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General Trek Discussion Trek TV and cinema subjects not related to any specific series or movie.

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Old July 19 2012, 07:00 AM   #1
Sumghai
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Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

Just something that came to mind recently.

My understanding is that the combadges worn by some Trekkers attending conventions in costume are either pinned, velcroed or afixed permanently to their uniforms - presumably, so that they don't fall off / get "souvenired" easily by other attendees.

However, from watching VOY's "Basics" and DS9's "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges", I've observed the combadges being removed from the uniform rather casually without any sort of fumbling, and similarly replaced in a consistent manner.

Both use this as plot devices - the Kazon confiscates the Voyager crew's combadges before marooning them to deprive them of any ability to call for help, whilst Admiral Ross and Dr Bashir does so to have a conversation "off the record".

What's more, the uniforms don't have marking / features to guide the replacement of the combadges, yet the cast seem to do so in a consistent manner (I'm presuming that Starfleet has some sort of uniform code that specifies how far along and how high up one wears their combadge).

Obviously, it could be argued that the sets are (to a certain extent) more controlled environments than cons. But it got me thinking, for fan productions or role-playing, what is the best way to attach combadges to uniforms / costumes in a consistent manner, without any visible "locators" on the latter?


A possible solution?

Magnets immediately come to mind - indeed, this is the only way I am aware of where one could wear removable badges without poking holes (safety pins) or modifying the outer surface of the uniform (velcro, snap fasteners).

We can then assume that a complementary magnet or even a metal plate could be sewn/glued to the inside of the uniform, in a location corresponding to where the combadge would be worn on the outside (so that the person isn't reaching into his/her shirt and fumbling around with the inner piece).

Although we've thus covered the ease of removal / replacement part, there isn't any method of automatically aligning them - two magnets with opposing poles facing each other do not need to perfectly line up to make the attachment, and so this opens up issues of having the combadge askew or offset - more fumbling!

My proposed solution suggests that the combadge could have a number of small, separate magnets with different facing poles, and the backing sewn behind the uniform could have a complementary set of magnets as well. This would allow the assembly to repel any attempts at misalignment and automatically guide the combadge to be worn correctly.

If the magnets could be made thin enough to be inconspicuous (but still powerful enough to work through cloth), then there is the possibility that such as solution could also work for "Hero" prop combadges that could be opened up to reveal faux circuitry.




Some questions for the community
  1. Has this been done before?
  2. Does it even matter if the combadges are askew / offset from their "correct" positions?

Last edited by Sumghai; July 20 2012 at 03:38 AM.
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Old July 19 2012, 05:27 PM   #2
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

Another thing about the comm badges...

In-universe, they were gold metallic, shiny.
The real production props weren't metallic and had a dulled finish. This was to prevent set lighting glare and lens flare on camera.

So anyone wanting a comm badge would have to chose between real-life authentic prop quality (dull flat finish) versus in-universe depiction (gold metal look, shiny).
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Old July 19 2012, 08:25 PM   #3
Gary7
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

A thin "pocket" glued on the inside of the uniform that would accommodate a thin semi-flexible piece of metal seems to be the best solution. This way you can remove the metal so the uniform can be washed. As for the magnets, it makes sense to use two of them. This helps prevent accidental spinning of the comm badge. I don't think any other efforts on alignment are necessary. Just look in the mirror and affix.
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Old July 19 2012, 09:11 PM   #4
JoeZhang
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

Am I mis-remembering this or didn't Sisko used to wear his comm badge in odd places at times?
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Old July 19 2012, 09:23 PM   #5
Vanyel
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

Wouldn't a magnet cause the shirt to pull towards the combadge just before the badge is affixed? The combadge is being held by a much strong force than the costume, the human hand. Sure a weak magnet could be used, but would it be strong enough to hold the combadge in place after that?

When I worked in a restaurant, after about a week I was able to put my name tag on without even thinking about it, without looking and it was always on straight and in the approximate spot as every other time I put it on. Rarely was it was askew or noticeably higher or lower.

On set I'm sure the actors had little difficulty putting the combadges on properly and held with a something, a light glue perhaps, to the uniform. Good editing would allow for the propmaster (is that the word I'm looking for?) to set the badge precisely and attach it in a more secure fashion. Removing them would also be the same, except the editing allows for a less secured combadge to be affixed to the uniform for easy removal by the actor. Editing, it's a good thing.
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Old July 20 2012, 12:17 AM   #6
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

SchwEnt wrote: View Post
So anyone wanting a comm badge would have to chose between real-life authentic prop quality (dull flat finish) versus in-universe depiction (gold metal look, shiny).
Most excellent point - I'll keep that in mind.

