The Propstop’s 2014 state of the prop union address (Part 1)

state-of-the-union

You might not like what you read below….but hell its just my opinion. This year celebrates my 26th year viewing the prop business from inside and outside the curtain so lets have some home truths and some speculation all wrapped up with a neat bow!

Are you described below? No way am I calling anybody out, and if you do think its you its probably an amalgam of different you’s. Lets face it…collectors are all one giant force of nature. But seriously….its not you.

First up.

“In the beginning…..there was life!”

Little over dramatic I agree but propcollectors did exist before 1988 (the world according to me). One of the most important sales ever was in 1970 at the MGM studio backlot auction. Some great pictures here of that. This event pretty much set the standard over the years and certainly helped dictate prices for a while, in a vacuum where virtually none had been recorded or publicly known before.

MGMAuctionCatalog2

In fact almost every auction catalog since this one has had items from this sale which stretched multiple days and saw items from “Wizard of Oz” and “The Time Machine” sold off.

Convention auctions would still be a mainstay of collectors during this time right thru today, except without the hoards of people today there might be only 2 or 3 people in the room interested in bidding the items up. At “Doctor Who” conventions in the late 1980’s it would typically be myself and Andrew Beech, one of the members of the Doctor Who appreciation society locked in mortal combat for the likes of the Tom Baker era TARDIS Perspex time rotor, or a Dalek gun. Unfortunately he was a proven and slightly older lawyer in London, and I was a College boy working in a newspaper in Suffolk, so it wasn’t exactly the hardest competition to beat, but I did score my own victorys small as they were. “Red Dwarf” also proved a good spot to find props and wardrobe when “Dimension Jump” started up and various pieces from the production crew were donated to the charity sale.

Then in the 1990’s Planet Hollywood started buying for its auctions from Christies, Bonhams, Phillips and Sothebys in the UK and in the USA from Profiles, and Cambden house auctions as well as other outlets. This caused inevitable battles in the auction rooms as collectors suddenly had to outbid an almost unlimited wallet. Some auctions I attended resulted in nearly 100% sell thru to Planet H…a bit of a bloodbath until 1995 when it slowed down somewhat as the Restaurants were filled quickly, and the studios started to sell direct to them.

Then in 1997 eBay started up. Very slowly at first but as time went by more and more props showed up. I remember distinctly in ’97 a Rocketeer costume sans jetpack with its original Disney crate showing up and selling pretty reasonably. Without internet at the time it was hard to bid until I hooked myself up with WebTV, a television based internet system that provided a window on the world. In 1998 yahoo set up auction services against eBay that resulted in several amazing auctions that were missed by most including a “Galaxy Quest” sale, “X-men”, “Gladiator” and some charity auctions with the odd piece of wardrobe. Can you believe back then I bought a Planet of the apes Soldier costume for $800 and a Dr Evil suit for $2000. My how things have changed in 15 years.

Since 2000 more and more companies from Propstore, Screenused, The Golden Closet, VIP auctions and Propmasters have flourished, whereas others like Propworx, Reelclothes, Star Wares and many others have come and gone.

So….that brings us up to date. Where are we now.

“Dogs and cats….living together…..mass hysteria!”

We live in a world where props actually seem to come to you, rather than the old days of having to chase them down. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean quality…..but when quality usually comes with a high price tag what do you do.

Sadly the number one outlet of garbage props is currently eBay.

Mixed in with fakers, liars and deceit are a handful of outlets like Hollywood Parts (now Profiles in History), VIP auctions, who are amongst our best providers amid a deluge of items that were probably sold by those very companies and are now offered for four times the original price, “celebrity underwear sellers” who are the new “most autographs are fake” on eBay these last few years, out and out fakers like those seen on the Original Prop Blog selling items from thrift stores as being from “Harry Potter”, and whatever the latest and greatest film is and the occasional Gem.

