to replicate all the little dings and imperfections on the original cast on my own replica packs!
iZCZjTE.jpeg

But then in comes the idealized Macks Factory Pack... All the wonkiness is gone, everything is smoothed and clean looking, and I love it! It really hits that satisfy button in my brain. A proton pack that looks like its fresh off the showroom floor is so pretty to me!
PXL_20210323_234057103.MP.jpg


Another Example (for me at least) would be Daft Punks helmets! Don't get me wrong their Discovery era helmets are a beautiful work of art, but from certain angles you can see they are asymmetrical, their chrome has a slight texture, piece's are often left off entirely during appearances, often displaying some chips here and there during their earlier days.
Eue8eA1UYAYw08X (1).jpg


Years down the line, Ironhead studios took on the task of making the robots a new set of lids. These new idealized helmets show some drastic changes, they are now symmetrical, many of the seam lines and holes have been filled, most notably on Guys helmet! The chrome no longer displays that pitting texture or chipping, instead opting for a beautiful blemish free mirror shine!
8ff8c79fe91f60c71b71fe6e5a237e5d.jpg


I think there is a place for both Screen accurate and idealized props especially in my collection. I have a heart for the wonk but I also drool over the idealized props.
 

Vagabond Elf

Active Member
Replicas of props are great, but I think sometimes people get to worried about matching every detail. Often there are multiple props that are supposed to be a single in universe item. If they have differences, they can't all be correct for the in universe item.

This comes up from time to time on the Astromech forums, usually with someone who hasn't really dug into the filming props getting confounded as they try to find "the" on screen look. Especially if they're working on an ANH appearance - none of the various props and costumes used to depict R2-D2 in that movie actually match. And of course a number of things got broken over the shoot, which changes the appearance even further.

Heck, even R5-D4 has at least three different bodies in his brief appearance in ANH. During the droid sale, we first see him in two-leg mode; this is one of "Kenny Droid" costumes with Jack Purvis inside. (As a tangent, I'm firmly convinced the reason Arfive's head is so much taller than Artoo's is because Mr. Purvis was that much taller than Mr. Baker.) Next, we see him drop his centre leg and start to roll. The leg drop itself was the 2-3 convertable "R/C Droid," the one that was actually motorised and radio-controlled. This shot is very truncated because the cente leg wouldn't lock in and Arfive kept faceplanting. I'm not actually 100% certain this droid is in the movie proper, but a lot of the behind-the-scenes reference pics are of this prop, and I'm reasonably sure it's the body being used when the droids all wake up in the Sandcrawler. Finally, the roll-out and then explosion is the "secret backup frankendroid," a fibreglass casting that was made without the knowledge of John Stears, as a just-in-case because Gary Kurtz was worried about the complexity of the R/C prop. The "frankendroid" would have been needed in any case, because apparently it wasn't until the day of shooting that anyone realised setting off a pyro charge inside the R/C Droid would have been a Very Bad Thing, but it also saved the day when the damaged and complex R/C droid just wouldn't work.

The upshot is that if one wants to build a "screen accurate" replica of the droid prop, one can't just pick a movie or even a scene - one has to pick a specific shot. And then there probably isn't enough reference material to do the entire droid based on that single shot. And then there will be some effect or gizmo that you really want to include, even though it wasn't possible on the prop you chose.

The result is that I feel the droid builders lean much more towards the "idealised" side, albeit while incorporating certain elements or oddities from their preferred movie/scene/shot. I know that I personally abandoned any notion of trying to match a specific prop for my droid very early on. Of course, I also come from a LARP background, and I'm sure that impacts my preferences as well.

Oops, that wandered pretty far away from my original "if you think it's hard to match a specific helmet or blaster prop try matching a specific droid prop" witticism. :)
 

marker2037

Active Member
I prefer to have my props made of durable materials. Granted I know this sometimes means it's not as accurate, but I intend to handle my props so I want them to last. I'm not much for display only props. Considering the amount of money and time (if I build the piece) spent, I don't want to baby my collection too much. So if I can get something that was originally made in resin, made of machined aluminum? All the better etc.

