Shepperton Design Studio Helmets & Armor Info
Thats Right He has a New Website
His New Website http://www.originalstormtrooper.com/home.html
NOTE: Will Not Ship To US. (See Info Bottom Of Page)
Shepperton Design Studios
SDS Stunt Helmet
|The first helmet Andrew Ainsworth made from his newly-reformed Shepperton Design Studio's company was the Stunt helmet, which was the most commonly seen helmet in ANH (50 Stunts as against just 6 Hero's). Made of HIPS it has a glossy white appearance and SDS has always voraciously maintained that it is cast from the original 1976 moulds.|
The helmet is finished with an green acetate sheet behind the "eyes" (as per the originals) but is not painted but instead has purpose-made decals. The Hovi-mix mic tips at the front are cast from an original set so again are totally accurate.
Above a dark and moody shot from Blastermaniac, ...and below a couple of shots of the helmet with its stand and plaque from Musashi.
The Stunt comes with a purpose built stand and plaque, although the design of the stand was changed in 2005/6, so different from above.
The key interest with SDS is that it's quite unique to have one of the artisans involved in the original production, remaking the same props they made for the movie, combined with the issue over the original moulds. Over the years, there have been questions asked about the state of the moulds given there are differences to the back and cap where the originals "drooped" more. However, what has never been ascertained is the current condition of these moulds given the originals were made over 30 years ago.
The detailing is superb and extremely sharp. Made of 1.5mm white Styrene, they've been color matched against the original 1976 plastic used on the ABS Hero's (note not the Stunts as they were Khaki HDPE which was then painted white - in fact painted very roughly!)
The main areas on concern on the helmets were the reduced undercut, and the previously mentioned back and cap section. However from the front IMO its indistinguishable from the originals.
Note the presence of the warping around the right eye, again seen on the originals
Mic tips are injection molded casts of original hovi-mix. Below, shot of the rear showing the reduced "bell" shape seen on the original Stunt helmets.
Below, another shot from the SDS site showing the reduced undercut found on the new helmets (right), in comparison with an original HDPE helmet (left).
Note: As you can see the Green film in both pictures and foam padding
SDS Hero Stormtrooper Helmet
|In 2005, SDS followed on from the Stunt with a "Hero" version of the Stormtrooper helmet. There were just 6 original Hero helmets made for ANH in 1976 and they were all made from ABS (and therefore not painted) - hence this is potentially the more accurate helmet since its made of a very similar material.|
According to the SDS web site, for the Hero, Andrew Ainsworth has made an exact copy of the original mould which has allowed him to make a few changes without affecting the original moulds themselves (which were/are still used on the Stunt). It's made from a significantly thicker 2.5mm HIPS (High Impact Poly-Styrene) which still looks to have produced a very sharp pull.
Apart from the gray "double-bubble" lenses, the Hero also has a low Luke-style brow and a smaller frown with only 3 teeth rather than the Stunts 4 or 5.
The ears are also trimmed more and there looks to have been some work to the rear section as well. In addition the Hero only had a single upper ear screw instead of two on the Stunt. However the screen used Hero's had only 3 bumps on the ear section not the 4 seen here suggesting SDS used the same Stunt style ear moulds.
Below, a comparison below of the Stunt and Hero helmets side by side
SDS Stormtrooper Armour
|In the summer of 2005, SDS announced they would be producing Stormtrooper Armour to go with their helmets, along with a new lower-cost "Battle-Spec" Stormtrooper helmet.|
The SDS armour comes "ready to wear" straight out of the box which is quite unique in the armour market. As you can see the armour has the distinct "tells" from the RotJ armour (itself recast from an ANH set), apart from a few areas like the shoulder bells which appear very much ANH.
More shots of the SDS Helmet and Armour. Not sure if its ABS, HIPS or styrene. If you have an SDS suit and want to review it then lmk.
The new armour is a precise duplicate of the armour we produced in
1976, but using todays more advanced production techniques and
materials. Made of acrylic capped ABS this rugged armour has been
made not only to look great on a mannequin but also
strong enough to withstand the rigors of costuming. The ABS matches
the same color hues of the original helmets as well as our own current
range of Stormtrooper helmets. You can combine it with the Stunt,
Hero or Battle-Spec range of helmets.
Comes ready-to-wear straight out of the box with the black body suit
,gloves, hand armour and a professional “popper” integrated strap
system. They also ensured there is enough tolerance in the armour
such that it can accommodate various body dimensions- with sizes
typically varying from 5’6” to 6’2” with different builds. However as
a modular design it can easily be adapted for people outside the core
dimensions. Supplied with or without the battle-spec helmet this is a
collectable you will want to wear.