This year these include items from Director Joe Johnson who sold, or attempted to sell a Jumanji Board on eBay that we currently think is in Profiles this September. He is the tip of the iceberg as good quality item do come up now and then, it just takes a lot of patience and hard work to find them.

Who is the number 2 outlet? Well currently any company that excepts items without doing research is highly suspect. Premiere props do on their key pieces but the lesser, smaller pieces aren’t getting the full attention they deserve. This has come back to bite them in the news recently with the Michael Jackson photo fiasco as can be read here. Being told one thing….is one thing. Several of the smaller auction companies are currently falling into that trap and not using the expert advice of those out their who do know better, in favour of getting more items into their auction.

Doing the research to make sure its correct. That’s what separates the men from the boys, or just dealing direct as below.

So back to the big companies. Propstore….Screenused…..VIP…….Profiles…..Whats going on with them.
Read up on that tomorrow in Part 2.

The best props and wardrobe of 2013

The best props and wardrobe awards of 2013 are decided by a council of some of the best, and most talented insiders…..ok ok…..Im busted. Its me. Im choosing my favourite props and wardrobe from Websites, auctions and private sales that I know of and thus its my opinions and based solely on my taste. BUT…..since I have a good one….let it roll!

1O: TOTAL RECALL POLICE OUTFIT (Courtesy of Screenused.com)

Well I had been waiting for these to come up and although Im still not sure of the source, it looks like Sony dumped them onto the market and a few of you scooped them up. Whilst in person not as impressive due to the cheap plastic used, the pictures that can be taken are awesome. Terrible movie. Crappy in almost everyway. Costumes……from Melina’s leather jacket to these police outfits…..awesome.

9: “Aliens” Vazquez headset (courtesy of Propstore)

One of the truly great movies of history, and one of those rare props you don’t expect to see come up. Its also something that was part of my collection for a time in the early 1990’s before passing on to its former owner before the sale for some 19 years or so. People say all the time that the Maltese Falcon, Yul Brynner’s wig and the dress from Tara are the holy grail of movie items. In years to come when those people fall away it will be stuff like this that causes people to mmmm….and ahhhhh……. Congratualtions on the new owner. Also Propstore took some gorgeous photos of this. Kudos!

8: Iron Man 3 gauntlet (eBay)

We always talk about the one that got away. Me more than most. This was up on ebay a few months back and was a foam “blow up” glove that was made when Tony Stark’s house is destroyed. I thought “no body could have seen those auctions”. Wrong.

Oh well. Plenty of more blown up stuff down the road.

$T2eC16R,!wsE9suwydzfBS(IuBOo2Q~~60_577: He Man costume (Juliens)

Your dead inside if you didn’t love this piece of 80’s cheese. Looking almost complete and selling for $10,000 this awesome piece almost made me bid. Its amazing how little of the items that have come up from this film, and yet almost the whole thing seems to have escaped destruction. I reckon if all the collectors who have squirreled them away came out of the closet we could remake it…..and make it good. Probably….

6: Judge Dredd stunt/hero costume (Propstore)

This of course was the year of the Dredd auction…but Im sure most of you have aready forgotten that. For two straight weeks grown men crumbled and were destroyed at the knees as eBay prices rocketed into the stratosphere, probably never to be repeated. That’s a shame because couple that with a whole group of replica costume makers that pretty much got it 85% correct it would seem that the fire has burned out on these pieces which is a shame because I doubt you will seem many of the suits come up ever again once they are locked into “big boys” collections, and they truly are incredible costumes. Hmmm…85%. Probably lower come to think of it. Again, Propstore knocked it out of the park with pictures and some great customer service. Thanks guys!

5: Back to the Future Hoverboard (eBay)

Still have no idea if its real. Sold for a hair over $8,000 this will probably show up in Profiles one day for $50k. No one would beat an eyebrow….but us Ebay savvy investors like to be sure.

clients_isolditca001_photo_sets_21896_DSCF0140_Edit_14: Han Solo gun (Profiles in history)

Totally not for me but you would all complain if I didn’t include it. How a hunk of resin got $200,000 just blows my mind. Much more feasable is my pre-2000 auction estimate of $50,000 but that proves the power of profiles….and that just one person has to bid and suddenly thats the going price. Until of course he tries to sell it and can’t get a bid on it…but mores the power to you laddo.

