It has been one of the hottest debated subjects in Predator collector circles in a long time… BUT, before we go on and for the record, I would like to say that I love Sideshow and love the people that work there… no disrespect intended and this article is more out of fun than any actual indignation. So don’t go too crazy with the Sideshow hate… I just love a good arguement is all! So, when Sideshow first dove in to the realm of Predator helmet replicas, they brought us the highly prized AvPR Wolf Predator helmet, which was well received and considered a highly successful release. The helmet was beautifully detailed, featuring a gorgeous sculpt, great paint-up, lasers and a real mesh lens to finish it off. When Sideshow then announced they would be releasing a full compliment of AvP props, including the Scar, Celtic and Chopper helmets, collectors were very excited. Unfortunately for the die-hards, the AvP helmets were not well received and showed signs that perhaps Sideshow development had skimped on details to save money… the number one issue was the lack of decent looking lenses. The Scar used a paper-like material with an icky print pattern of a mesh, and the Celtic had no lense at all, it was simply painted over resin where the eye holes should have been.
Needless to say, fans were VERY upset with this move, not to mention the paint job wasn’t really as well done as the Wolf… but again, the main issue was how awful the lenses were. I mentioned them extensively in my reviews, emails were sent to Sideshow about it, people everywhere were talking about them on the forum and my videos featured semi-rants about them. People were not impressed… the obvious knee-jerk reaction was to grab our torches and pitchforks, but I treated more as something to make fun of than anything else, despite this being a $300 prop with a paper lense glued on it.
I started doing some research and talked to Sideshow… turns out the choice of lens material was out of their hands, as the master copy they received from ADI (The company that did the prop effects for the AvP and AvPR movies) came exactly like that and they were simply following their design and paint scheme. I was assured that the materials and paint scheme of the master matched the screen-used props exactly and that there was no difference. I completely disagreed despite this information and still felt that the lenses used were nowhere NEAR what was used during film production, not a chance. But I supposed I agreed to disagree… after all, Sideshow didn’t make the movies, they can only go by what ADI tells them right? So that was it… I figured there would be no more debate about this perhaps until the Chopper came out, which we assume will be like the Celtic… no lense, just painted resin eye-holes.
The forest was quiet, we had moved on… then Sideshow threw down a glove. Yes my friends, Sideshow puffed up their chests, bristled in the cool California air and posted this on their website:
Some folks have been wondering how close we can really get to the actual screen-used piece with a Prop Replica collectible. Well, we’d like your input! How close do YOU think we’ve gotten? Take a look at the side-by-side photo below. One of these Predator Masks is the screen-used prop by special effects studio Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc., and the other is the Sideshow Collectibles replica. Can you spot the real movie prop?
And here’s the photo of the two masks side by side that they showed (click to enlarge):
Oooo Sideshow why must you taunt me so? *rolls up his sleeves* You have now released the evil Fanboy Dan, and it’s time to go fanboy on your ass! I am going to go ahead right now and say this… that is not a screen used prop, it’s the master ADI sent to Sideshow standing next to one of the replicas, which by the way has been touched up. And I’ll prove it.
We’re going to cover 3 things in this article and I will back everything up:
1. The "screen used prop" in the photo is not from the movie, it’s a prepared master copy ADI sent to Sideshow to be used as the material and paint master.
2. The helmets had separate lenses installed, they were NOT painted resin.
3. The helmet in the photo above that is the Sideshow replica has been tweaked to resemble the master more closely.
Let’s go ahead and get number 3 out of the way right now shall we? First off, there’s no way that is a regular factory issue Celtic bio helmet standing next to the "screen used prop". If you haven’t already read it, please check out my review of the Celtic Predator Helmet and be sure to go look at the gallery. Pay VERY special attention to the paint detail and weathering, and the sheen of the paint… you will notice in the review that the paint is very uniform with a dull grey with a couple of black airbrushed spots on the crown and that the finish is quite flat, meaning no shine. Now look at the photo Sideshow posted… both helmets have extensive weathering over the entire helmet, with browns and blacks and the finish is a mild shiny satin. Think it’s just me? Go ahead and check the forums where dozens of people have posted their helmets and you’ll see the EXACT same thing. If either of the helmets in that photo are from the factory floor and from a normal production run, it’s been touched up for this photo… absolutely no question about it. All bias aside, the two helmets side-by-side look almost identical with only tiny differences, I’m not arguing that at all. Too bad the helmets we received didn’t have that paint job and there’s no screen used prop in that photo.
Next, let’s cover 1 and 2, since they are both directly related… the question is, where do I start? In all honesty, you could skip to the last photo and point in this article as that alone is enough to put this debate to rest, but I figured we’d go over the movie stills first and then go in for the kill. Sound good?
The major debate here for me and most of us is the lens issue.. the lens look like crap, especially up close and we’re not liking the fact that we’re being told that this is the way it was done on the screen-used props. Now, if we look at the comparison shot from Sideshow, we know that both helmets have the same painted resin eye holes instead of lenses. Now, I am going to prove to you that ADI used separate lenses in the eye holes of the helmets, NOT painted over solid resin. So with that proven and out of the way, it’s an obvious conclusion that the so called "screen-used prop" in the comparison photo is in fact a paint master, not a screen used prop.