As far as dings, scratches, etc, it really depends on the piece. For some I prefer pristine/ idealized items whereas some I much prefer the beat up/ worn look. When I build my V2 I think I'll likely do something close to the weathering seen with Trent's stencils, but I would tone it down a bit when I apply them only because the real prop had more paint on it while they were filming ROTJ. I admire the dedication some fans have to replicate the prop as it looks in Brandon Alinger's collection today, but technically that's not how it looked when Mark Hamill was using it.

When I do weather an item I get close but I don't drive myself nuts getting every scratch exact. I tend to go for weathering that sort of feels right. Ultimately I think keeping an item pristine or weathered really depends on what I think will look better, even if it's not as accurate to the real prop.
This pretty much sums up my beliefs as well.

I can't think of many (if any) instances where I would rather have an inferior real world material just because an original prop was made from it versus owning a version made of a real world material which it was supposed to be portrayed as in universe; a resin vs metal lightsaber, a flaking paint HDPE vs ABS Stormtrooper helmet, etc. Give me the better material please, I like my items to display well and hold up to plenty of handling.

As far as weathering, I totally get that some people want to screen match every nick and ding and scratch down to the most minutiae and I think that's pretty cool a lot of the times and obviously is very difficult and time consuming. But there are only a few props that, to me, deserve that level of detail and scrutiny (Vader's helmets) and in order for a prop to qualify for that level there has to be significant screen time where you can actually make out these details in the film and not just something that was found from a prop in an archive photographed 4 decades later after it's been passed around the world in dozens of promotions and displays, picking up all kinds of postproduction degradation.

For all other props that don't fit this special category, I weather close to screen accurate, but to a point where I feel the prop could have existed within the timeline of the filming, not just what it looks like postproduction. Vader's ESB MPP was not rusted to all hell from the start of the filming of the movie, so I will instead make a version with weathering that sort of matches what can be best seen, but also fits somewhere within the timeline of when filming started to when filming ended. During that timeline it surely was in better shape in the beginning than what the postproduction pics showed us, so I find somewhere in that range that suits my vision and try to design that.
 

Psab keel

Legendary Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
It's more important to me to get the overall proportions and shape of a prop right than to get the weathering exact (at least on most pieces) as the outline of a piece can make or break the look too much. You want it to pass the silhouette test. If you can hold your V2 up to the light so as to cast it's shadow on the wall or floor, does it's shadow look to be the right shape enough where you can say that it's Luke's ROTJ lightsaber just from it's profile?

It's funny because I hadn't considered why certain items look "right" or "wrong" with or without weathering until I'd typed up one of my earlier posts. It sort of came to me as I was writing it, but so much of the story of a prop really comes from who it's supposed to belong to in the film. So for example, Luke's ANH saber would likely be more pristine having been stored in Obi-Wan's trunk all those years. A few years of use, some modifications/ maintenance to it and we get to the more weathered hilt seen in ESB, which also accounts for why I'd prefer the blade to be a deeper color blue than the pale blue from ANH. Come ROTJ and the idea that Luke constructed his new lightsaber from leftover scraps in Obi-Wan's hut and we get the V2 which is far from pristine, but super functional.

Plus there are the few props that are "standard issue" as I like to think of them. An E-11 is a mass produced weapon in this galaxy so while the real world preferences of whether I have an M19 Scope (with whole light port or cut light port) or an M38 Scope are purely what I think looks best, the sort of rationale for my personal story with the prop is that this was the version I was issued by the Empire before I defected or outright stole for the Rebel cause. I never actually typed it all out but there are these sort of micro stories that I find some of my friends who are prop collectors have as to building up a logic of why they prefer one prop over another or why they own certain pieces at all. It's almost like creating this tiny mythology around my collection so that it elevates it to not just a series of objects, but as my personal narrative within this vast fictional space.