3: Man of Steel command key (Slyprops)

Continually achieving the impossible Paul continues to get amazing props from some of LA’s best movies. This command key is the best prop in the film, and coupled with his amazing eye at displays I am comfortable saying that this is just a small item in a mountain of great pieces from this talented collector.

2: Shawn the Sheep (Hollywood History)

Come on. No words required. From one of the modern era’s best pieces of animation, and beautifully displayed too this is Wesley Cannon’s Shawn the Sheep. Just classic.In at Number 2!

1: Elysium Hero Max Exo suit/Kruger Exo suit

Its a tie for number one. Why? Because the hero suits are a little bit of a mess and the Kruger suits were pieced together from more parts than an Ikea set of bookshelves of mid 18th century chinese dragon era with lots of fiddley bits. In otherwords its a miracle that either set of these came to auction as cool, working, expensive stuff like this doesn’t tend to, especially if cursed by the holy stamp of Weta who if Lord of the Rings is your thing you might be paying $400,000 for a bow. Take into account that “District 9″ seems to not have let ANYTHING out and you have some amazing pieces. My props of the year. If you ever get to see one in person up close…you will understand why.

exosuit1exosuit2So thats it for the year. Of course there were millions of other items….Heck I could have put Elysium in every category, but then it wouldn’t be any fun. We will also have our look at the best dealers of 2013 coming up in next few days so stay tuned!

 

“The Elysium Story” Guns, guns, guns “The Chem-rail”

Finally…..the Chem-rail. Probably the most in your face prop from the film sans the Exo skeleton on Matt’s back because of this one picture that seems to have appeared in every magazine or website at one point advertising the film. Its also the picture because of the lighting that made people ask “is that gun green or black?”

Well its black. Except when they use green ones.

The description from IMW.com tells the story better than I can.

Max De Costa (Matt Damon) grabs a ChemRail rifle during the fight in the Elysium armory. The ChemRail has a high rate of fire, and its high-velocity rounds rip right through walls and shred enemies. The weapon has a blazing rate of fire, and instead changing magazines, Max just grabs another Chem-rail rifle from the armory after the first one runs out of ammo. According to the official site, it fires 8.75x52mm FSDRAS (Fin Stabilized, Discarding Rail Accelerator Sabot) rounds with a muzzle energy of 18 kilo joules. It is a dual-stage weapon, use chemical propellant first and then electro-magnetic rails as the second stage.

Designed and belt by Weta the first week of the VIP auction saw a black with white lettering rubber variant sell for $6200. An amazing price, for frankly an amazing prop. The problem was just how many of them in the auction. Thanks to the unit prop list and several photos online we had a good idea.

Instagram picture of the Chemrails in the propshop at Weta by Neil Blomkamp

Instagram picture of the Chem rails in the prop shop at Weta by Neil Blomkamp

It would be the auction itself that gave us more information about what kind of guns were made. As sold VIP sold a number of guns. The first rubber in August, a second resin gun at around the same price, and a working version for around $4,000 in November.

Working version of Max's weapon

                                    Working version of Max’s weapon

The working gun had particle effects, smoke and a working moving barrel when the gun was powered. Unfortunately the black one did not have the power packs required. Those were sold back in October with the green chem-rail that had tape on it that Drake used. This one sold for around $4,000. Pictures below.

working chemrail14781394Drake also uses a green variant in other scenes without the tape attached. This version was seen more frequently in the VIP auctions, when of the very nicest on your-props

                                          Chem-rail owned by RKPETERSEN on your-props

The text with it describes nicely the “mid range Chem-rails” made for production, when not firing or being thrown around.

