You remember, as a child, when you would take your little brother’s head, cover it with mud and hope he would lay still long enough for it to dry so you could crack it open and see if he was an alien? Well, nice try, but your childish antics have got nothin’ on what a certain team of prop building aficionados are capable of.

Located in Carrollton, TX, Blue Realm Studios has the eye for detail, the passion for multi-part epoxy and just enough imagination to turn popular video game weaponry and the most incredible ideas into a reality.

Devin White heads up the wily crew of fab geek and when he posted about the Halo 3 ODST Helmet modeled in SolidWorks, I had to find out more about what they do and how they do it.

More than Makers

Creating your very own ODST Helmet is way cool, but Devin and the Blue Realm team do a lot more than make detailed mock-ups of armor. They’re outfitted with facilities that are capable of 3D model development, CNC machine operation, mold making and video production. It’s the trifecta… plus one, of prop building perfection. How does it happen? Devin fill us in.

What is the array of prop and special effect work BlueRealm Studios is involved in?
Blue Realm Studios is a veritable haven for enthusiastic geeks that enjoy building things. I’ve been making costumes and weapons since I was a kid, cutting my teeth early with simple tools like cardboard and duct tape. Now it has progressed into a small business that supports the tv/film industry, as well as the gaming/marketing industry. The projects I love to work on most are the personal projects we do for fun. Take for example this ODST helmet build or the District 9 gun that is currently in progress.

What programs do you use to model and develop the various props and effects?
I have a background in 3D design, so up until recently we’ve been using various 3D development programs such as 3ds Max and Maya. But this particular project was built with SolidWorks using advanced surfaces. It was a bit of a learning curve for me, but I’m hooked on SolidWorks now.

Can you give a overview of a typical process you go through?
We offer full services from concept to the finished product. However, in most cases clients submit their own concept art to us and we develop it to their specs. For parts that can be milled, we’ll create model sheets and begin the 3d modeling process. For the more organic concepts, we may just hang up the references on the wall at the sculpting desk, and begin picking away at some clay. Once the props are either sculpted or milled, we’ll make molds and cast out parts that are exact replicas of the original model. After some sanding and TLC in the paint room these props really come to life. That part is really exciting!

Do you use any 3D printing/Rapid Prototyping?
We just invested in a CNC machine about 2 months ago, which is why we starting really diving into SolidWorks. Now we can very quickly produce high quality props. It’s been fun learning the CNC machine and how everything flows together. We take it from the CAD software, to the CAM software, to the controller software, and then to the actual creation of the part. It really does make things go faster, but we still like to keep a block of clay around. Nothing is quite the same as grabbing a hunk of clay and getting your hands dirty.

What advice do you have for people interested in this prop/special effect industry?
Knowledge in this field is hard to come by, but is very key. My advice to anyone learning or getting into special effects and prop design is: Don’t be afraid to try new stuff, and experiment. It is really the way we learn. I’ve destroyed lots of things in the hopes to make something cool. When it works out… that’s one of the coolest things I get to experience. If it doesn’t … then I learned not to do that again. Have fun with it, and do what you enjoy doing. Practice makes pretty darn good.

Thanks for filling us in Devin. Now, if you ever wanted your fill of ODST helmet goodness, you’re in for a treat. Here are 25 images that take you through some of the modeling and rendering of the helmet. Click to Enlarge and flip through them all.

Afterwards, you can head over to follow Devin on Twitter @BlueRealmStud or get the scoop on their Facebook fan page. If you want to see more of Devin’s creations, check out his personal site, Oh, and if you haven’t seen the ODST live-action trailer, you simply must. It’s probably one of the best trailers ever made, ever.


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.