Then there's the category of theme too. If I collect pieces for a costume, I tend to have just the items necessary for that costume alone as then it feels complete to me. Though there are some pieces I'd get just to sort of round out the costume. In a non Star Wars example, I have a replica of the Browning Hi-Power pistol Indy uses in Raiders. I have the Smith and Wesson too, but I like having the Browning as it saw just as much prominent screentime in the movie and it just makes my Indy Gear feel more complete.
 
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Inquisitor Peregrinus

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Plus there are the few props that are "standard issue" as I like to think of them. An E-11 is a mass produced weapon in this galaxy so while the real world preferences of whether I have an M19 Scope (with whole light port or cut light port) or an M38 Scope are purely what I think looks best, the sort of rationale for my personal story with the prop is that this was the version I was issued by the Empire before I defected or outright stole for the Rebel cause. I never actually typed it all out but there are these sort of micro stories that I find some of my friends who are prop collectors have as to building up a logic of why they prefer one prop over another or why they own certain pieces at all. It's almost like creating this tiny mythology around my collection so that it elevates it to not just a series of objects, but as my personal narrative.

That's a biggie for me, too. One of the things I'm working on is my Hall of Heads. I am not doing full costumes for several of these, but just the helmets, so I have a full lineage of: Old Republic Trooper => Phase I Clone Trooper => Phase II Clone Trooper => Phase III Storm Trooper (from the Kashyyyk scenes in The Force Unleashed -- transitional between the ROTS look and the OT look) => Phase IVa Storm Trooper (Solo version, still in use at low-priority Imperial installations years later) => Phase IVb Storm Trooper (gestalt idealized ANH/ESB Stunt/Hero) => Phase IVc Storm Trooper (idealized ROTJ) => Phase V Storm Trooper (Legacy version).

Still debating the First and Final Order Troopers, as that's a parallel track, part of Palpatine's Contingency, and more straight Sith than Imperial. Thus, arguably a different narrative.

I'm also doing a SpecOps lineage: Phase I ARC => Phase II ARC => Imperial Commando => Storm Commando.

The stuff I have displayed I want to tell a specific visual story. Same as I could see some variations between E-11's being different manufacturing facilities, while others would make more sense as different points in production lineage. I point to the Mauser C96 as an example. All the variations, early to late, different chambering, different trimming depending on where a particular one was made, or for whom... But all still recognizably the same gun. The Emperor had "an entire Legion of [his] best troops" waiting on Endor, so I consider that version of the armor and blaster to be the latest and best. That factors into how I approach the props. If I were to display an ANH E-11 -- with the cords and all -- next to an ROTJ E-11, the former would have a bit more wear to the bluing on the edges that snag, subtle dings from use in the folding stock and magazine housing, etc. The latter would be more pristine and shiny and all the markings clear and readable.

Then there's the category of theme too. If I collect pieces for a costume, I tend to have just the items necessary for that costume alone as then it feels complete to me. Though there are some pieces I'd get just to sort of round out the costume. In a non Star Wars example, I have a replica of the Browning Hi-Power pistol Indy uses in Raiders. I have the Smith and Wesson too, but I like having the Browning as it saw just as much prominent screentime in the movie and it just makes my Indy Gear feel more complete.

That, also, for me. I do a "wardrobe" approach. My TNG era Starfleet persona has a closet full of the appropriate attire: Dress uniform, class A duty uniform, class B duty uniform, class C utility uniform. My Royal Guard persona has the formal robes, the TFU armor under that, flight gear, Stormtrooper armor, Stormtrooper officer's uniform. Both have the appropriate weapons and accessories, and nothing more. The latter, for instance, has the force pike, the holdout blaster, the SE-14R blaster, and the Merr-Sonn blaster, but no E-11, as it's not one they've been shown to carry/use, though I have no doubt they are well trained and capable in its use.

It's a fun mental exercise to figure out what to include and how to portray it.
 

Dr Jones Sr

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
For me the end use/purpose dictates the approach.

I'm not a collector, I'm a cosplayer.

Imagining for a moment that I am a collector acquiring a prop purely for display, I would want my replica prop (or costume piece) to be as identical as possible to the screen-used item as it appeared during filming.

