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October 22, 2020

Propshop UK’s James Enright Tells Us How Those Amazing 3D Collectibles Are Made for Star Wars (Audio Interview)


James Enright, Director, Propshop UK (This article first appeared on USTimes in July 2016 – well ahead of the release of the film. We thought you might find it interesting now that Rogue One is in the theaters! And if you don’t have your tickets yet, you can go to to Fandango and get them!)

James Enright, Director of Propshop UK has the enviable task of supervising the construction of 3D collectibles based on the actual props from the Star Wars movies, the Bond franchise and others.

We spoke with James about the process, how it works and who is involved. It takes up to 100 people working with 150 cameras and post-processing the vanilla maquettes to finish these awesome works of art.

Listen to our interview with James Enright here (or read the full transcript below):

USTimes interviews James Enright of Propshop UK about their awesome 3D Star Wars Collectibles and how they are made.
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And, here’s a little behind the scenes scoop – the models for Rogue One are already finished. Maybe we can get a closer look very soon.

Who is involved and how are those amazing 3D Star Wars collectibles made. You can find out more at https://collectibles.starwars.com

Reys-Staff-960x630

Reys-Lightsaber-Hilt-3-960x630

POE-DAMERON-X-WING-HELMET-6

Kylo-Rens-Lightsaber-Hilt-3-960x630

KYLO-REN-HELMET-4

FN-2187-STORMTROOPER-HELMET-6

Crafting the Props from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
(Courtesy of Disney)

Crafting the Darth Vader Helmet (Melted) | Star Wars Collectibles: Ultimate Studio Edition
(Courtesy of Disney)

Crafting the Rey Staff | Disney Boxed | Star Wars Collectibles: Ultimate Studio Edition
(Courtesy of Disney)

TRANSCRIPT:
JAMES ENRIGHT from Propshop UK interviewed by our Senior Editor, Cirina Catania:

Cirina:
James where are you this morning?

James:
I am in our design department, in a room that’s where we do our thinking and our design work and our troubleshooting andl the fun stuff. I’m surrounded by lots of things that are coming up and also lots of things that we’ve put out including Star Wars studio auditions. We are based in the middle of Pinewood Studios, very close to the 007 bond stage.

Cirina:
The recent announcement about The Force Awakens props caught my eye. I saw some of the behind the scenes of how you were doing that. Are you also working on Rogue 1 now? There’s a lot of prep time for this stuff right?

James:
We’ve completed it, yes.

Cirina:
Nice, that’s exciting. Let’s talk a little bit about what Propshop does for people who might not know.

James:
Propshop is, I call it an asset production company, because we get invited to work on movies where we produce physical props and costumes and set pieces. Also we have a few arms to the company where we capture and scan every asset on a movie and we also create a lot of digital assets. It’s a physical and digital asset world for us, is what we do. We used a lot of, what I call, advanced technologies including 3D printing, to produce both physical props and digital. Some are digital assets, we can use those assets to then 3D print and create, bring into the physical world, which we’ve been doing with our collectibles for Star Wars.

Cirina:
They look beautiful. On Force Awakens and Rogue One, did you go to the set to choose some of these things? Did they bring these to you while the movie’s finished? Do you go to set during production? What’s the workflow there?

James:
The workflow is we’re lucky enough to be involved in the design and the build of the actual props themselves. We’re fairly intimate with the real thing that’s being shot on. Also in terms of our crossover, we crossover to many departments on a movie be it creatures, or costume or effects, special effects. That’s the type of company we are, multi-skilled and faceted if you like.

The pipeline is we do get every single prop and action set and vehicle is on, especially Star Wars movies, are scanned. We catch them using our huge camera rigs that we’ve got. We use a process called photogrammetry, which is really an array of 150 cameras in a circle. We put the item in the middle of that and we capture 150 images. The clever people here stitch them together and creative the models. That’s really how we get a rich archive as we use as resource. We choose these items, these collectibles. Really forensically we copy them and make a replica. As I say, because we’re in the film studio we do use the same technicians and artists to make these items. We make them as faithfully and as authentic as possible to how the original was done.

Cirina:
When I look at some of the videos of … You take the pictures, and we’ll get into that in a minute. I’ve seen some of the videos where they’re actually using brushes. It looks like an archaeological dig of this very precious relic, right? I love that.

James:
That’s the 3D printing process we use. We use many machines. One of our favorite machines is a Volksa Jet (sp?) machine. They’re big. Something like the Vader mask, the Vader melted mask, that we 3D print in one piece from using the original data that was used on The Force Awakens. That comes out one piece. That’s how that prop was produced for the film. That’s basically the item the collector can get. It’s as near to the real thing as you’ll ever get.

Cirina:
What’s the printing medium? When they’re finished what medium are they made on?