This is how I Mod my Armor Or Most Of it .
The Picture Above is how I did mine too.
The Picture Below I permently secured the velcro strap to front and Back armor inside.
Picture On Left is what Mine Looks like, I found this after I did the Same thing to mine "We Think a like"
Picture On the Right Is not what I use, I used another set of Male & Female Clips
I did the Same in both of these pictures. But On shoulder straps I dobbled the snaps it holds better.
Interview with Andrew Ainsworth
1. How did you originally get involved in Star Wars in 1976?
I was a young product designer just out of Art School in London, venturing
into producing my first designed product and convinced that it was going to
seriously change the course of history....`A sports car`... I had always lusted
for a Ferrari Dino, but student income never quite stretched that far. I had
been working on the product for a couple of years or so and managed to get
the production numbers up to 50 odd units, subsidizing the project with odd
jobs and other work. In fact I think I was better at the other work than making
the cars, and became quite an expert in manipulating composite materials of
all kinds, including designing and building the plant and machinery to process
it. My company was called Shepperton Design Studios, and I operated out of a
1,000 year old farm house in Shepperton, just by the Film Studios.
As the old farmhouse caught fire one day, I moved back into London, an
area called Twickenham, which was littered with artisans, rock groups,
intelligent litery people and generally a most agreeable place to be, cosseted
by the meandering river Thames. Several film and TV studios were also
located there and it was not long before my reputation for creating real and
interesting items became known. I had built a 15ft long vacuum forming
machine in the front of a Victorian sweet shop on Twickenham Green, just
6 ft from the pavement.:... we had to knock out the front of the shop to let
the heat out and likewise all the moulded component parts were just left
out on the pavement to cool down... .. All sorts of stuff spewed out of that
shop window...cars., boats, furniture, film props and even fish ponds.
One day a good friend of mine had an enquiry for a futuristic military character.
He was a scenic artist and he had no concept of how to achieve three dimensional
characters. He was however an excellent artist with an enviable out-look on life
and was madder about cars than me. When he asked me if I could make him
something workable, I did not think twice... There was no money in it, not
even costs, but I thought it was worth the gamble in the hope that something
might come of it.
At this point not knowing John Mollo, I delt only with my artist freind...just a
gentleman’s understanding that if anything came of it we would both prosper.
2. How did the Character evolve?
I thought this futureistic character might have evolved a protective skin as a
result of the toxic climates of the future. They developed breathing aparatus
and protective “armour like” skin, much the same as an armadillo. This would
not be just be a man clad in armour but a mutated being totally encrusted in an
organic protective coating. With this vision it could not be a being with armour
made from conventional materials.
I made no sketches, no models, no engineering drawings… I sculpted the
production moulds directly, using my own blends of resins, fillers and metal dusts…
The production moulds were the sculptures... they were positives, negatives
and reverse engineered. They incorporated undercuts and tumblehomes and
produced a moulded finished article that caught the highlights and shadows of
an organically formed being. It wrapped around the body as if it had grown.
My efforts were accepted and admired. I willingly gave Star Wars productions
Ltd. the prodject on a plate. Given that the character was the “Useful Artical”
from which the film could be made ,it is not surprising that I was given a free
hand in creating many of the other characters.
After I made the initial Stormtrooper helmets for my artist friend i was in
troduced to John Mollo, who was the costume designer for the movie. John was
an excellent communicator. We had an empathy and understanding of what
was required, and he used every character I gave him.
On the two occasions I visited Elstree Studios, it was obvious that the production
crew were not a happy bunch, and the film was on a knife edge. Their creative
juices were not flowing and they did not seem to have the resources to overcome
their anguish - I think they viewed me as a blessing in disguise and accepted
my involvement at a distance.
3. Which helmets did you create for the first film?
I made a dozen or so characters. There were several variations of the
Stormtrooper helmets, and then we did the TIE pilot. One day George Lucas
showed me a drawing. It showed a black helmet from the rear view. He asked
me to re-create this. Knowing how they worked I went home, and instead of
giving him a plastic back I sculpted up a TIE pilot with a whole new character.
I went back the next day and said, “What about this?” and he loved it.
