OGAM Pt 2: Prop Me Up PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul Keller, Roddenberry.com   
Wednesday, 19 March 2008 01:24

With the buzz of Star Trek: Of Gods and Men increasing in popularity, we decided to follow up our CGI article with another popular subject, props! The following is an interview with Scott Nakada, Property Master for the STOGAM series.

RB: How did you get started with making props for ST: OGAM?
SN: I was initially contacted by Keith Marshall, a long time fan of Star Trek, who inquired about my availability for doing a few Pin and Buckle castings. He provided me with an email address for this guy, who was presented to me as the Art Director for ST: OGAM. So, I contacted Peter Christian at the email address Keith gave me. Peter went ahead and gave me the go ahead to start creating the pins, and buckles based on some art work he provided me. The artwork was really 2 dimensional, so and Peter gave us free reign with the designs to flesh them out. So, I put down a list of requirements for both pieces. Then, I started to work on the chest communicator, and my uncle, John Abbott, worked on the face of the shield for the buckle. Later Peter stopped by and got a chance to examine the pin and buckle prototypes, he asked if we could do a little more, then . allot more. After that, Producer Sky Conway, and Peter went ahead and gave me the Property Master position for the film.

RB: Can you take us through a typical design process for props? From once you get the concept(s), to script and readying props for final shooting.
SN: Typically, the design process is divided up into stages. 1) Script
requirements. What prop is needed here or there? 2) Function of the prop.
What does it do? How will it be filmed? 3) Size limitations for being
practical. 4) My personal throw in, how unique, or intricate or "cool" can I
make it?

In the case script requirements of the props that we designed and made for ST: OGAM, we have two alternate timelines. That means with Trek, alternate technology, especially when reading the script. The Phasers, Communicators, and virtually everything had to be a virtual opposite of each other to really meet the script requirements.

Two examples of script requirements:
1. Phasers:The Galactic Order (GO) Phasers were based on a design I had created about two years earlier. Peter Christian and Sky Conway loved this design and asked to use it in the film. I gave the props a new paint scheme, which is much more aggressive than the original. Each GO Phaser was fitted with a unique ID tag number, and two of four were hollowed out and fitted for basic electronics. All four had to match the look of each other, so no Phaser props were created that looked different then their static counterparts. These GO Phasers are much more armored in look, as compared to our sleek Starfleet Phasers and Phaser Rifle which have ST: 5&6 Battle Phaser lines to keep with cannon advances in Star Trek technology.

2. Communicators:The Communicators are also different in both timelines. The Standard Commbadge of the TNG era is reflected in the alternate timeline. Chest worn, tap and voice activated technology, while still able to poke your eye out. The Communicator of the Starfleet timeline has been upgraded to reflect the advances that we have made in our own technology, such as the cellular phone. It is referred to as the Tricomm. A limited function tricorder system is installed, to A) save budget, and B) make Treknology fresher. This prop has the same flip top style antenna, but is larger in size than the Trek 3 communicator, and has a scanning array on the back of the prop, as well as TNG flavored function inside the display area, with sequenced LEDs and lit display screens and black plastic LCARS faced buttons. It's really the step
between the TNG era Tricorder and the hand held devices of the TOS era.


The prop concepts are really all laid out in the script, and that is what it
does, unless it's something to do with a character's make up (Such as
Crystal Allens' ocular piece and wearable receiver that the character plugs in when on duty which was never mentioned in the script, which was created by Tim Vittetoe, Make Up Supervisor for the character's overall make up esthetic) And the concept is that this prop does what in the script? Passes through walls, gets thrown across a room, So we then go through a paper design phase where for major props, I throw down some lines and we can see if something works or doesn't.heh much like with the CGFX shots, if it works great if it doesn't change it. A couple examples of this are concepts for several props needed including the Starfleet Ear Receiver for the 1701-M, Freedom Forces Wrist Device and Starfleet Communicator (or Tricomm).

These props, once conceptualized on paper are then built in a prototype
phase, the prototypes are made using a wide variety of materials, and tools, even some sculpting for certain props. Allot of time and skill can go into a single prop. If there is a single prop that needs to be made for script requirements, then in ST: OGAM we use with the prototype for the shot for time and budget constraints. If there are duplicates, or multiples needed for a given scene then I make molds and duplicate the prop however many number of times is needed for the various shots. After the resin cast parts are pulled from molds, they are cleaned, and readied for paint. I use hard wearing paint for the resins, and they show up very well on camera as metal, like in the case of the GO Tactical Daggers, and Phaser beam emitters. In the Case of ST: OGAM Budget always a major concern, we used just as many props wee needed for a given scene, with no extras. On occasion, prop repairs were necessary for the next shots, after all, accidents on set happen (especially when working at 115 degrees of heat, high humidity, and night shooting. Phasers and other props sometimes went flying).