The universe the prop is coming from is the universe of the film industry.

So for example since the original Old Ben lightsabre was cobbled together from bits of WWI weapons, old cars, home fixtures, etc I would want a replica prop to look like it was made in the same way, ideally be made in the same way.

And if I wanted to display an ANH Vader helmet I would want it to look like the one used on set as it existed during filming, asymmetry and crude hurriedly-done touchups or whatever the case might have been.

However if I'm cosplaying, the universe the prop is coming from is the fictional universe that the film is supposed to take place in.

It's impossible for my lightsabre to have been cobbled together from WWI weapons and old cars because in my universe these things never existed.

And my Vader helmet would have come from an entirely different reality, made from high-tech materials and using incredibly sophisticated manufacturing processes. It would be utterly symmetrical, for example. (Of course as a cosplayer my helmet doesn't come from that reality! It's merely trying to appear as if it does.)
 

Inquisitor Peregrinus

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I am, in fact, running up against this right now with my First Order Stormtrooper build. The film costume was cast in moulds and made from a flexible-ish urethane that allowed seamlessness in a couple key areas that wouldn't work with a more rigid material. At the same time, they allowed for variable fitment by making the sides of the chest and back armor, and the insides of the thighs and calves, overlapped, with velcro closures. Every other joint where armor places come together -- even the ones that are velcroed -- are flush and butted. Some are actual seams, some are moulded in "impressions" of seams. It's an inconsistency I found irksome. The kit is made from ABS, and is a less forgiving material, so two of the key one-piece items on the film suit are two each in the kit. It is up to me to figure out how to re-create the seamless look of the originals, and also how to re-create the visible thickness of the pieces that the kit does not capture.

I could slap it together and call it done and 99% of the population wouldn't know the difference. I could put the work in to make it identical to the film suit -- complete with the inconsistent closures and other things that are "good enough" for a film shoot. But I am putting in the work to clean up those seams to make them match the others, make the decorative seams actual, and in a few other ways "clean up" the look of the thing. Even though 99% of people would never know the difference, there's a subliminal thing that our brains do when we see one of these artifacts in situ...

That cobbled-together Obi-Wan lightsaber is interpreted by our brains as the thing is is intended to represent in the film. Even people who know real-world firearms glossed past recognizing Sterling submachine guns and Mauser pistols and accepted them as plasma-firing blasters. We see the OT Stormtrooper armor on the big screen and take it to be what is implied -- high-tech body armor that is cold and precise and mechanical, like the Empire it represents. It was fascinating to see when Anovos offered the OT Stormtrooper replica kits, how many people complained that their helmets were damaged in shipment or had melted or whatever, because they didn't realize that not only were the original items not symmetrical, just how sloppily asymmetrical they were.

I've heard people at conventions comment that someone's "Centurion" certified exact recreation of one of the film suits from Star Wars, that they spent months researching and replicating in exacting, warts-'n'-all detail, "looks like ****". When face-to-face with a representation in reality of the fictional artifact, most people expect the implied perfection that was never there. So I aim for that in my costumes.

The prop itself, as an artifact in Reality-Land, has its own caché. One of my favorite TED Talks ever was Adam Savage's about his dodo skeleton recreation and delve into the Maltese Falcon. He speaks perfectly about the meta nature of such objects.
 

Dr Jones Sr

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
That cobbled-together Obi-Wan lightsaber is interpreted by our brains as the thing it is intended to represent in the film. Even people who know real-world firearms glossed past recognizing Sterling submachine guns and Mauser pistols and accepted them as plasma-firing blasters...
Interesting that you mention that.

I saw Star Wars in 1977 with my father, who was a well-informed military history buff and also a firearms buff, and he was quite amused by all the WWI and WWII firearms, pouches, bandoliers, etc as well as the obvious references to German uniforms such as the vestigial gask mask cannister on the backs of Storm Troopers, the uniforms of the Imperial officers, Vader's oversized stahlhelm, etc.

Not much missed his eye, and I do believe he laughed out loud at one point. He never accepted any of that stuff as belonging to the "Star Wars universe" though he did enjoy the film, the cobbled-together campy look of it.
 
