I thought it worth putting some typical questions and answers down. The technical section is correct to the best of my ability but if you notice a mistake then please lmk.
It's a site devoted to detailing, discovering and archiving the vast range of Star Wars helmets, armor and costumes that have been made available over recent years. It is a reference site where you will see lots of images of some wonderful Star Wars props, and most importantly hopefully where you will always find honest and unbiased reviews and comparisons. I am not a helmet, prop or Armor producer so like to think that I do not have "an axe to grind". If it's good then I'll say so, and if itís the best then I'll say that too!
www.StarWarsHelmets.com covers both licensed and fan-made helmets and also has sections with lots of images of the real screen-used props as well as a couple of tutorials on making and painting. There are also lots of pictures of Star Wars fans in action, whether at conventions in the UK, or at the Disney Star Wars Weekends in Orlando, Florida.
Just how much information is on this site?
When I last checked in 2006, there were over 2,700 photographs on StarWarsHelmets.com, spanning more than 130 pages. Over the four years (now 6) its been running we've showed off nearly 200 different replica helmets based on 64 different characters from 50 different prop makers and producers. We get between 500 and 600 visitors on average per day and the biggest peak was over 2,000 at the height of the Revenge of the Sith Premiere build-up. At the latest count we've had nearly half a million visitors.
What's the difference between XXX and YYYY Helmets/Armor?
First off there is a LOT of information on this site so make sure you have a good look through it in case your question is answered somewhere. The Stormtrooper section goes through practically EVERY different kind of Helmets & Armor available. There's also a comparisons section and also lots of sub pages comparing different helmets and armor which can be accessed both from the individual "Armor" pages and also the "Compare" page. Likewise with Vader Helmets, except in that case I've split them by Movie (ANH, ESB etc.).
If you want to see how the different Stormtrooper helmets compare, from screen-used to modern replicas then check out this new page here
seen a helmet on your site and I want it!
Chances are that if it's fan-made it'll be rare and therefore expensive. It may have been made some time ago in a small run and is simply not available any more unless you can convince someone who's already got one to part with theirs. Just to be clear on this, I DO NOT MAKE (OR SELL) ANY OF THESE HELMETS! I'm just not clever enough!
friends got an "original" Star Wars helmet, what's it worth?
It's unlikely it's an original. An original screen-used SW helmet is going to be worth upwards of $10,000 or $20,000 dependent on what exactly it is and what condition's it's in. Even in the mid 80's when interest in SW waned, the price of original props was still measured in thousands.
got an old Star Wars helmet, what's it worth?
Unfortunately, if its one of the mass produced Vinyl Don Post licensed helmets then probably not very much unless itís a "Deluxe" (i.e. made from Fiberglass) Vader, Tie Pilot, Stormtrooper, Boba Fett or Biker or to a lesser extent one of the "Classic Action" 1:1 copies of the above. Check out the Don Post section for more info. More recent Rubie's helmets are worth even less. Search through the site and see if you can find your helmet on it. If not then mail me a picture!
Who is Don Post(DP)?
Don Post were the official licensed provider of Star wars mask and helmets right from 1977 up to 2000. They produced a nice range of helmets and to some extent tried to appeal to all ends of the market, from the casual fan wanting a $30-$50 helmet, right up to the Deluxe range costing > $1000 as well as the excellent lifesizes. Don Post himself worked within the film industry for many years and his staff had some involvement in some of the masks and helmets in the original trilogy. They finally lost the license following disastrous sales figures from their "Phantom Menace" range. This was not really their fault as the film was pretty much devoid of any decent new characters they could base their designs on. For more info check out the Don Post icon.
Who is/are Andrew Ainsworth(AA) and Shepperton Design Studios (SDS)?
Andrew Ainsworth (AA) and his company Shepperton Design Studios produced most of the original helmets and armor for Star Wars back in 1976. They now produce a new range of helmets from the original moulds.
When Don Post lost the license, Rubie's picked it up (along with many of the original DP moulds), however they have mainly concentrated on the lower (cheap) end of the market. At a recent trade show they did however show off some very interesting prototypes. They are noted for having one of the worst web-sites in all creation! For pics of their helmets then click on the rubies icon.
are non-licensed helmets better than licensed?
The main reason for this is that for any licensed prop maker to make money, they clearly need to make as many as possible. Therefore you're talking about serious mass-production. Add to this the fact the limited number of people prepared to spend $500-$1000 for a copy film prop and already you can see the commercial problems in producing these items. The lack of high end/quality Star Wars helmets left a gulf in the market which individual prop makers moved into. Producing them in very small numbers allows them to often faithfully reproduce a replica of a screen-used item for a "reasonable" price. The best replica helmets have been cast of an original often screen used costumes.
aren't prices and site addresses listed?
Because many producers may not have a license to produce these props. Lucasfilm believe themselves to be the exclusive owners of all rights to everything in the Star Wars universe, props and all. And they are all protected by the copyright and trademark laws of the United States and other nations.
How important is screen accuracy?