4. How did this current project start?
After Star Wars my reputation grew. The management at Shepperton Studios
asked if I would like to operate from the old power house at the studios
I leapt at this chance as unfortunately during the completion of the production
of the Star Wars characters at Twickenham, I had mistakenly blown up the
building. The plastic scrap had built up at the back, I think I had been welding
too near and not paid attention to glowing embers… anyway the scrap caught
fire, which was also next to half a dozen Oxy Acetylene bottles, and they blew….
what a mess…!!
I therefore moved to Shepperton Studios to work, which gave me time to rebuild
the house. I concentrated on Film, Adverts and television prop production for
about five years. I did work for Jerry Anderson at Pinewood, and made the
thermo plastic front projection screen and the wind machines for Superman. I
also worked on Alien for Ridley Scott. I had a great five years, then suddenly,
as if out of nowhere, somebody invented the computer and we prop makers
were history. Well I hate computers, and so I gave up the film business and
proceeded to build another empire related to my other designed products, by
this time, water sports. About 25 years past, and one day back in the rebuilt
house in Twickenham, I was being hassled for school fees. ( how life changes…).
On top of the wardrobe were a few remnants of a past era… yes.. Star Wars
characters… Almost without my knowledge they were despatched to Christies
for a Christmas auction. Even I was surprised when they fetched $60,000.
With the school fees paid, and phone vibrating itself off the wall with enquires,
it occurred to me that there might be justice in the world after all.
5. What actual moulds were leftover from Star Wars ?
While at Shepperton Studios I meticulously kept all moulds on racks in an
organised manner and all with protective skins moulded and left on them
until further use. We used to sell the same props, or derivatives of, several
times over, as new production companies came and went. This was standard
practice at all studios and in fact the `prop stores` are without a doubt the
most fascinating insight into movie history. The word `prop` means property.
The items we retained from film productions were our property and it was
our business to reinvent them or sell them again for the production of lesser
movies or maybe ads. I remember one quite splendid helmet that I created for
`Outland`, it not only appeared in another four movies but ended up as the
main feature in a British Airways advert.
After finishing with the film business and requiring valuable space, I decided
one day in the early eighties to have a clear out. Out went the Stormtrooper
armour moulds, but I kept the protective skins for reference, and I also kept the
moulds for the helmets, as they were better made , in pretty good condition
and possibly one day may have a use.
6. Are the helmets from the original moulds?
Yes they certainly are...except for the Stormtrooper Battle Spec, which is CNC
machined and a very good reproduction. Even I have capitulated and have
started to use computers.
7. Who actually makes your current production of helmets?
I make the hand made ones from the original moulds and I get help with the
8. Debate over the rear swoop of the helmet and undercut under
My original concept was to make the character without joints and to be as
organically grown as possible. To achieve this all mouldings had to be undercut
and blend into the next. With the Stormtrooper helmet, I had conceived to
make it by rotational moulding, that is in a split female mould using PVC or
PU polyols. Considering that the development budget was zero, my ambitions
were curtailed into practicalities and so I looked around the workshop to find
an alternative and something that would suffice as a prototype.
`Fishponds`…that was the answer. I was running a nice line in fishponds and
rock cascades, made from HDPE, a tough flexible material in a beautiful` gungy
` green. I manufactured these fishponds from sheet material 1.5mm thick,
heated to a semi molten state and sucked with vacuum over a male mould.
The material is a “pig” to mould, and really needs something as rough as
the texture on a rock cascade to stop the moulded item shrinking back to its
preformed shape. Its advantages were that it would form well in undercuts and
was tough enough to spring off overcentre moulds without cracking.
Knowing the exact parameters of this materials moulding characteristics,
I set about sculpting a Stormtrooper head mould incorporating the absolute
maximum undercuts and tumblehomes that I reckoned I could mould the HDPE
material around and still achieve a release. This is where the mould making
material I used came into thier own. By slowly increasing the undercuts on
the sculpted head and trial running the mouldings, I eventually arrived at the
maximum undercuts I could achieve. This method of trial and error, contributed
significantly to determining the final shape of the head, and at the end of the
day, although not quite as originally conceived, it was a pretty good effort.
At this point I had proved to myself that a reasonable undercut could
be achieved…but it was a vacuum formed piece and as such only part
of an all enveloping structure. To make a complete head I was going to
have to mate a few moulding together. If this was going to look any good
at all, I would have to be clever on how I disguised the joints...It could
not look fabricated...that would really defeat the object of the exercise.