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Vagabond Elf

Active Member
Interesting that you mention that.

I saw Star Wars in 1977 with my father, who was a well-informed military history buff and also a firearms buff, and he was quite amused by all the WWI and WWII firearms, pouches, bandoliers, etc as well as the obvious references to German uniforms such as the vestigial gask mask cannister on the backs of Storm Troopers, the uniforms of the Imperial officers, Vader's oversized stahlhelm, etc.

Not much missed his eye, and I do believe he laughed out loud at one point. He never accepted any of that stuff as belonging to the "Star Wars universe" though he did enjoy the film, the cobbled-together campy look of it.

I think that is why so many people dislike the Kalashnakov-based blasters in Andor. An AK is such a distinctive shape, even when it's all greebled up and not that different from the Sturmgewehr-based blasers in ROTJ, we can't see anything but the real-world weapon.
 

Too Much Garlic

Master Member
The examples in that video are kinda pointless to add the accurate two-tone to. Neither of them are accurate at all, so I'd prefer the black one, as it looks better.

I always find it weird when they go all out on details like that and the reveal details you rarely ever see, when the sculpt itself looks like the old Altmanns helmet.
 
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CopperRevan

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Screen accurate vs. Idealized?

For me, i like things as close to screen accurate as possible. (I will also use Luke Skywalker's many ROTJ versions as examples and compare them to Obi-Wan ANH Lightsaber)

Because Obi-wan's were actual parts brought together you get a lot of symmetry and idealism. In comparison, Luke's was cast, went through conversions and variations which you see through out the movie. We know now that Luke's V2 was first painted as a stunt for OBI-wan in the Darth Vader scene. But the actual ANH saber is the balance pipe, grenade etc. with idealized rings. Luke's was anything but idealized, especially in the grenade section, box, painting variations etc. (You all know this).

To be honest though, to recreate a "screen accurate" prop is to "ideally" recreate it when we know it's never going to be 100% duplicated because these props are old, have been handled and paint has come off and now we are making reproductions off of prop pictures and how they are today, combined with little accents of what we see in the actual scenes. It can be exhausting but it's still fun for nerds like me...lol.

I believe(No real proof) that Luke's Hero was "meant" to be "idealized" in the end with even rings on the grenade section. Had they used real parts(for the main body) like Obi-wans, it would have been that way, but it wasn't and i actually like the quirkiness of all his hilts as they were in the movie because that is where i connect to it. Now, to be honest, i didn't always know there were more than 2 hilts used in ROTJ, but with knowledge...you know the rest..lol. Subsequently, we see after ROTJ the "idealization" of his hilt being used. I personally like the one's in ROTJ the best because it's a part of my childhood and the OT.

In conclusion, for me it really boils down to this one premise above all. People will always be valued over "things". Rightly so. Being an artist myself, musically, constructively, creatively, whatever...i never can seem to be satisfied with what i create myself. I'm always changing it up, fine tuning it. Whenever i create something that is "ideal" it really tends to bore me whether it is a song, poem, picture..lightsaber...lol. When i make something a little abstract, it frees me up more and reveals more of my "signature". With people, i'm so thankful we were created differently with distinction and nuance and vibrance and not as automatons, all programmed to be exactly the same in every way, like robots. With created living things being the standard, i will be consistent to apply that standard to a created unliving thing like a prop. I like nuance and screen accuracy because it honors that nuance. If the prop is idealized in the movie then i like that idealism honored as well. Chalk it up to my OCD...lol.
If we are honest with ourselves, we like both "idealism and screen accuracy" to a point...what we see on screen as the foundation of the idealism, so you can't really throw the baby out with the bath water. Hope all this makes sense, i'm starting to confuse myself...lol
 

Inquisitor Peregrinus

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Ironically, that gets back into actual or potential in-universe rationalization. I have less of a problem with Luke's lightsaber having wonkiness because it was built from Obi-Wan's spare or burned-out parts, and who knows what shape they were in.
 

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