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The Blast Doors Telethon
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DragonStar (Rob)
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 2:16 am    Post subject: The Blast Doors Telethon Reply with quote

Hello Blue Ridge Base! I'm working on an interactive photo backdrop that will replicate blast doors from The Phantom Menace.



The original thread is here:
http://www.rebellegion.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=22225

People have been asking me about this project through PM and in person, so I wanted to collate all the info in one place. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please post them here. I will be keeping a record of those who contribute (time, money, materials, ideas) and putting it in the "credits" that will accompany the backdrop (unless the contributor wishes otherwise).

If you want to contribute, there are several ways you can help:
1) Send paypal donations to meglineberger@gmail.com with a note "blast doors."
2) donation of materials: if you have any items from our Materials Needed List that you could deliver my way, it would be much appreciated!
3) Lisa's prop day was a success so I might have a "blast doors" prop party here. I know that J was interested and he lives close.
4) Ideas, comments, suggestions are all welcome! For reasons dealing with the time/space continuum I'll retain creative control of the project (since the blast doors live at my house and I work on them daily.) But ideas, advice, or potential pitfalls are welcome because the "hive mind" is often greater.

And now, and overview of the project. Consider this part historical record, part build thread, part project plan... and all FUN!

=======
PURPOSE
=======

To create an interactive photograph backdrop replica of the blast doors in TPM. When someone inserts a lightsaber into the blast doors, it will light up to simulate molten metal. The person will be surprised/awed/aghast and at that moment a picture will be taken.



Possible uses for this are:
1) Backdrop for costumers to take profile pics against
2) A wow-inducing attraction at formal events or cons to get people interested in the Rebel Legion. Anywhere that has long lines, this would be perfect to break up the time. Any events at museums, libraries, malls, etc would be perfect as well.
3) It could be a way to generate donations. "give Make-a-wish a donation and have your picture taken!" I will discuss this option with the powers that be of course but it is a possibility for fundraising efforts.

=========================
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE SO FAR
=========================

Step one: decide on materials
`````````````````````````````
The first step was to design the blast doors. Taking into consideration weight, portability, cost, strength, ease of assembly, and look, I decided on the following recipe, from back to front:

    Rigid foam insulation panels >
    Glazed with diltued wood glue (aka scrim) >
    Covered in strips of cotton fabric, which are then coated again in scrim >
    1 coat of gesso >
    1 coat of gray paint (primer, if you will) >
    A thick layer of pumice medium and/or acrylic gel medium mixed with fine sand. This layer hides the cloth edge marks and creates a rough-hewn "drop forged" texture (thanks Chris!) to give the faux metal some depth. >
    A transluscent wash of black paint to pool in the pits, crevases, etc. This will be wiped off when semi-dry to leave the ridges intact. >
    A layer of metallic acrylic paint applied with a sponge >
    Another wash of burnt umber/cobalt which will be wiped off much more quickly, leaving a hint of color behind >
    A protective coat of satin varnish


That is the recipe I'm working through now. I will test the whole recipe on a scrap of foam when the metallic paint arrives.

Step two: design the prop
`````````````````````````
I spent a couple evenings going frame by frame through the blast door scene. This mockup was based on synthesizing many of the screenshots together:


However, this turned out to be inconsistent from frame to frame depending on angle, lighting, etc. Clearly something was wrong with my design. The a-ha! moment came at the 7:11 mark when one of the destroyer droids shoots the top corner of the blast doors. There is a shower of sparks and for one frame, the entire set is illuminated:


Finally, I could clearly discern the shape and location of each element! That gave rise to the design you'll see in the upcoming build images. For that reason I am going to code name this project "the 7-11 project." Lucky omen, indeed!









Step Three: Design the dimensions/assembly/transportation/setup
```````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````
This is still in flux, but there are practical limitations:
1) Parts have to fit in the back of my car so that there's at least one way to transport it.
2) the prop cannot be more that 8 feet tall because of standard ceiling light limitations.
3) Therefore the backdrop must be done in parts and assembled on site.
4) There must be a support framework that is light enought to transport but sturdy enough to ensure the structure remains upright.

The first test of limitation #1 has passed: I took the backdrop to Lisa's -- so it can travel. #2 required some slight modifications to proportions of the backdrop. If you were to superimpose a photo of our blast doors onto a movie still, it would be off a bit. But side by side it would look right.

I am still working on #4. My basic plan at the moment is to use collabsible aluminum poles and plastic jugs. The jugs could be filled with water on site to add weight and stability.

#3 is a bit of a puzzler. We need to be able to assemble the backdrop but not bump into the ceiling during assembly. Perhaps we could use snap brackets so that the parts can be put on from the front... needs thought and testing.

Step 4: cut out the pieces
``````````````````````````
I made a jig to cut out the circular pieces and used a straight edge for the straight pieces. Fortunately the blast doors don't seem to have bevels. The jig is a large base of plywood (with a plastic rod in it as a pivot point) combined with a long arm with many holes. The foam cutter lives at the end. One of the holes is placed on the pivot point and a circle or arc can be cut from it. This is slow going because I skimped on the foam cutter and bought an underpowered "foam cutting needle" from JoAnn's. So each piece took about 30 minutes to cut.

Step 5: glue the pieces together
````````````````````````````````
Liquid nails foam paneling adhesive glues the sections together, and books /paperweights/skillets were used as weights.

Step 6: strengthen the panels with scrim
````````````````````````````````````````
The "cloth mache" process took about 12 hours. I did a third of it at my house, a third at Lisa's, and a third is left to be done still.