Gary7 wrote: View Post
A thin "pocket" glued on the inside of the uniform that would accommodate a thin semi-flexible piece of metal seems to be the best solution. This way you can remove the metal so the uniform can be washed.
I'm considering encasing the magnet assembly in polyurethane resin before inserting into the uniform to waterproof it.

Vanyel wrote: View Post
Wouldn't a magnet cause the shirt to pull towards the combadge just before the badge is affixed? The combadge is being held by a much strong force than the costume, the human hand.
If the uniform is taut enough, it should prevent that from happening.
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Old July 20 2012, 03:44 AM   #7
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

Just uploaded a quick doodle to explain my ideas (see original post), most notably the peculiar-shaped magnet segments that need to be machined.

I am aware that, in real life, magnets (especially those with rare-earth metals like neodynium) usually should not be machined - at best, the heat from the tooling would demagnetize them, and at worst ignite the toxic materials in the magnet. Besides, neodynium is quite brittle.

Apparently, this site sells Machinable High-Pull Neodymium-Iron-Boron Magnets, which have epoxy resin infused into them to make them workable whilst retaining the high magnetic pull forces. The thinnest they have is 0.079" (~2mm), so hopefully that shouldn't have too much of a visual impact.

Thoughts?
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Old July 20 2012, 07:49 AM   #8
Owain Taggart
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

What if in the future, there would actually be a magnetic weave, where the magnet would be part of the fabric as some sort of fiber . It's possible to think this might be a thing in the far future, considering right now, we're seeing advancements in special weaves that wick moisture, or even shirts that have electronics in them. The commbadge area would only have to be a small area using this magnetic weave, but would be literally undiscernable to the eye.
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Old July 20 2012, 09:36 AM   #9
Sumghai
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

Owain Taggart wrote: View Post
What if in the future, there would actually be a magnetic weave, where the magnet would be part of the fabric as some sort of fiber . It's possible to think this might be a thing in the far future, considering right now, we're seeing advancements in special weaves that wick moisture, or even shirts that have electronics in them. The commbadge area would only have to be a small area using this magnetic weave, but would be literally undiscernable to the eye.
An interesting thought - perhaps part of the uniform could be woven from synthetic fibres which have tiny grains of neodynium magnets dispersed within the fibres.

But I digress - my original post was looking at the combadge as a TV show "prop."
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Old July 20 2012, 12:45 PM   #10
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

I'm pretty sure they pinned the combadges on most of the time, and only switched to a 'hero' combadge with magnets for those times when it has to be removed. It wouldn't make sense for them to make a magnet version for everyone
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Old July 20 2012, 03:25 PM   #11
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

Well in terms of a magnet, all you need to do is have a small pocket on the inside in to which you can slip the metal/magnet.
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Old July 20 2012, 08:36 PM   #12
The Wormhole
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

SchwEnt wrote: View Post
Another thing about the comm badges...

In-universe, they were gold metallic, shiny.
The real production props weren't metallic and had a dulled finish. This was to prevent set lighting glare and lens flare on camera.

So anyone wanting a comm badge would have to chose between real-life authentic prop quality (dull flat finish) versus in-universe depiction (gold metal look, shiny).
When I was a kid I took one of the standing bases from the Playmates action figures, glued a pin to the pac of it and wore it as a comm badge. It was pretty accurate, about the same size and look on the show. The only real inconsistancy was the presence of a peg (for the hole of the bottom of the action figure's foot to attach to) but that was minor.
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Old July 21 2012, 12:05 AM   #13
Gary7
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

Sumghai wrote: View Post
I'm considering encasing the magnet assembly in polyurethane resin before inserting into the uniform to waterproof it.
That could work. There are at least two challenges with this. First, is that you need to make sure the magnet is sealed without any air pockets, otherwise condensation can occur and trigger rust. Second, the polyurethane needs to be thin enough so that it won't impede the magnetic strength. The magnet has to overcome the thickness of the coating plus whatever fabric barrier there exists between that and the metal.
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Old July 21 2012, 05:52 AM   #14
Sumghai
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

Gary7 wrote: View Post
you need to make sure the magnet is sealed without any air pockets, otherwise condensation can occur and trigger rust.
Good point - I can degas the polyurethane in a vacuum dessicator jar with a vane pump.

Gary7 wrote: View Post
the polyurethane needs to be thin enough so that it won't impede the magnetic strength. The magnet has to overcome the thickness of the coating plus whatever fabric barrier there exists between that and the metal.
Looks like it's time for me to crunch some numbers pertaining the electromagnetic permeability of polymers and fabrics...
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Old July 21 2012, 10:58 PM   #15
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Re: Combadges from a prop perspective - placement and positioning

^ Wow, let me guess--you're a writer for the Big Bang Theory?

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