No Phantom costume is complete without the Phantom's voicebox. Previously any replicas captured the general idea but were made with enclosures not quite resembling the original. Thanks to prop man Erik Nelson telling me it was a commonly available enclosure purchased from an electronics store (in the 70s), I was able to come up with the proper search terms to find the same make and model of enclosure used in the film! They've been making them since the 40s. You'll also need a voice module (for sounding like the Phantom) and a sound-to-light kit (for the lights that shine through the holes when you talk). Note that there was a microphone mounted on the front panel in the film, but we will replace that with a low-profile potentiometer (pulled from the speaker) since we will be using a headset mic for the voice module. The voice was done in post for the film but there is no post production for real life!
Step 1: Parts List
Enclosure: LMB Heeger C03 Gray - with dark gray recessed front ($50).
Voice changer: HyTechToyz Deluxe Cylon ($60) or similar. Do not get a cheap voice module - the cheap ones suck!
Their store is under construction but you can contact them. There are better ones that sell for $300 - $400 (such as the Hyperdyne Vortex 2) if you want your voice to sound clearer, but that might be overkill. I am not aware of any Phantom-specific voice changer but the Cylon module is close enough. I am curious to experiment with the Electro-Harmonix Iron Lung ($135) but have not done so. Of course you could dispense with the voice changer and just do the lights.
Powered speaker: Aker MR1506 or other model (same size or smaller, 10 watts or higher). You can find these on Amazon and ebay for about $30. The low-profile potentiometer in these desolders fairly easily for mounting on the enclosure.
Sound-to-Light module: CanaKit 6-LED Sound to Light Converter
10mm diffused LED bulbs - 4 red and 2 blue: various sources. These replace the 5mm LEDs that come with the kit. Note that I am researching a variation to use LED panels (with built-in resistors) for more uniform lighting like in the film.
5k ohm potentiometer with switch: various sources, such as Philmore PC835. Be sure it's the kind that turns on/off and not the push/pull kind. This controls the sensitivity of the sound-to-light circuit. If you purchased a pot with a hugely long shaft you'll need to cut it down. The double-stack knob should be able to handle most, though.
SPST or SPDT miniature toggle switch: various sources, such as Philmore 30-10007. This is for turning the voice module on and off.
Momentary pushbutton switch - red: various sources, such as Philmore 30-2289. Currently this does nothing and is only to match the switch in the film.
Main knob: various options, such as Philmore 337.
Knob extender: various options. This is a smaller knob that matches the width of the Philmore, is silver in color, and preferably has a recessed top. This will be glued to the top of the Philmore knob to create a larger knob that looks like the one in the film. I used a knob from a surplus electronics store.
9volt battery holders (2): various sources. For mounting outside (underneath) the enclosure.
2.1mm power jack: various sources. For bringing the speaker charge port outside the enclosure.
3.5mm mono phone jack: various sources. For bringing the mic jack outside the enclosure.
3.5mm mono phone cable - short: for connecting the voice changer to the speaker.
3.5mm mono phone plug with solder connectors: for connecting between the voice changer and the external jack.
Foam tape: for mounting the 9v battery holders. The pre-cut squares work great.
Black paint (semi-gloss?): various options. I tried Rustoleum Pro but found it scratched too easily, as seen in the photo. You can have an autobody shop paint it for you, but be sure to mask the internal gray bar as it is not painted in the film. You will also need to paint the front panel of the enclosure insert.
LED mounting: I used black foam core board with holes for the LEDs, but you can get creative.
Black nylon rope: sufficient length for hanging the voicebox around your neck.
Washers (2) and metal rings (2): for attaching the rope to the case.
Diffusion: optional - plastic sheets or other material to diffuse the LED hot spots (seen in the photo).
and of course wire, solder, soldering iron, drill, and drill bits of various sizes.
Note that all the Philmore parts and the 10mm LEDs are available from Oregon Electronics (even if not listed on their web site).
Step 2: Prepare the Enclosure
You will first need to drill holes to match your equipment. The hole size should be found on the packaging for these items. If not, take your best guess, erring on the side of smaller, and increase hole size until the item fits. For these instructions, think of "vertically" as the short side of the faceplate and "horizontally" as the long side.
First drill the hole for the momentary switch in the dead center of the face.
Next drill for the toggle switch. It should be vertically in line with the momentary switch and approximately centered between the edge of the momentary hole and the top edge of the faceplate.
Next hold the Philmore knob in position to determine where to drill the next hole. The hole should be centered vertically, but the sideways positioning is less critical - do what looks right.
Lastly is the hole for the volume control you remove from the speaker. The hole should be centered vertically, but the sideways positioning is less critical - do what looks right.
To make it easier to change batteries without having to open up the enclosure, I chose to mount the battery holders underneath, but you could dispense with that and keep them inside. Up to you.