James:
To answer your question, the medium is an acrylic powder, which is very fine particles so that they’re bound together using a resin that is then put down from a print head. We’ve got techniques in house. Actually when you see those making of films, the parts are we call them vanilla parts. They’re plain parts. We get parts and then we infiltrate them with different resins, different chemicals, and we paint another type of resin that makes it very tough and durable. Also make it to the surface and we can delete the finishing artists and the prop makers can work and finish and age and they’re great, whatever they do on them to basically give you the finished article.

Cirina:
That’s exactly why I was asking because it occurred to me that the medium that it’s printed on may not be strong enough to last over time. That’s why I was asking that question. I’ve seen pictures of them painting these props when they come out and the work’s incredible. It looks like they’re painting on fine porcelain.

James:
There’s lots of processes involved. There’s what we call the post process. Once we’ve got the parts, we then work with them. We spend a lot of time hand finishing. We spend a lot of time prepping them and making the surface ready for the final artwork. That’s what you’re seeing. It’s people are used to seeing 3D printed parts, just in their raw state. Then people are always a bit surprised to find out these pieces are actually 3D printed because of the work the guys actually do on them.

Cirina:
That’s beautiful work. How long does it take from start to finish on a prop like, for example, the storm trooper helmet? How long would it take to make that?

James:
On a 3D printer such as Volksa Jet printer, the build envelope is you can print eight … I know it is probably eight helmets can be printed at one time. That’s the box. That prints over a period of 30 hours, but then once we get them we work with them. There’s a good probably 100 hours in a helmet like that.

Cirina:
I believe it. I can imagine. What’s the biggest challenge for you? What is, for example, the most difficult prop you’ve ever had to make?

James:
I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. I think that when you’re asked to work on Star Wars obviously, and I’ve said it before, it does come with a responsibility. You try and everyone raises their game. The whole crew raised their game to really produce the best work possible. Stars Wars has a legacy and a look that people have to understand. You have to educate yourself on that look. When we were working with the art department and then the prop master and the director and we are asked to make the JK saber and Kylo Ren’s saber, that’s something that is a difficult challenge.

You need to do something that the fans are going to accept and it’s going to work with the film. There’s lots of light sabers that have been made before but I think that one was something that we wanted to get right. We spent a lot of time producing prototypes and using our digital pipeline. For me it was probably for the first time on a daily basis, we would produce a prototype and then give it to the director to look at. He would take a Sharpie and mark it up and ask us to reduce it in size or try this or try that.

Literally, because of the technology we’ve got, we’d go back into the computer. We’d digitally model it and then it would be 3D printed. We would give it to me. Literally every day we’d give him a new one to the point where we would refine it and refine it and refine it until we get something that both the actor and the director wants to use. It was a challenge from that point of view. How would we get that working and not be too precious about that as well? You have to sort of know when it’s not working and then be brave enough to go another route and those types of things.

These props are also an extension of the characters. They’re sort of the character in their own right really. When you buy one of these collectibles, they’ve got plenty of feeling in them. Put it that way. That’s what we try and do.

Cirina:
You’re making personalized versions right? Did I read that correctly? You’re making some versions that they’re going to sell that are personalized for people?

James:
They are, you’re right. They’re called personalized maquettes, where you can be scanned in our head rig and then your head can be transferred onto a body or storm trooper. We did that for really a bit of fun for the producers on the movie. Then everybody loved them and therefore we started to do them commercially, the fans who wanted them. We do them again everything like the propshop. We do it as high end as possible. We try and create them … They’re quite big. They’re like 18 inches tall. They’re sort of third scale. We call this third scale. So as I said quite large. They beautiful things if you wanted to be a storm trooper or a favorite character. They’re not a replica as such, but as I say, we did them for a bit of fun for the producers and we’re doing them now for the collector.

Cirina:
(As of last July) Where do people go to order these now? They’re in Harrods and where else can they go to order them?

James:
You can go to starwars.com and order the collectibles. Harrods is a one-off. It’s running to the end of August (2016). We did it to overlap with celebration. We also built the Millennium Falcon cockpit that’s in there. It’s in Harrods. That’s very special. The Millennium Falcon cockpit was something that our whole team was involved in to recreate. It’s an amazing thing. It’s something that’s as well known and iconic as that it’s own take with the Star Wars stories. I think the one that’s in Harrods is literally the other one. The other one’s on a set and the other one is in Harrods. It’s a great thing to see. There’s a force for change contribution. There’s a big charity donation made if anyone actually can buy one.

Cirina:
Will the fans be able to see any of these in person at ComiCon?

James:
At ComiCon, the collectibles will be there. The great thing about that is that the fans can actually handle them and view them up close. We’ll be on the stand as well. A team will be on the stand of our makers and artists. They’ll be answering questions and interact. That’s going to be exciting.