 

This ‘high resolution’ prop is composed of fiberglass and other materials, and represents an intermediate between the hero weapon seen in closeup and the simpler background props.  Although largely static, the spring-loaded trigger is depressible, and the stock has an integrated spring shock absorber that causes the rear of the weapon to compress when pulled back against the shoulder, simulating recoil.

These green versions sold between $1500-2500 and whilst not as popular as the black/white variant a beautiful prop from the film. A rubber version sold for $1250 and the working one was addressed above. There were approximately 6 of the green versions sold by VIP.

Around the time of the film we found out that Weta was making a replica version of this gun for $399 which I must admit put me off at the time in an edition of 750. Now knowing they will have no working parts or ability to break down as per the originals I’m not nearly as concerned.

This was of course after San Diego Comic con where Weta showed off the robot, pistol, grenade and of course the Chem-rail. Interestingly enough several of the props were wrongly painted and detailed. You may remember for instance the orange SMG from the art book. On closer inspection the Chem rail is wrong.

If you look closely the green area has the bar code too high, a red graphic on the front handle, the orange sticker near the barrel is too big. I suspect this was made after production for the event and they simply ran out of some of the graphics, the guns having already made it from Mexico/Vancouver to VIP in the mid-west for sale.

The final version of the chem-rail never made it to script. In this early script fragment Matt Damon pulls a railgun from the Raven and in the confrontation with Kruger has it literally melted out of his hand.

This is the version sold on ebay as the “melted” chem-rail which didn’t appear in the final cut of the movie.

melted chemrailThese are actually hero resin guns made for production that have been drilled out in the middle section and wires attatched down the side of the rifle that allow a current to pass thru to electrical wires inside the gun. A layer of chemicals and flashpaper were then put over the exterior of the piece and ignited to simulate the material burning and melted as per the script. When the sequence was changed Max merely throws the Chem-rail to the ground in the finished film. When we see it again, a fresh one the effect of lightning on the side is shown simulating the damage similar to the effect below.

Whilst not used these are still part of the original weapons made for the film and still an important artifact of production.

Crate of Chemrails delivered to production from WETA

                          Crate of Chem-rails delivered to production from WETA

Ill leave you with these stunning final pictures of the evolution of the gun from Aaron Beck and the final pictures taken by Weta after production. More soon!

Original design Chem-rail

                                     Original design Chem-rail

Weta final product build

                                                 Weta final product build

 

The “Elysium” story Part 4 “Guns, Guns, Guns……continued”

So in the earlier article this week we covered the hand pistol and the SMG…..time for bigger artillery!

First up Weta built the giant rocket launcher used by Kruger in the Mexican desert scenes and this was never sold during the VIP auctions.

Image

Courtesy of Christian Pearce

Image

This rocket launcher was probably custom made by Weta and not a found item.

The next weapon is Krugers throwing star seen here in the Pittsburghprops collection on yourprops.

8(2)This was the only one sold by VIP with the working light that blinks and graphics attached. Interestingly enough the light is actually the same “unit” inside the ear pieces worn by the citizens of “Elysium” painted black. This was thrown at Rico during the fight on the space-station causing him to be wounded and then blown up.

Kruger uses a similar device on his wrist that he can Laser point at a target and launch smart bombs towards. These are what brings Sandro to an untimely end when he explodes.

Kruger also favours blades, the first being his knife with the Asgari weapons corporation logo on the hilt. This is an example of a rubber and working blade, used on Matt Damon when he is stabbed in the stomach.

Krugers sword is an important prop in the film and carries the Samurai motif. Watch in the next installments of “The Elysium story” for that particular items history.

So…..onto grenades. Kruger meets an untimely end, or so we think by the hands of the grenade held by Max on the Raven aircraft. During the VIP auctions around about 4 lots of grenades were sold, and in the end I think myself and my co-buyer bought most of them in the hunt for the elusive screenmatch. It also helped that the very first lot had extra handles that could be placed on the grenades that were missing them later on. The first bunch of grenades sold in late August were rubber, but later the resin ones started showing up, which were much nicer and less paint damaged.