Microphone jack (required)
Power jack (optional - so you don't have to open up the enclosure to charge the speaker)
One hole or slit for both battery clip wires (optional - so you can change batteries without opening the enclosure)
You can drill these holes anywhere on the backplate - up to you. The key is to work around the speaker so your hole isn't blocked by it. Putting the power and microphone jack on opposite sides is recommended so you don't try to insert in the wrong hole when wearing the box. The nice thing about this being on the bottom when worn is that if you drill a hole wrong (like I did) it doesn't destroy the device. Note that instead of drilling a hole for the battery mounts like I did, you can just cut a little slit from the edge of the backplate. That way you can solder everything together without the enclosure and then mount everything in the enclosure when you're ready.
It is best to drill all the necessary holes before painting to avoid scratches caused by drilling.
First mask the interior gray rim at the top of the voicebox. It is not painted in the movie.
Now paint the entire exterior of the outer enclosure and the front panel of the inner tray. Use any paint you like, as long as it's black. I used Rustoleum Pro Semi Gloss, which did not hold up well to scratches, as you can see in the photo. You may have to experiment with different types of paint. Alternatively, you can have an auto-body shop spray it for you with their industrial auto body paint. Black is common enough that they should do it while painting a car without charging you a setup or color change fee.
If you find a paint that works really well, let me know and I'll update the instructable.
The original voicebox did not have a voice changer since the voice was done in post. It had a microphone mounted where I put the volume control. If you are going for total accuracy and skipping the voice changer, here is what prop man Erik Nelson said about the microphone mounted to the front panel:
"The round flat mesh was merely some screen covered with an interesting "washer". Inside were batteries hooked to lights made to flash when he talked. A microphone under the mesh picked up the sound and activated the colored lights."
Step 3: Prepare the Speaker
Remove the clip from the back of the speaker.
To make the speaker work for your voicebox you need to desolder the volume control and move the charge port to the outside of the box (optional).
Carefully desolder the volume control from the speaker, making sure you note the connections. Then solder wires from the circuit board to the same positions on the potentiometer. Be sure to use enough wire to mount the pot on the faceplate but not so much that you have too much extra length. You'll notice in the photo that I soldered pins to the holes and used jumper wires, but that's because I was experimenting with different options.
Next solder two wires to the 2.1mm jack (do not use the switch). Then solder those wires to the appropriate connectors on the back of the circuit board where the power jack connections are. The tip connection on the circuit board is the one furthest from the side. You will also need to clip out a small section of the plastic case for the wires to come out. Be careful not to screw through the wires when you put the case back together.
Alternatively you can solder those wires to a power plug and just plug it in to the power jack in the speaker, but that will stick out the side of the speaker considerably and make it difficult to fit everything.
Step 4: Prepare the Sound-to-Light Module
The CanaKit Sount-to-Light module can be purchased in kit form or pre-built. I recommend kit form since you will be replacing the LEDs, battery clip, and sensitivity control.
Build the kit, but don't mount the LEDs, battery clip, or volume control.
Clip the LED leads to half their length without losing track of the longer (+) side.
Use the 10mm LEDs on wires long enough to mount in spots behind the holes in the enclosure. The blue ones go in the middle. I chose to mount pins on the circuit board and used jumper wires so I could change out the LEDs, but that is optional. I had one LED that was DOA and one where a wire broke, so I am glad I did that. It also allows for experimentation with different types of LEDs. I recommend soldering red wire to the long side and black wire to the short side so you can keep the polarity straight, but you may notice that I got that backwards on some of them. :-)
Solder wires from the 5k pot to the circuitboard where the tiny 5k or 10k pot that came with the kit was supposed to go. Make sure wires are long enough for mounting the pot in the faceplate.
Solder a 9v battery holder red wire to the "+" connection of the circuitboard.
Solder the 9v battery holder black wire to the pot switch and the other side of the pot switch to the "-" connection of the circuitboard.
If the wire that came on the 9v battery holder is not long enough, you will need to extend it. Optionally you can put pins on the circuitboard and jumper sockets on the wires like I did, but this is not necessary and was done for experimentation. If you do hard-wire the holders, you will want to use a slit from the edge of the backplate rather than a hole for the wires.
Test it to make sure it works as expected.
The original voicebox did not use LEDs and the light filled the holes in the box without hotspots. To avoid hotspots, you can try a layer of diffusion material inside the box. I am going to experiment with LED panels to avoid hotspots. If you find a preferable light source, please let me know and I'll update the instructable.
Step 5: Prepare the Voice Changer
The voice changer comes fully assembled, but we need to bring the mic jack and power (optional) outside the case. I don't recommend altering the voice module. It's a sensitive device and the inside is filled with epoxy. Instead we are going to "extend" it.
The Mic Jack
Wire the 3.5mm mono phone plug with solder connectors to the jack you'll be mounting in the enclosure. Then the phone plug end just plugs into the voice module. You can cut the strain relief off the plastic sleeve or skip the plastic sleeve entirely for less bulk and use electrical tape instead.
The Speaker Jack
Use a 6" or similar mono phone cable or make one by cutting down a longer cable. Just solder the two ends together after removing a sufficient amount of cable. Better just to buy a short cable, though.