Cirina:
That is exciting. What’s next for you and your company?

James:
I think for us, Propshop is the same. We started life off making movies, movie props, and this is really interesting for us. We wanted to get into this, into making collectibles, but we wanted to do it with something very special. We also wanted to make sure that what we do is different and unique. I think we’ve achieved that. I’m very happy. I think we would love to continue with Star Wars and bringing out things that are a level of authenticity that can’t be matched. That’s what we do. We’re lucky enough to be in Pinewood Studios where these movies are made and we’re involved in it in a daily basis. It’s an honor to be able to do it actually. Everyone feels very proud of what they’ve been able to do. People really put their hearts and souls into these things as they’re making them. We’re happy, we just want to continue doing that really for the moment, for the foreseeable future anyway, short term and long term.

Cirina:
How many people are on your crew?

James:
Our crew is ever expanding. Currently we’ve got just over 100 people who work for studio additions. That’s probably around 80 artists and technicians on the floor, making these things. That could probably be growing.

Cirina:
James we can go to starwars.com, where do people go to find out more about Propshop?

James:
You can go to our website which is http://www.propshop.co.uk/ and you’ll see really a cross section of what we do as a company. You can see the various things of how we do it and other properties, other movies that we work on. We’re very proud of our relationship with James Bond. We’ve had a long standing issue with James Bond that we also do an amazing collectible DB5, third scale DB5 that we made for Skyfall. You can see that on there as well. If you’re interested in props and you’re interested in making these things and how these things are made then there’s a wealth of information on there that you can see, all the making of videos and obviously Facebook and Twitter we constantly update. There’s plenty of information on us.

Cirina:
We’ll definitely send people there. James Enright from Propshop UK. Thank you so much for talking to us about all your wonderful work. I’m Cirina Catania for US Times.

End of Transcript

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And for those of you who want the entire scoop, here’s more:

Disney and Lucasfilm launched Star Wars Collectibles that are made to order by propmakers at Propshop in Pinewood Studios using digital data collected during filming of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the production process marries cutting-edge 3D printing technology with master craftsmanship to produce replicas virtually identical to those seen on screen. Available initially in the U.S., starwarsultimatestudioedition.com is the exclusive location to purchase these products.

The initial offering from the Star Wars Collectibles line features eight prop replicas from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, including Darth Vader’s melted helmet, Rey’s lightsaber hilt, FN-2187 Stormtrooper helmet and more. Each replica item is a limited production piece due to the high level of craftsmanship required to create them.

These made-to-order replicas will come with custom display pedestals, packed in branded wooden crates that are inspired by the real crates used to ship the film props. Each one is custom built to accommodate the shape of the replica inside.
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Propshop in action on 3D Star Wars Collectibles

“We are continually looking for new ways to extend the storytelling from movies in innovative ways,” said Josh Silverman, executive vice president of global licensing at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media. “We’ve worked hand in hand with the film makers and talented team at Propshop to create a unique product experience for fans and we’re excited to see their reactions to these incredible prop replicas.”

Visit Disney’s YouTube channel to view the latest installment of their “Boxed” series to get a behind-the-scenes look at Darth Vader’s melted helmet being created; then tune in each month to see reveals of new items added to the Star Wars Collectibles: Ultimate Studio Edition line. For more information, visit starwarsultimatestudioedition.com.

About Lucasfilm Ltd.

Lucasfilm Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is a global leader in film, television and digital entertainment production. In addition to its motion-picture and television production, the company’s activities include visual effects and audio post-production, cutting-edge digital animation, interactive entertainment software, and the management of the global merchandising activities for its entertainment properties including the legendary STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES franchises. Lucasfilm Ltd. is headquartered in northern California.

About Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media

Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media (DCPI) is the business segment of The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) that brings our Company’s stories and characters to life through innovative and engaging physical products and digital experiences across more than 100 categories, from toys and t-shirts, to apps, books and console games. DCPI comprises two main lines of business: Disney Consumer Products (DCP), and Disney Interactive (DI). The combined segment is home to world class teams of app and game developers, licensing and retail experts, a leading retail business (Disney Store), artists and storytellers, and technologists who inspire imaginations around the world.

About Propshop

Propshop is a digital and physical asset production company providing film productions and wider audiences with data acquisition, 3D conceptual design, and manufacturing facilities. Known for its ability to bring ideas to life both digitally and physically, Propshop combines the latest technologies with traditional craftsmanship, producing unique artifacts for film, promotion and consumer products.

Propshop, Propshop Studio Editions, the Propshop logos and other related properties are trade marks and/or copyrights, in the United Kingdom, United States and other countries, owned by Propshop Productions Limited. © & TM Propshop Productions Limited.

STAR WARS, and related properties and character names are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries, of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. © & TM Lucasfilm Ltd.

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