The Vader Ranger: Under The Suit


Vader Ranger

Under the Suit

Height - Worn and Raised

So, footwear modified, there I stood six inches higher off the ground. But that doesn't help when the chest armour still comes down to my mid-torso. Some Vader costumers use scaled down parts, but my goal was to create a suit faithful to the movie, in size as well as appearance. I do enjoy a challenge.

My plan then was to raise the armour off my shoulders so that its lowest edge sat in the right place. As the armour would be seated higher up, so would the helmet have to be. Thank goodness the Vader costume includes these fantastic props, because it allowed me to increase the height and width of my Vader silhouette - though not without a couple of evenings of work.

Where the suit parts lay over the part-man part-machine underneath

Where the suit parts lay over the part-man part-machine underneath

The wrap-around hinges are an excellent invention.

The wrap-around hinges are an excellent invention.

I started with the armour.

    1. I held the armour to my chest until I was sure the lowest edge was in the right spot. I've tried to illustrate where this is, but basically you want the lowest edge to draw a line across the centre of your chest. For me, that means lifting the armour about three inches off my shoulders.
    2. The padding should be comfortable, but it should also be tough. I found a load of packing foam used by Dell lying around the office, and this stuff is perfect. However, I think a lining of softer foam underneath may be nice.
    3. I cut the padding to create two pads, each with three V shapes to allow a bend. These were stuck on to rest on the shoulders using a spray-on adhesive, and then secured even more using Araldite.
    4. It was important to keep the armour right up near my neck, otherwise it would look loose and wrong. To make sure the armour stayed put, I made up a harness which was also glued to the armour using Araldite. This harness has long adjustable webbing which goes around my back and clips behind. Attached to this strap are two further adjustable clip-together straps which go over the shoulder. These tighten up to pull the armour up tightly into place.
    5. As the armour is raised, the shoulder covering 'bells' would not sit right if I used the popular leather strap attachments. I also didn't want to fix them in place on each side of the armour as that is not how they looked in The Empire Strikes Back. I hunted for hinges that would allow the bells to sit suspended underneath and still allow them to hinge properly. The answer - wrap around hinges, typically used on cabinet doors. These were first stuck in place with Araldite, and then attached permanently using fibreglass repair stuff. It comes out of the tin orange. I'll probably paint the fibreglass black sooner or later.
The results are visually documented in the armour gallery Completing and Modifying Large Armour for a Small Actor.

Next came the helmet, and here's where the true insanity took off. Lifting the helmet in line with the armour, using padding, I could see the inside of the cheeks. Basically, I had to work out how the heck I was going to raise the helmet yet maintain the ability to see. I even considered wiring in a small LCD screen and a spy camera! In the end, I realised my answer would lie in mirrors, and so I invented a simple way to see dead ahead, straight through the cheeks, using light entering the eye holes. Rather than try to explain this, watch the events unfold in the helmet gallery Modifying the fibreglass ESB helmet.

This work, I'm really chuffed to say, has inspired other Vaders in a predicament such as mine - i.e., too short to be a Sith Lord. Some have used this idea to raise their profile without using shoe lifts at all, for that extra presence. Some have taken this idea and not used the mirrors, simply choosing to look through the mouth grill. Whichever way this is achieved, what it demonstrates is that, with enough willpower, a satisfying result is possible, whatever your size.

Gallery thumbnail

How the system works.

Of course, there's still the question of looking more Darth Vader than Lard Vader (or indeed Darth Twiggy).

This site is in no way sponsored or endorsed by: George Lucas, Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts Entertainment Co., or any affiliates. Darth Vader is a trademark and copyright of Lucasfilm Ltd. Star Wars 2006 Lucasfilm Ltd. This is a chronicle of my own efforts and any action taken using my methods, ideas or advise is done so purely at your own risk. This site, layout, and contents are 2006 Matthew Ainge or their respective owners.

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