The Battery Clip
Take the batter clip from the sound-to-light kit that you didn't use and carefully cut it in half so you have separate leads for + and -. Solder these to the toggle switch and remaining battery holder (see photo).Be sure to get the + and - correct or you will fry the voice module! Note that the red half of the severed connector is connected to the black wire of the battery holder. This is because the connections are now reversed since you are plugging a connector into a connector. The red wire from the battery holder and the black wire from the severed connector are soldered to the toggle switch. Now clip the connectors onto the battery clip on the voice module.
Test it with the speaker to make sure it works as expected before continuing. Be sure the voice changer switch (the one on the voice changer) is in the on position, as we have externalized that switch by adding the toggle to the battery clip.
If you have good results with a different voice changer, let me know and I'll update the instructable.
Step 6: Cover Exposed Connections
To avoid LED wires touching and other potential short-circuits, cover exposed connections with either electrical tape or electrical goo. You want to prevent any close wires from touching and prevent parts when assembled together in the enclosure from touching each other.
DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!
Not that I know that from experience or anything...
Step 7: Assemble the Voicebox
Put the speaker in the enclosure first as you'll be working around that to fit everything in.
Attach the momentary switch using the nut and washer that came with the switch.
Mount the sound-to-light pot to the enclosure.
Mount the volume control from the speaker. You'll need to temporarily remove the knob and you'll need to find a nut and washer that fits since it didn't come with it. Optionally glue a washer on top of the knob to flatten it out and make it more silvery (as I did). You could also paint the knob so it looks closer to the screen in the original.
Mount the toggle switch.
Fit the battery holder wires through the slit in the backplate and mount them with foam tape. Note that you may need to strip plastic protrusions at the screw holes on the holders so that the tape sits flat. Leave the edge protrusions in place (to protect the wires) and use two layers of foam.
Mount the mic jack and power jack.
Add the main knob:
Don't glue the knobs together yet. First, try putting the Philmore knob on the pot. If it is too far from the faceplate, you will need to do some alterations.
Make sure the knob extender - the smaller knob that sticks on top - is hollowed out so you won't have any issues with the shaft length on the pot. Then drill a hole in the top of the Philmore knob so the shaft can stick through it. Test it to make sure it pokes through so that the knob sits properly. Alternatively, use a hacksaw to shorten the shaft of the pot.
Now glue the knob extender on the knob, let it dry, and mount it to the pot shaft using the set screw.
The knob in the movie has a recessed top. You will notice mine does not. You may have to do some hunting at surplus electronics stores to find a knob that looks right and fits the Philmore knob well. If you find a commercially available one that is accurate, please let me know and I'll update the instructable.
Step 8: Mount the LEDs
I chose to use black foam core board found at many art stores or in the art section of department stores. It cuts and drills super easy and the LEDs stay in place.
Cut to fit the case. I chose to create a "wraparound" that I taped in place to make the internal enclosure easier to insert.
You'll notice that I chose to put the red LEDs at a slight angle since the red light is visible on both the front and the side of the voicebox in the movie. If you wish to have top brightness from both front and side, you might consider experimenting with more LEDs connected in series.
Drill holes in the foamboard to match the locations you want the LEDs. They should be centered vertically (when worn) behind each of the two rows of case holes. They should be slightly smaller than the LEDs so that the LEDs will be held snugly.
Insert the LEDs in the holes, being careful not to bend the wires - they break easily.
Wrap the foam around the internal enclosure and tape in place.
Insert the inside in the outside! Is it good? Darn tootin!
Now test everything again.
Step 9: Add the Carrying Strap
Cut the nylon rope an appropriate length for carrying the voicebox around your neck. You can make this adjustable, but generally the voicebox hangs low enough to put on and take off without untying.
Loop the rope through two rings and secure the rings to the voicebox using the screws that came with it and washers, as shown. You can discard the white rubber feet. In the photo I used aluminum rings removed from a hard disk drive, but you can use something more readily available.
Tie the ends of the rope so that the voicebox sits at the appropriate height and can be removed without untying.
Use a cigarette lighter to melt the two ends of the rope a little to prevent unraveling.
If you wish to prevent the rope from untying itself (and fix the length permanently), hold a lighter flame under the knot for a few seconds to melt it in place. Don't catch it on fire! It doesn't need to be a puddle, just fused together.
Step 10: Conclusion
That's it! Stay tuned for some alterations, such as using LED panels instead of single LEDs.
If you are curious about the whereabouts of the original voicebox, so is everyone else. From prop man Erik Nelson: "I don't have any idea where the voicebox has gone off to. I hung on to it for several years, but it went with a couple of boxes of electronic miscellany to a special effects man who had a shop in Simi Valley - which no longer exists."
If you are looking for a Phantom mask, you might find one on etsy or ebay.
If you find a source for accurate costume pieces for the pants, shirt, and cape, please let me know and I'll mention them here. I used generic goth clothes with buckles and a black/silver cape with a hood, which isn't accurate but is cheap and easy to find on ebay.
Don't forget your plunger! The above plunger was signed by the attending actors at the 40th anniversary.