Very! Although when we say "Screen" accuracy I mean "how it looks on the screen", rather than whether it reflects the actual state of the prop as it is now. i.e. 27 years later the original prop may well be somewhat knackered, I thik most people want their helmets and props to look exactly like those I saw on the silver screen back in 1977.
Where are the other other (non-armor) Trooper costume parts derived?
Thanks to Brinn 71 for answering TonyRB's question on this.
prop/helmet making process
Casting is where an item (such as a helmet) has been copied such that a (pretty much) exact copy of the original has been made. The casting process is long, labour intensive and complicated. Essentially a cast of the original helmet is made using Silicone or possibly Urethane. This will be the "negative" of the original prop. This negative will need to be worked on as the original may have marks and blemishes that need to be removed (often the effects of time on a screen-used prop who's life span was only measured in weeks). If serious work is required then a cast of this (i.e. a positive) may be required so the sculpt can be really worked on. If this is the case then a new "negative" of this will be made which will then become the master from which all subsequent helmets are made. The quality of the negative is paramount as the resulting copies will all reflect its features (e.g. the sharpness of the edges).
What is Recasting?
Recasting is where a less-skilled prop maker takes an existing fan-made prop and produces a 100% copy or it. This is frowned upon by fellow prop makers as all the work carried out by the previous caster is merely duplicated with little or no "art"or "skill" involved (plus also the recaster is profiteering from the hard work of the original caster, who gets nothing). Of course there is a valid argument that the original caster is himself a recaster as he's merely recasted the original film-used prop. The only thing in his favour is that he's had to get hold of an original prop (and bear the cost of that), and also he's probably had to do an enormous amount of work on the mould to get it to the stage where copies can be made. This is a sensitive subject within the prop making community! Ultimately I suppose on the Original prop maker is doing so legitimately, everyone else is recasting his work.
is a custom sculpting?
This is where a (often extremely talented) individual has sculpted a prop using photographs and drawings, rather than cast an original screen-used prop. A perfect example of why someone does this would be the Han Solo (Harrison Ford) head sculpt seen here. Now unless Mr. Ford had his head cast in plaster in the seventies (and you've got access to this) then itís the best way to get a 3D likeness of him. Recasting someone else's original sculpt is the lowest of the low, whatever way you look at it. Almost all of the "usual helmet suspects" such as the Stormtrooper, Vader, Fetts, C-3PO etc. have been cast from an original rather than a new sculpt as thankfully some of the original helmets still exist.
are these helmets and armor made of?
∑ Sheet plastic (such as ABS or Styrene) which is heated and then vacuum formed (i.e. blown and then sucked!) over a negative copy of the original (the mould). The thinner the plastic and the stronger the suction, the cleaner and sharper the cast will be. Most Stormtrooper helmets and armor are made this way, as were the originals. Usually since white ABS or Styrene is used there is no need to paint as the plastic has a naturally glossy finish.
∑ Gel-coated Fiberglass. This is painted on the negative in layers, building up the thickness of it as required e.g. Darth Vader and Boba Fett helmets are usually produced this way. When set it's sanded, primed and then sprayed using standard automotive sprays. Think of the finish you get on a car and that's the finish you can expect with fiberglass.
∑ Resin. Typically used for smaller items (such as blaster parts and other weapons), resin can be used for the helmet although its brittle nature makes it a more risky choice.
Styrene is a clear, colourless liquid that is a component of materials used to make thousands of everyday products and is used in everything from food containers and packaging materials to cars, boats, and Star Wars Helmets and Armor!. It's derived from petroleum and natural gas by-products.
Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene, also known as ABS, has been mass-produced since 1960's. Most Trooper Armor is made from ABS. Other interesting facts:
Polyvinylchloride, also known as PVC, has been mass-produced since 1938.
What is HDPE?
High Density Poly Ethene but most commonly known as Polythene. One of the most common plastics you use in daily life it has an oily-type finish. Some of the original Prototype Stunt Stormtrooper Helmets were made in HDPE as Andrew Ainsworth (the original maker of the helmets) had some of this plastic in stock as he was making Garden ware and Fishponds. It was a khaki-coloured plastic and due to its oily nature it was a bit of a struggle getting the white paint to stick to it. Many of these original helmets are now looking the worse for wear with the original white paint flaking off!
Why is your site so slow to load on my PC?
Well that's because this site is all about pictures, and most pages are made up of lots and lots of them. I could have had thumbnails and pop-up boxes but then you wouldn't be able to see so much without clicking on everything to bring up separate boxes. As fast internet connection has become more commonplace I decided to assume users will have this. Sorry if thats not the case buy at least you'll be able to surf the site when you get to work!
I'm having problems with the 3D Pictures
I've occasionally had problems if I've had too any windows or applications open. Esentially the 3D routine is just flipping through lots of individual pictures so it just needs a bit of memory. Oh and make sure your holding the mouse button down while your moving left and right, and give your system a few seconds to load the whole thing (i.e. 20 frames at 25k per frame)
What's a grown man doing collecting plastic helmets from a kids sci-fi movie?
I dunno the answer to this one but if you work it out maybe you could let me know.....