Tag Archives: sci fi

Happy May Links

Happy May, everyone! It’s a busy month for many of us as seasons wind down and summer seasons wind up, and for those of you in the educational world, classes are ending and graduations approach. But at least it’s getting warmer outside! And I have some links for you!

CBS Denver has an article about Bill Slezak, the prop master on the touring production of Mary Poppins. The show has some 4,000 props, and Bill is in charge of repairing and placing all of them in whatever city they go to. Be sure to watch the video since the article itself is just a brief transcription of said video.

Kasterborous has an article about Nick Robatto, one of the chief prop makers on Dr. Who. Not only does he make the props for the show, but he also makes the licensed replicas of the props to sell to fans. How’s that for carving out a niche in the market?

Have you heard about the giant head found in the Hudson River? A New Orleans prop maker guesses it’s over 10 years old (he says the pink foam inside hasn’t been used since the eighties), while a Mardi Gras float maker says it’s a Mardi Gras float. What do you think?

Finally, a lot of film props are made by piecing together found objects. Cracked has put together five Sci-Fi gadgets that are really just everyday objects.

The characters of "Warehouse 13"

Warehouse 13 Props

The characters of "Warehouse 13"
The characters of "Warehouse 13"

This past Saturday, I had my first day to myself in about a month. So I spent it doing what I love to do when I’m on my own: watch sci-fi. I saw Hulu had the first four episodes of Warehouse 13. I hadn’t seen any of it before, but had heard good things.

I loved it, but that’s beside the point. This is a blog about props, so let me talk about the props. This show has many. There are many steampunk-inspired gadgets, gizmos and set dressing. But more on that in a minute.

The show itself is essentially about objects. Two Secret Service agents find themselves transferred to a secret warehouse in South Dakota which holds artifacts from around the world with various magical, mystical, or otherwise unexplainable properties. Their job is to hunt down these objects and safely store themn away. Every episode is essentially about one of these objects. They range from an Aztec blood-stone; Harry Houdini’s wallet, a psychiatrist’s chair that unleashes your subconcious desires, and the guillotine that killed Marie Antoinette. In other words, every episode is about a prop.

The gadgetry is the other exciting prop topic on this show. Sal Rubinek’s character has a whole collection of strange paraphenalia, as well as a steampunk-ophile’s dream office. I thought I recognized the computer keyboard as one created by an artist named Datamancer; indeed, on digging through his blog, I found the post where he details being contacted by the Syfy channel to use the Sojourner keyboard he had built.

Other gadgets include a Tesla-built electric stun gun, and a two-way video communicator called the Farnsworth. You can catch a good writeup on these props at Wired and in the Steampunk Fashion.

Ancient Hallucinatory Device from Stargate SG-1

Original Stargate SG-1 Props

Another blog has pointed me to The Prop Store of London, which has started selling a selection of props from Stargate SG-1. They actually have props from hundreds of films, but if you’re more interested in those, you are strange and uninteresting.

Ancient Hallucinatory Device from Stargate SG-1
Ancient Hallucinatory Device from Stargate SG-1

Many of the props have wonderful detail shots as well.

Ancient Hallucinatory Device detail
detail of carvings, engravings, and painting

This specific device even has a detail shot showing the back with the wiring.

Detail shot showing wiring
Detail shot showing wiring

There are good descriptions as well:

This large heavy piece is made of wood, metal and resin. It has gold accents wrapping around the sides, silver glyphs painted on the top, as well as crystals sticking out of one side. The orange core inside can be seen through clear pieces of plastic to show the internal workings. When plugged in to a power source, the internal core glows orange.

Good stuff. All this for just $1,995. It’s a great site if you’re interested in collecting original movie props (and have the money!), but I find it fascinating to really delve into the construction techniques for a great variety of props in various films.

In addition to props, prop replicas, and wardrobe items, you can also peruse a nice-sized collection of production art. I like to browse the prop drawings.

Production concept sketch for Vo'Cum 3-D Device
Production concept sketch for Vo'Cum 3-D Device

It’s really great when you can find a behind-the-scenes view of films which focuses so thoroughly on props.

Movie Prop Replicas

As I’ve mentioned a few websites dealing with film props, I thought I’d point out some communities based around replicating famous props from films. These are great resources for a lot of tutorials, such as vacuforming, casting, and working with fiberglas. They also focus on DIY and inexpensive solutions, so any prop shop can benefit from diving through the wealth of material they have.

The Replica Prop Forum – This is one of the cornerstones of the community, with members interested in props for a wide range of films. It also has discussions about costumes and scale modeling. Since it is a forum, it can take some time to navigate and search around, but it’s worth it.

TK560 – This site has tutorials and guides to building a number of props from Star Wars, Star Trek, and a number of other sci-fi films.

TK409 – Another site with tutorials for making do-it-yourself Star Wars props.

The previous two sites are part of the 501st legion, the “world’s definitive Imperial costuming organization.” It is an organization of over six thousand people who dress like members of the Empire in Star Wars. All of these sites have a plethora of links to other DIY prop and costuming resources throughout the internet.

The Magnoli Collection of Prop Replicas – Indy Magnoli’s collection of prop replicas. Most are based around the Indiana Jones’ movies, but some other films are represented as well. There are a good amount of paper props as well, with descriptions of how they were made.

That’s it for now. Let me know if there are any other sites you find interesting. You can also point out any other communities or groups which would have useful information for prop people.