Once again, this is the purpose of the article… we’re not happy that Sideshow is not using separate screen-accurate lenses in their helmet replicas and we’re being told that this is how it was done on the actual screen replicas. I’m going to show you proof that this is not the case.
OK, first… the lenses on the screen-used pieces are curved like sunglasses, they are not a flat surface. This is important when looking at the shape of reflected light… when a reflective surface or shiny surface is flat, it will reflect light uniformly, meaning the entire surface will be bright. When a surface is curved, you’ll notice that there will be a bright soft line of light in the middle or towards the sides (depending on the angle) and the light diffuses outward from that point. It’s the curve that causes that, as the highest point of the curve closest to the light source reflects that light. So, armed with that knowledge I want you to look at the comparison photo from Sideshow and you will notice that the eye hole areas are fairly uniform, meaning very little curve. That’s because it’s just flat resin covering the eye holes, they’re not rounded eye lenses like in the movie.
Now, look at the following movie stills (click for larger):
See the difference? You’ll see it in every frame of film with the Celtic in it… the lenses are curved. Not only that, but there is an obvious color difference between the color and tint of the lens and the rest of the helmet making it pretty clear it’s not part of the helmet’s paint job, it’s a separate installed piece.
Next up, if you look at the comparison shot from Sideshow, BOTH helmets have copper accents on the rounded nose sections, the cheek detailing and jaw detailing. Didn’t we already establish that the screen used prop had no copper detailing and that ADI added that to the master because they preferred that paint scheme?! So if there were no copper accents on the screen-used props, why does the "screen-used prop" in Sideshow’s comparison photo have them?
Now granted, we only get limited looks at the Celtic’s side detailing on the helmet and the lighting is not very color-friendly, but from what I can see, there certainly isn’t any copper paint on the nose or jaw sections.
Another point regarding the lenses, they are reflective… now, whether that is movie magic, lighting or the grace of god, when watching the movie, we see several scenes where reflections are clearly visible. Now, I know that the alien jaw reflections we see are computer generated, that’s fine… but no matter how the effect was achieved, the lenses we as the movie watchers saw them REFLECTED. The Sideshow piece does not reflect ANYTHING… they do brighten up because of the silver paint when you shine light at the prop, but that’s about it. So now there is this argument… screen accuracy vs bench accuracy. This is how I define the difference between a prop looking different on screen than it does sitting on the work bench of the prop builder. When it comes to prop replicas, I personally believe the prop should reflect what we see on screen, NOT what it looks like on a work bench, because this opens the door to all kinds of BS. Think about it for a second… entire lines of props could look like garbage and all the company would have to say is "Oh, well this is how is was really done, it only looked good because of special effects, lighting and post-editing". Sorry, but that’s absolute nonsense. The facts are simple: In the movie, the helmets the Predators wear have reflective lenses, the prop replica does not. Straight up, it’s wrong, and I don’t think using the ol’ "well this is how it was really made" makes it right at all.
Still not convinced? OK, then I offer you the nail in the coffin… what if ADI themselves came out and said, look, we heard about this debate and we wanted to confirm that the lenses are indeed separate. What we did was drill out the eye holes and laser area, painted up the helmet fully, and then later installed the lasers and eye lenses. Not sure why people might think that the lenses were in fact solid resin with just some paint over them, we apologize for the confusion. Wouldn’t that be GREAT?! And what if you could verify that yourself and not just take my word for it? After all, I could just make any BS up and tell you ADI told me so and you would have no choice but to believe it right?
Well luckily, we have these things called books, and ADI just happened to write one on the making of AvP and it was published by Design Studio Press in 2004. I’m sure many of you pred nuts like me already own this book… if you do, would you be so kind as to open your book and turn to page 105 for me? No problem… I’ll wait while you go fetch your book.
OK, all set? Right, could you please go ahead and read me the caption for photo 7… you know, the pic of the fully painted Celtic helmet with big gaping holes where the lens and lasers should be?
OOPS! What does that say?
The next step is a trip to the Paint Department (07) before it is finished off with any final fabrication details (such as installing a laser sight and eye lenses).
*And Jordan fades back* SWISH! I think we’re done here…
So this goes back to my first review of the AvP helmets… Sideshow, ADI, whoever… please put the right lenses in the helmets because they were not solid resin with a bit of paint flecked over. It doesn’t look like that in movie, and it says right in the ADI book that they are separate pieces. Besides, logic would dictate the actors kind of need to be able to see what’s in front of them.. last I checked, humans can’t see through 1/4 inch thick resin. When making prop replicas, they should reflect (no pun intended) what we see on the silver screen and blowing off legit complaints by saying the studio said so shouldn’t be the end all playing card.
So I did enjoy the comparison and I’m sure the average Sideshow fan will assume that indeed you have a production run piece standing next to a screen-used prop, but to me and many other Predator fans, it seems obvious that neither helmet is screen used or a production piece. What you’ve got there is the ADI master sitting next to a touched up production piece that’s been more intensely weathered to match the master more closely.
Would love your thoughts guys, please click the comment button below and tell me what you think.
PS. Yes I know I just broke the soapbox in my nerdy display of fanboyism… and I’m happy to do it!