I ended up making the head from five mouldings. Each one incorporating the
maximum undercuts for that particular moulding and each one overlapping
the other on sympathetic lines that disguised the joints. It gave the overall
appearance of homogeneous, organically grown being. Splitting the sculpted
moulds up like this also gave me the facility to enhance certain aspects and
characteristics. For example: the ears which hid the vertical joint on the side of
the head could also be used to widen the head and increase the intimidating
presence of the being , such as can found in a lion’s main or aggressive lizard.
The eyes, like a fly`s eye could be made to see in all directions, hence the `blister
eyes` and again adding to the intimidating features of the character. Features
like these allowed me to fine tune the character and hence the first prototype
that I presented was eagerly accepted. A request for 50 heads soon followed.
This was fine, but I had presented a prototype that was made
from a totally unsuitable material and a material that was not
really viable for reproducing in a larger quantity than one.
However I persevered and made several more helmets in the green HDPE.
The front face of the character held up reasonably well on shrinkage, but
the looser back part was susceptible to severe distortion, and every helmet
I made ended up a different distorted shape in this area. In actual fact I had
overcome this previously with a cunning trick of moulding, but the budget
restraints led me to abandon it. I had incorporated a serrated flexible hose
as an insert around the back of the head, moulded over it and completely
encapsulating it. Upon release the moulding brought the flexible hose
with it and `hey presto` a beautiful undercut with minimum distortion.
It obviously was not viable to continue using the fish pond material and the
minimum quantity of bespoke material that I could get made was one ton.
Well, a ton of plastic at 1.5 mm thick makes a hell of a lot of mouldings.
My knowledge extended to other thermoplastic materials and I opted for ABS
with a high content of butadiene.This formulation offered good impact strength
with an adequate degree of flexibility that would allow an actor to perform in
the armour and also allow me to manipulate reasonable undercuts from the
moulded material at 1.5mm thick.
It was also chemically weldable, which was a fundamental requirement if the
required effect was to be achieved.
Colour….well 30 years ago thermoplastic extruders were not thick on the
ground. Materials were used for mainly engineering applications and so available
colours were limited. At a minimum extruded quantity of 1 ton my options were
black, grey or white...
My risk was to be left with the material if the job went pear shape, plus I had
2/3 ton to absorb into my stock that I would have to find a use for. I chose
white as the most useful colour and that is why the Stormtroopers are all white
as also are the X wing pilots. Other characters that I made were black and
grey and in 3mm thick material, this was more of a stock item and easier to
Apart from the initial few sets in HDPE the majority of the Stormtrooper helmets
and all of the armour were moulded in the white ABS, but I could not achieve
the same extent of undercut on the mouldings as I could with the HDPE. I could
not even get a release off the back of the helmet and had to cut each moulding
off the mould in order to prise off the finished article. Needless to say the back
of the mould took a hammering, knife marks and gouges were everywhere and
over the production of 56 helmets I must have rebuilt the back of the mould
about a dozen times, hence the variation in shape.. It did not really matter,
they were all similar and in any event better looking overall than the original
samples in HDPE.
Now it has come to producing the current production off the same moulds the
parameters have changed a little. 30 year old materials would not be acceptable
as regards quality of finish for a discerning collector of memorabilia. We now
have Acrylic capped ABS that is consistent in colour and is not affected by UV
light. The downside of this good looking material is that it is not as flexible
as the old butadiene enriched ABS that I used 30 years ago, and so I cannot
achieve the same undercuts from the original moulds. The undercuts are still
on the mould but I cannot get a release in these new materials, and so we
have compromised at what you see now as the Stunt and Hero helmets in our
range. Even within this current production I have had to repair the back of the
mould once and so the earliest Stunts are probably a little different to today’s
production. I have now settled on a permanent repair with modern materials
and I do not think the shape of this part of the mould will change again.
9. Origination of the current armour moulds…
As mentioned previously, we threw out the armour moulds in the early eighties
but kept the protective mouldings. I have bags and bags full of these from all
different films. They are in storage in a warehouse in Northumberland and just
part of our prop store. I have used these as references and re-sculpted the rest.
The real information is still in my head and like a computer I can download from
my hardrive any time. I am quite satisfied that what I have achieved is a very
good effort and as near as possible to the originals. In fact they are probably
10. Plans for the future.
I will re-introduce all the characters I originally made for Star Wars ,and
Sheperton Design Studios will re-discover itself and offer its professional
services for prop making to the film industry and the rest of the world.
