Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Set phasers to channel hop

The Wand Company, who have previously brought to the world Harry Potter magic wand, and Doctor Who sonic screwdriver, remote controls, have announced a new TOS phaser remote control. The gesture control universal remote works from both the detachable type-1 phaser, and the larger type-2 phaser pistol, adding extra functions once the type-1 is redocked, allowing you to control your infra-red remote controlled devices with a simple wave of your phaser.

As well as the fun of phasering your TV, this also sounds like it will also be a really good prop reproduction, with the remote being built using laser scans of one of the original props, and then constructed from die-cast metal, nickel and brass plated, plastic, rubber, painted and lacquered components. It also has light and sound effects, with the dial on the top of the phaser used to select the sound, and other moving and functional components, such as the raising targeting scope on top of the type-1. It all comes in a pretty snazzy case, and when not in the case, sits on a magnetic stand.

ThinkGeek expect to be shipping them in November, and it will also be available from Forbidden Planet in the UK. Continue after the jump for (lots) more photos, and more information about the prop reproduction.

Here's what The Wand Company had to say about the fidelity of this phaser to the original props:
For most users the answer is a definite “Yes!”. We have spent thousands of hours and taken great care to make this Phaser replica as accurate as possible to the actual last known screen-used hero prop that Shatner and Nimoy used in the original series of Star Trek. This has included taking the first 3D laser scans of the original hero prop, under the watchful eye of Academy Award-nominated prop maker and Star Trek authority, Greg Jein, who owns the original prop and kindly allowed us access to study it. We weighed the parts of the original prop, so as to be able to tune the weight of the replica to get it as close as possible to that of the original, and assessed the colour and lustre of the various parts of the original prop under a variety of lighting conditions to make sure that our Phaser replica was the closest possible match for both colour and surface finish. To complement the scans we took detailed micrometer measurements and numerous photographs, and discussed the provenance of the original hero prop at length with Greg Jein to make sure that our Phaser not only followed the data of the original accurately, but also captured the nuances of the original prop’s intention.

However, in order to make the Phaser manufacturable and more affordable, and to iron out some of the original’s inconsistencies, we have had to make some slight changes, and as such, this replica may be considered to be an idealised version of the original hero prop.
And their notes on the materials used to make this near-replica phaser:
The hero prop is made from a range of different materials including fibreglass, brass, aluminium, resin and acrylic. In order to keep the cost as reasonable as possible we have used the nearest equivalent material that is suitable for modern manufacturing methods. Generally, where metal has been used in the construction of the hero prop, we have used metal in the Phaser replica. In the hero prop, where aluminium is used for the muzzle, side door, heat sink, side rails, thumbwheel, and selector dial, we have used hand-polished, nickel-plated, die cast zinc. The grip of the original is made from hand painted brass tube embellished with popsicle sticks – our replica is also painted, but is made from die cast zinc. The original Phaser I and II bodies are made in fibreglass and have been painted (a number of times through the prop’s history), and we have replicated these parts as closely as possible in lacquer coated, injection moulded ABS. Finally, where the original hero prop uses cast resin or acrylic for the transparent elements, such as the nozzles and lens covers, we have used acrylic and a water-clear co-polyester called Tritan, to achieve the best optical clarity and mouldablity.
In an effort to make this the ideal phaser they also ironed out some fo the kinks from the original prop:
The original hero prop is not symmetrical. The parting line separating the two halves doesn’t run down the centreline of the Phaser II body, and even taking this into account, the two halves of the Phaser II body do not have symmetrical curves and features. The two halves of the body are held together with an off-centre screw on the underside of the Phaser in front of the trigger. When designing our Phaser replica, we decided to straighten out the Phaser II body, make the parting line run along the centreline and remove the fixing screw. The sweep of the sides in the plan view was a best-fit average of the left and right side 3D scan data.

The original Phaser I only has a metal side rail on its right hand-side. On the left-hand side of the Phaser I, the side rail is replaced with a strip of black hook and eye (Velcro®) fastener, onto which a silver line is drawn. This was used to attach the Phaser to the actors’ costumes on set, and while this might have been acceptable for filming, in reality it doesn’t look very good, so we replaced the fastening strip with a metal side rail to match the right-hand side.
Of course they did also have to make some modifications to allow the functionality of the remote:
In order to improve infrared transmission reliability, the Phaser replica uses a rod of solid acrylic as a light guide, rather than a drilled-out tube that the original prop used for its Phaser I emitter tip. Our emitter tip is fixed so that it cannot extend and retract when the sight is raised and lowered.

On the original prop, the indicator lens on top of the Phaser I is a simple piece of clear cast resin glued to the top housing over a numerical scale printed on paper. The Phaser prop replica is a complex piece of equipment and its indicator lens is put to good use as a functional mode selection button. As a result the lens is illuminated and instead of numbers, displays the letters, P, C and Fx, relating to the different modes (Practice, Control and FX modes).

The original prop’s grip twists into place using curved pins that also form an electrical connection between the battery compartment (in the grip) and the Phaser II main body emitter lamp. Over time, this mechanical joint has been subjected to stress and wear and has become very weak. In the design of the Phaser replica we have addressed this issue. The replica grip pushes on to the Phaser II main body in a similar way to the original, but the grip is securely held in place using a long bolt that is positioned to resemble the nut that holds the battery door onto the base of the grip in the original.

In the original prop there is no electrical connection between the Phaser I and II. However, in the replica, when the Phaser I and II are docked together there is a constant stream of information going between their respective microcontrollers. In addition, the battery power for the assembled Phaser comes from a lithium battery in the Phaser I. As a result there is an array of connector pins on the top surface of the Phaser II docking recess, which mate with matching gold pads on the underside of the Phaser I.

The original Phaser hero prop has a large recess in its end face for the locking catch that holds it in place when it is docked, In the Phaser I replica, this recess is partially filled with a micro USB charging socket.

Sound is an important part of the apparent function of any prop. Yet when making TV shows and films, the sound effects are almost always added afterwards in post-production, and it is unusual for props to make any sound. However, to make our replica as engaging as possible we decided that it should make an appropriate range of Phaser firing sounds. The Phaser I replica has a speaker mounted under the grille, which instead of being a thin sheet of pressed foil, is a nickel plated die casting which has been made with tiny holes in it to let the sound out. The shape and pattern of the replica grille’s surface features have been carefully matched to those of the original prop.
Here are some more views of the lovely case it comes in:

The box and instructions:

The scanning of the original prop:

And some beauty shots:

Image credits: The Wand Company, ThinkGeek, Forbidden Planet, and Technabob.


Nils W. said...

I pre-ordered this instantly...

Nils W. said...
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