Step 7: prime, texture, and paint
`````````````````````````````````
I have primed and textured half of the parts and have ordered some metallic paint (Lascaux Studio Bronze acrylics in aluminum and stainless steel) to get the metal look. Unlike most metallic paints which are silica based, these paints are actually made of metal suspended in emulsion.


To do:
Buy one more foam sheet to get a solid background for the top half. Cut those last few pieces out (top left panel, top right panel, and top center cap), glue them, scrim/prime/paint them. Design the support structure. Assemble the whole deal and make sure it works. Then the blast doors will be done.

=======================
PHASE TWO: Molten Metal
=======================

Then the real work can begin, which is to make the prop interactive. Here is the basic gist:



I'm hoping to make the "molten metal unit" self contained so that the blast doors could be independently set up, then insert the molten metal unit through from the front. This would increase the ease of setup and transport, make the unit more flexible of a backdrop, and also allow the unit to be serviced without having to work with the blast doors in the way.

Qui-gon puts his saber right through a horizontal bar that is inches away from the seam that divides the top and bottom halves of the blast doors. I am considering moving the "saber interface port" in our blast doors down a few inches so that I can make the molten metal unit stand alone. This would also make it easier for kids to reach.

To make this work I'm going to have two nested tubes. One will be as wide as the largest section of a Hasbro toy saber for those kids who bring their own sabers. The larger tube will contain the wires for the orange Halloween lights. This will keep all wires neat and contained. The switch will be inside the inner tube. I will probably have to make it. I want a hinged contact that will touch the other contact when the saber is inserted. My current plan is to disassemble a standard power strip, remove the switch from it, and splice in wires to my home built switch. That way, anything we want to turn on when the saber is inserted will simply need to be plugged into the power strip.

==============================
PHASE THREE: Finishing Details
==============================

If everything listed above works, then the next item of business is to make this battle station operational. In other words, make it easy to use in the field. Some ideas:

    Create a custom packing crate for it (probably out of coroplast corrugated plastic) so that it could be carried into cons, shipped via UPS/FedEx, etc.
    Create soft boxes to add diffused light around the photo subject to get a good portrait.
    Create a poster explaining Rebel Legion and the blast doors project for those waiting in line to see the blast doors.
    Add a lit floor and lit "ceiling" to enhance the effect as seen in the movies.
    Create an instruction manual and a "field repair kit" with paint/tape/glue so that people can repair it on site. It is made out of foam after all.


So now you know a bit more about the project, the thoughts behind the design and execution, and the future steps. What are the currect needs? Glad you asked!

=====================
Materials Needed List
=====================

If you have any of the following items collecting dust in your garage, please consider donating them to this project. It would be very spiffy of you. Or if you feel generous and want to donate to the project, send paypal donations to meglineberger@gmail.com with a note "blast doors." If you wish to remain anonymous note that too, otherwise I will thank you on the site, in person, and on the "credits." Smile

Immediate needs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Orange Halloween lights (two strands)
Wiffle golf balls
wiffle baseballs
gesso
acrylic gel medium (matte or glossy are fine)
fine sand
wood glue
elmers white glue

Future needs
~~~~~~~~~~~~
4 x 8 foot coroplast panels
Sunalux or equivalent 5500k compact fluorescent bulbs
bulb sockets
high quality power strip with on/off switch extension cord

You can view the photo gallery here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/robsspamtrapper/BlastDoors?feat=directlink
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 2:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's cool! Cool
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DragonStar (Rob)
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 3:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks!
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally I "get" it.

Time/Space continuum? Surprised You've crossed over to the trek side! Razz
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DragonStar (Rob)
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Engage!
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Make it so!
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rob, I hadn't really realized the scale which you're making this thing...that thing is big!!! It looks great as of now...

And all I wanted was some sort of picture background!!!
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DragonStar (Rob)
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A mere picture background? That is way too small for us! LOL

Yes, it will be big, you are correct. Specifically, it will be 14' wide x 8' tall x 3' deep. But I am making it "componentized" so it will have a smaller configuration of 8' x 8' x 1'. This would allow it to be set up in smaller spaces. But no matter what, it is big.

I have a perfect storage space for it under my crawl space behind a door right next to my driveway. Storage is not an issue.

How often would we get to use this thing? I don't have an exact answer, but I will say this: It could have been set up at 100% of the (admittedly limited) trooping events I have been to thus far:

Museum of Life and Science
Pottery Barn Kids
Bolton Elementary School Library
RBC Center box office

Each of those events had large areas near walls with power outlets where people were passing by. It would not work well for parades, ball games, outdoor events, or cons with space limitations.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 2:29 am    Post subject: Pics update! Reply with quote

I have done a test of the metal paint and I think it is going to work. I'm not an experienced faux metal painter but this has a lot of potential. Here are some pics:










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PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That looks great! Now that I've got my brain wrapped around this I can see what you are doing.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool! If your brain happens to wrap around any ideas or suggestions, then don't be shy! LOL
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This used to be my living room. Wife's urge to kill me rising....



Here are some WIP shots. The white outer ring is a second layer of sand/acrylic medium because I skimped on it last round and the edges of the cloth mache strips were still showing. The inner part is the staining underlayer which will show through a bit and (I hope) help sell the metal look.




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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My brain may have wrapped around it but ideas are short in supply. Razz

lol @ wife's urge to kill rising. We used to have a dining room table.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, it happened. The woefully underpowered foam needle bit the dust. When I replace it, it will have to be one that works a bit better. The kids watched Toy Story in it's entirety while I cut out two pieces.

In the meantime, here is a task list for posterity and documentation followed by some WIP pics:








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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Update on painting...


















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