Below, Some photos of the UK Garrison of the SDS Stand at Memorabilia at the NEC in 2004 wearing SDS Stunt Lids with FX/MFX Armor.
Below, looks like the Troops and arresting Andrew Ainsworth!
Andrew Ainsworth and his work. In the background you can see some of the original 1976 b/w photos of props and helmets he produced.
On A side note
I first posted about the case of Andrew Ainsworth's unlicensed replica armor back in April 2007 . It took months to come to a conclusion, but on July 31 a British High Court judge ruled in favor of George Lucas and Lucasfilm regarding ownership rights of Star Wars costumes including the iconic white-armored Stormtrooper design. While many argue that Ainsworth/Shepperton's costumes are highly accurate, the costuming community also knows that many of AA's production claims are misleading (if not altogether false) and that he is breaking a cardinal rule---blatantly seeking to profit from someone else's designs and hard work. In fact, Lucasfilm's Vice President Howard Roffman made the following statement:
"We do not intend to use this ruling to discourage our fans from expressing their imagination, creativity and passion for Star Wars through the costumes and props they make for their personal use... Rather, we see the Court's decision as reaffirming that those who seek to illegally profit from Star Wars will be brought to task, wherever they may be."
George Lucas’s empire failed to strike back yesterday after he lost a legal battle with the British maker of Stormtrooper helmets for the film Star Wars.
Andrew Ainsworth recently began selling replicas of helmets and armour made from his original mould, prompting a $20million (£12million) lawsuit from Lucasfilm. But the Court of Appeal agreed that even though Mr Ainsworth did not own the design, he had not broken any British law because his creations were not art.
“It’s taken five years but I think this should be just about the end of it,” Mr Ainsworth told The Times. He now plans to expand his memorabilia company.
Lucasfilm, however, said that it would take the case to Britain’s new Supreme Court and said that the ruling meant that famous props such as the Daleks from Doctor Who could be freely copied.
The judges in the case dismissed the creative efforts of film designers and prop makers in general, saying that props are the work of people who ‘did not make it as artists’ and not fine art that should be valued under the law,” the company said.
Mr Ainsworth was an industrial designer when he made the helmets in 1976, on a plastic forming machine that was usually “churning out kayaks and watersports stuff”. He was recruited via a friend who was working with Mr Lucas at Shepperton Studios. “We just made it on spec. I didn’t even know it was for a film to begin with,” he said.
Mr Ainsworth made 50 helmets, for which he was paid £20 each. He also made equipment for other characters, earning about £30,000 from the Star Wars films. Lucasfilm’s earning from merchandise is estimated at more than $10billion.
In 2004 Mr Ainsworth realised that “the memorabilia market had really kicked off”, and began selling replicas of the models.
Lucasfilm sued him in the United States. He did not defend the case — “taking on Lucas on his home patch is not a good idea” — and a California court awarded $20million in damages against him, even though he had sold only 19 models in the US. When Lucasfilm tried to enforce its case in Britain, Mr Ainsworth appealed in the The Times for help. “I got calls from about a dozen good lawyers,” he said.
Mr Justice Mann ruled that the models were not sculptures and so did not have copyright protection, which would extend 70 years beyond the death of their creator. Instead he ruled that the models were industrial designs, which could be protected for only 15 years.
Yesterday Lord Justices Rix, Jacob and Patten agreed, dismissing Lucasfilm’s appeal. They said that the helmet and armour had a “utilitarian” rather than artistic purpose. They also ruled that Lucasfilm could not enforce its US copyright in Britain, but agreed that Mr Ainsworth did not own the copyright. He has a bill of more than £2.5million, although he will seek to recover many of his costs from Lucasfilm.
Mark Owen, Lucasfilm’s solicitor, said: “The film is a piece of art, and all the components are part of that.”
Asked how he might celebrate, Mr Ainsworth said: “Maybe we’ll go and find another galaxy.”
In December 2009, Andrew's court battle against Lucas reached its conclusion in the Court of Appeal. Lucasfilm failed to enforce its US copyright in Britain and Lucasfilm's appeal was dismissed, with Andrew Ainsworth winning each of the copyright claims made against him leaving him free to continue producing and selling his authentic replica helmets in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world excluding USA.
So Far it is one to one not sure if this will be fixed. This raises a few concerns that if prop makes can control or even keep the copy rights to a piece of art they create for the movie industry and are paid by them to make it for them . Who owns the rights to it ? I think it should be 50/50 with an option to buy out the other party. That seems fair but again who would set the price. This is my opinion only.