                                    Grenade from the RKPETERSEN collection

These props are beautiful examples of Weta’s work. The pin can be pulled, the handle flips up and off and the device is armed. For these two sell in the $200 range originally was a steal. Em not sure if people didn’t know what they were and how they featured in the film but to me they are a must have prop.

The other versions of the grenades were a different shape in gray, green and black. The best of them the HRX version that hung from Drake’s belt is here. The original artists rendering is on the right.

The version thrown under the car by an android is in fact unpainted as my brother pointed out. No decals on it either.

We will feature the Ak-47 sight in more detail later next week, but the ammunition that gun uses is very cool. Made of resin the VIP auction saw 3 sets, and a couple of unpainted versions.

The first week of the auction saw this larger version of the stun gun used only as a CGI prop go for some $1500.

The smaller handheld versions used by both Drake, Crowe and the Homeland defence team sold between $500-1300. Four resin and one rubber. Here is the rubber one from my collection in its actual holster.

I know it was scene in the B-roll footage on you-tube early on, but this gun when it came up for auction did stump quite a few people.

Originally made for Crowe, the mercenary the gun was meant to plug into the vest that he wears to power it. A scene from the script changed near filming had Crowe grab the gun when Max and Frey run from the ship only to be fired on with the giant gun, and Max using a shield like Kruger did earlier to deflect the bullets.

Crowe_railgun_02_ABThe original art for the scene is below.

E_forcefield2d_BM_905It is also positioned on the weapons rack in the armory scene.

Which brings us neatly to the main gun in the above image. The Chem-rail. Guess what….

new_railgun_02More on that tomorrow!

 

 

 

The “Elysium” story part 3: Designing robots

One of the real joys of the film is the realistic and thoughtful design process that the props and vehicles went thru, and perhaps one of the best examples of this is the robots.

Originally as we discussed in part 2 of this series the “Elysium” film was going to be made on a smaller budget using humans in costumes to portray the robot guards and sentry’s. Here is an early example of this.

which later on became this:

before becoming the final version that was used in the film:

Elysium_Droid2_PEARCEBut, even then this version was subtley tweaked when the original puppet versions, and static robots used in the Armadyne factory had to be changed when the design was altered again after the footage had been shot. This meant CGI changes were overlaid over the top of the original filmed robots.

A good example of this is the gold robot that Max attacks in the desert. Originally the robot was one of the 19 made for production by Weta of New Zealand and had arms that could be removed, along with a specially made head that turned 90 degrees and then pulled away with fake sparking cables, oil pouring from leads and other physical effects built into it like working fans that spun. Of the other 18 robots, 10 were background robots, 7 were hero for Max to work on in the factory with removable chestplates etc, and one was a “Homeland” variant in red.

The gold version see with its head being removed by Matt Damon was made in New Zealand, transported to Mexico and then altered with CGI in Vancouver.

Matt Damon on set with director of the film

                                         Matt Damon on set with Joe Dunckley of Weta

One of the main things to look for is the shoulder graphics and slightly different head design. The orange cross made of tape on the arm socket was for CGI placement of the arms. This variant also had a metal backplate that was designed to bear the stress of being laid on the back of the pickup truck for the sequence.

Matt Damon stars as Max in TriStar Pictures' ELYSIUM.In the end the physical props were used in quite a few shots but were never mechanized. Any movement as such was done with CGI.

Robots being built at Weta Workshop

                                           Robots being built at Weta Workshop

The robots were made using cad files and the parts 3d printed and molded. The entire list of parts came to over 700 and they simply snapped together or bolted like a giant lego set. These are the 7 hero factory models produced.

WetaProps10Below is the hero red “Homeland” variant that was taken on display Summer 2013 to Comicon.

Red Hero "Homeland" robot

                                                 Red Hero “Homeland” robot

Watch more of various sequences from the film here.