In 1987 Stan Winston Studios created one of the most iconic creatures to grace the silver screen- the Predator. An actor named Kevin Peter Hall played the Predator -and now twenty six years later his nephew Jamie Hall would pay tribute to Uncle Kevin and once again bring this beloved creature to life.

Originally this was going to be much shorter and titled "Predator backpack and animatronic cannon" as that is what the majority of this instructable is about, but that would be a disservice. This is really a story of how a few members of a Predator fan group, known as The Hunter's Lair, came together to create what we hoped would be the best replica Predator costume ever made- an accurate replica of the costume Kevin Peter Hall wore in the first Predator film. This was an enormous collaborative effort, and while this instructable will focus primarily on the creation of the backpack and cannon it wouldn't be right to not tell the whole story and give credit to all of the extremely talented individuals involved in the creation of this costume of this wonderful film creature.

A seed is planted...

At the Monsterpalooza 2012 convention there was a panel that was devoted to the 25th anniversary of the first Predator film and many of the original artists from Stan Winston Studios that worked on the film were there to talk about the making of the film. Several members of The Hunter's Lair attended as did one very special individual- Jamie Hall.

After speaking with Jamie, two of the Lair members by the names of Gene Emory and Damon Silva had the idea of meeting up at Monsterpalooza the following year and creating a replica suit for Jamie to wear. The goal would be to make a replica of the Predator suit Jamie's uncle wore and have Jamie wear it around the convention hall. Matt Winston of Stan Winston School of Character Arts later had the idea that it would be really cool if several members of the original film crew could again return and then suit up Jamie just as they had with his Uncle Kevin 25 years ago. Jamie was thrilled with the idea and what would be known as the "Jamie Hall Predator Suit Homage Project" was born.

But first we need to back up a few years...

Video of the finished backpack/cannon-


Update- Jamie as the Predator takes on Wolverine in Super Power Beat Down!

Paso 1: Sculpting the backpack

It was August 2007 and I was just beginning to incorporate electronics in costumes-

Predator costumer Carl Toti contacted me via the Hunter's Lair, wanting to know if it was possible to add animatronics to a replica Predator backpack and cannon he was creating. I believed it could be done so we began collaborating on the project and we've been friends ever since.

Carl is an extremely talented sculptor and an absolute perfectionist. He didn't just want to make a replica backpack and cannon- he wanted them to be as accurate and faithful to the original movie items as possible- which proved to be a tall order. The Predator backpack and cannon are pretty complex movie props and there really wasn't a lot of documentation available concerning how the original props were made, let alone any really good close up photos of the original props. Carl would spend nearly five years on his quest for Predator nirvana, gathering bits of information as it became available, constantly re sculpting to make it more accurate to the original. But there were always areas of his sculpt that were questionable because he could never find photos of the original backpack and cannon taken from the right angles that would show him what he needed to see.

Then..... pay dirt!

Fast forward a few years. Carl got a lucky break- two individuals happened to be in the right place at the right time. Art Andrews (he runs The Replica Prop Forum- better known as The RPF,  as well as The Hunter's Lair and The Dented Helmet) and friend George Frangadakis were able to obtain multiple photos of the original props and supply them to Carl. The photos revealed an enormous amount of detail he hadn't seen before and while it would require an extensive overhaul of his sculpt, it would be worth the effort.

When I received the backpack I couldn't believe it- it really was one of the most impressive prop replicas I had ever seen. The photos just don't do it justice.


Here's how Carl created the backpack-

Tools and Materials

Crock pot
Clay sculpting tools
Foam core
Home built roto-caster

15 lbs. of Chavant Medium NSP clay (most of the sculpt volume being taken up by the lighter foam core)
http://www.amazon.com/Chavant-NSP-Medium-Tan-Case/dp/B005V0WEDU
 
2 gallons of Smooth-On Stroke tin based silicone
http://www.smooth-on.com/index.php?cPath=2_1113_1135
 
2 gallons of Smooth-On Plasti-Paste II for the mother mold
http://www.smooth-on.com/Urethane-Plastic-a/c5_1120_1346/index.html

1 gallon of Smooth-On Smooth-Cast 300 casting resin
http://www.smooth-on.com/Urethane-Plastic-a/c5_1120_1209/index.html

From Carl:

"The sculpt started with a dense foam pull of the torso armor which had to be sculpted and cast first (naturally). I then constructed a foam core and hot glue core skeleton which clay sticks to very nicely. I used Chavant medium NSP clay which comes in 10 lb. blocks which I melt in my crock pot. The physical property of the clay is such that it is easy to work with when warm, and feathers nice. As it cools, it becomes harder, which makes it ideal for machine-like parts because you can actually carve lines and grooves into it, etc.

I populated the sculpt with "greeblies" (a term in the prop building world for small detail items) I obtained from model tank kits, as well as having a lot of them custom printed from Scott Andrew's 3D printer to exactly match the ones I couldn't find, as seen in the reference photos. Above all, the backpack and cannon had to be screen accurate. I molded the backpack in place on my mannequin with brush-on silicone, followed by a Plasti-Paste mother mold on top of that.

If that wasn't enough, I then had to figure out how to build a roto-caster large enough to cast the darn thing!"

Chavant NSP is a sulphur free clay- if your clay has sulphur in it and it comes into contact with a silicone mold material the silicone mold will not cure. So once the sculpt is finished you have to mold it. For large items like this backpack a mother mold is the way to go as a large box mold would be impractical- a box type mold would use an enormous amount of silicone molding compound and it would be extremely heavy. A mother mold is a type of mold that has a silicone layer surrounded by a rigid backing (often called a jacket)- sometimes the backing is fiberglass or plaster but in this case Plasti-Paste was used as a large plaster backed mold can be really heavy.

To make the mold first parting lines are created on the sculpt using card stock or thin wood pieces- this helps divide the mold into multiple sections that can be bolted together. Next silicone molding compound is brushed onto the sculpt- it begins with a thin layer followed by a heavier layer (a thickening agent is added to the silicone.) The thin layer is brushed on first so it will capture all of the tiny details in the surface of the sculpt. The thin layer will allow air that is trapped to escape in the form of bubbles- if you brush on a thick layer the air can't escape and you can end up with a lot of surface imperfections in your cast part. While the silicone is curing small chunks of silicone from old molds are stuck onto the surface, forming keys. These keys will help hold the silicone in place against the rigid backing so everything lines up just right when you go to cast resin in the mold.

Once the silicone has cured a rigid backing material is applied to it. After the backing has cured additional sections of the sculpt are molded using the same process. When molding the additional sections a mold release agent (in this case Vaseline) needs to be applied to the mold parting lines as silicone will stick to itself. Once all the sections have been molded holes are drilled through the rigid backing so bolts can be used to hold all of the mold sections together. Next a hole is cut into the mold so the resin can be poured in- the backpack casting uses approximately 96 oz of casting resin. After this is done the mold can be taken apart and the sculpt is removed from the mold and the mold is ready for casting in the roto-caster.

The roto-caster was needed because there is no way to slush cast it- the mold is simply too big and too heavy to try and hold in your hands- the mold ready to cast weighs over 50 pounds. The roto-caster spins the mold in a frame-within-a-frame assembly so once you pour the resin in you spin the mold and you get a nice even resin wall thickness in your finished casting. The backpack and cover for the med kit area were done using separate molds. The backpack is entirely hollow to reduce weight and allow room for electronics as well as a future screen accurate med kit.
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    Bio: I'm a former bicycle industry designer turned professional jeweler. I like working with my hands and am happiest when I'm in the shop ... Más »

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