RB: How much time do you have to do a prop?
SN: Initially, we were contacted to do the Pins and Buckles in May, it wasn't until early June that we got the go ahead to do the Pins and Buckles for the GO Uniforms. Then mid June was when I essentially was asked to produce everything else. Literally, props were being prototyped and made right up to the night before the flight out early-mid July to New York, and up to the morning of the flight for LA. There were two props that were actually conceptualized and prototyped on the flight over, to NY and prototyped in down time before shooting, the Bio Navigation Receiver for Crystal Allen, and the Ear Receiver. The Doorbell with number pad for auxiliary control was made on the spot, the afternoon of the shoot (*note in the photo, "override" is misspelled. Autocorrecting software changed it with out my notice. This was corrected quickly by a scuff mark added before shooting in the final film) and security officer Garran's Belt Buckle was also made the first day of shooting. These were items that were brought up literally the day of, and needed to be completed.

In General though I prefer to have a month to month and a half to properly complete a given prop, or set of props. So, the fan donations were extreme time savers. For the NY shoot we had 72 props produced, and an additional number donated for use from two private collections, for a total of 125 props available on set. Many of them were used on Auxiliary Control's helm and navigational control consol. For the LA shoot I had and additional 18 props to create, and supplied a total of 37 pieces for the location as well as getting rental items from local resources for little things like stemware. I also participated in the patterning of the Guardian of Forever, the physical set prop, and assembly in the desert, fun!

RB: Do you actually produce the final product or do you just come up with the ideas?
SN: I do almost everything. I conceptualize, design, set specifications for
props, prototype, mold and build, assemble, paint, even some limited basic electronics. When I get overwhelmed, I ask for help from a select group of people. Some of my trusted team are fore mentioned John Abbott, who is currently unaccredited is my Assistant Property Master for ST: OGAM. Oversized prop god, and make up artist, Tim Vittetoe. Two new additions to the team are; mold maker and one of the sculptors for the Halo 2 (the laser scanned original figures made for the game, and original toy figure line) Brandy Cannon. My student in training Greg Reed. And most importantly, my supportive and talented wife, Harmony Nakada also helps out. Sometimes I pay them, sometimes they help for fun. Sometimes I help them on their projects, such as the biggest dinner plate in the world, I built most of that for Tim Vittetoe, and had help from Greg Reed. It's funny when you look at stuff like that because when working on a prototype I often remind my self that much of the time we as consumers are quite spoiled and take for granted the cost of a given object, but, what we all forget is that if human hands make it, then cost goes up, because prototypes of everything must be made by hand at some level.

RB: Did you have free reign with designs?
SN: For the most part, YES! After taking a look at the work that was presented early on, Peter and Sky basically just let me go! Granted we had a bunch of cannon props that were repurposed and little things like Cardassian Isolinear Rods, and Voyager era PADDs for the Enterprise M Bridge (primarily because Tim Russ wanted to use those over the cannon era correct PADDs, which were put onto the Auxiliary Control Room Helm Consol). The Starfleet Phasers, Tricomm, Wrist Device, GO Dagger and more were original Scott Nakada designs.

RB: Are you creating props for all three (3) parts?
SN: Yes. All three acts were conceptualized as one film, and were filmed out of sequence, so I created (with some help) and managed the props for all three acts.

RB: What materials do you use for making moulds? Have the plastics that are available today made your life easier?
SN: We use the tried and true masters materials. Primarily Silicon Rubber for molds, though we have used some alternate molding materials from time to time, such as alginate, or latex, even plaster for a couple metal molds. Though we try to stay away from using hot rubber for simple reason of -burning bad-.  

Plastics today are amazing. You can do almost anything you want with them. Cast parts in resins, join parts with "super glues" and you have a wide array of parts available to you, which come from the factory, ready for cutting up. Even did something years ago for a Gundam Mobile Suit (big robot) garage, with very little use of anything else.

Plastics today can make anything look or feel like the real thing when used appropriately. Life is much easier now material wise than it was say even a few years ago.

RB: After moulding are all the finishing processes still the same?
SN: When a prototype is molded the finish process is similar but not the same no matter what material you are casting in. I'll let out a secret, primer paint always first. With out it, no matter what medium you are working in for finish, it just doesn't come out right. What we do here is get the part out of the mold, sand and fill any imperfections, primer, base color paint, mask, and then detail colors, finishing it all off with either a clear coat for durability, or a good paint buffing depending on the desired finish product. We can make anything look like anything you want or desire.

RB: Do you build or just make Star Trek props or make other props for other shows or clients?
SN: I love Star Trek, and do allot of builds on an occasional off the wall project for myself. However, when approached with this question, my answer is yes, my business Xscapes Sci-Fi Originals, will work on any project, or prop. I'll even kick a couple things out occasionally because I think it's cool. But if approached to do a movie or television series from a prop maker, or property master point of view, we will handle those projects as well. That is what I am here to do, and it is the work I like. From WWII Films to Star Trek, and more. I and my crew will do props, or even some art direction for films large and small.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2008 01:32
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