Have you ever wondered how the costumes of costuming groups are so accurate and who is behind some of those awesome props and costume gadgets? Those of you familiar with the Rebel Legion UK, UK Garrison and Reel Icons costuming groups will most likely know what we all mean when we mention TRamp, but many of you out there won’t.
TRamp is a company owned by Paul Whitrow from Clevedon, Bristol in the UK and he can usually be found promoting his products and developments at Comic-Con’s when he is not on duty costuming himself.
Recently Team Jedi News were positioned next to the TRamp stand at MCM Comic-Con in Birmingham and we spent some time talking to Paul about TRamp and what he does.
Paul, can we first ask that you share a bit about yourself with us?
I’m a 47 year old child! I love to tinker, have been doing so for as long as I can remember in many various engineering fields. What started as a hobby has developed in to a living, and I know how rare that is. I’m very lucky that I no longer have to work!
Having two sleeping conditions (Insomnia and Apnoea) means I get a lot more time to work on projects or orders so I can turn things out quite quickly. This suits me, as my brain never shuts up and I have dozens of ideas rattling around up there.
Why the name TRamp?
It’s actually short for “Trooper Amp”. I chose that name initially because it literally said what it does. The shortened version “TRamp” (Yes, with the capital TR and pronounce “tramp”) was always going to be the branding, but I did think I would have a suite of different amps built around it, so Dirty TRamp for Sandtroopers, Little TRamp for Jawas etc. However, I decided early on to add all of the character profiles into one, but I like the name now so stuck with it.
How did you get involved in the costuming side of things?
This was actually the fault of my good friend Alan Molina. He was in the UK Garrison long before me and used to tell me all about it over beers. He would constantly tell me I should join, but I was constantly telling him he was muppet for dressing up and playing ‘Pew, Pew’!
Then one day back in 2013, he asked me to give him a lift to a Con in Bristol, and in return he would get me in for free. I had collected comics for 30 years and have a large collection, so I agreed and off we went. Whilst there he introduced me to his UKG (UK Garrison) mates (still in civvies) and I got chatting with them, they asked if I would be interested in helping them out for the day as they were short a spotter, I was doing nothing so agreed. And that day changed my life. The way they looked in costume, the way the public reacted to them, the way they became the characters, all of it. I went home with a new respect for what these people did, and a determination to be part of it. I joined the UKG that night, found a Shadow Trooper costume shortly after and began my journey.
I looked around for a voice unit when I first started out but couldn’t find anything I liked so decided to build and use my own. People saw that, asked me to make one for them, and that’s how TRamp was born.
Do you have a background in electronics or is it something you’ve taught yourself?
I started with a Ladybird book of Electronics back when I was 7 years old (I still have it somewhere!) and have been at it ever since. Self-taught from books and lots of trial and error (back then we didn’t have the internet kids). I’ve been engineering in many forms ever since, from Electronics Engineer to Computer Programmer, to Aircraft Fitter, Car mechanic and many more. But things that beep and light up have always been my first love. I rarely had toys for long before they were apart and made into something else.
What types of props do you customise?
Anything you like. I love to look at props in film and figure out how I could make them in the real world. Luckily there are some very talented people out there so the pickings are rich in terms of physical props. If you have something you want to “work”, then I will talk to you and figure out how it can be done.
Can you take a shop bought toy blaster and convert it into what would resemble a prop?
Absolutely. This is actually something that I really love to do, as it can elevate the off the shelf toy into a very special piece indeed. My page and table display have a lot of these, and they are always popular. In particular the weapon mods. Getting a child’s toy to look good enough that a weapon expert swears its real is a nice feeling. As is having the creator of Judge Dredd want to endorse your work!
How do you get your props and costume accessories to look so authenticate accurate?
Time, lots of time! Research is the key. I very often will dig through footage of said prop, even frame by frame, to make sure I get any light sequences or sounds as accurate as I possibly can. This can take hours of tedious work (for some) but I enjoy this part. Painting and weathering are as important as sound and light, so I spend time learning this too. Some of the things I think about are such as: How would the real gun be balanced in your hand (I add weights inside to make it feel authentic, noting balance points etc.), how would it weather by use over time, like a magazine going in and out, or a wear pattern caused by the holster, then spend time painting it accordingly. These processes are hugely important as they add the final layer of realism.
Add to this the many, many hours spent learning different software and it’s a huge chunk of time. But that’s all part of it. If you want it to look, sound and feel real, put in the effort. I can’t tell you how much I spend on research, the different parts, the different paints, and the different software, all of it costs money!
With the development of smaller electronic parts in recent has this made things easier for you?
Without question yes. You can get some great wearable electronics now, and it’s getting even smaller still. I’m actually working on a Joi prop from the last Blade Runner movie, that has such little room inside, it’s a huge challenge to get all the light, sound and power needs in there but it’s a fun process and I think I’m there (look out for it soon).
From concept to final product, what sort of timescales are involved to complete a project?
That’s so hard to answer as there a many, many factors involved. What is the prop? Are there plenty of references? How complicated are the lights/sounds? Do you have a clear idea of what you want? What’s your own budget?
I have completed a concept to end product in 24 hours but that’s rare. I quote 4 to 6 weeks on all my work as this also allows (for the most part) for any complications from suppliers, couriers, customs etc.
You now help take peoples costumes and props to the next level. What new developments do you have that you can share with us?
Ahhhhhh, sneaky! I’m always looking into other genres and franchises, and I love to speak with people at the shows, seeing what I could make next to help them out. I’m currently looking at Harry Potter, Marvel, Ghostbusters, Aliens, Dredd, Star Trek, Transformers, and of course more Star Wars, to name a few.
There will of course be further developments with TRamp as I have some ideas to improve it. I would also love to be involved with larger projects, like prop sets or vehicles, which would be fantastic.
At which Comic-Con shows will attendees be able to see TRamp over the next few months?
I’ll be at MCM Comic-Con London at Excel on May 26th and 27th, and hoping to do more up and down the country as the year progresses (That’s if I get invited!). I’m also looking into shows abroad for next year.
Thank you for taking time out to talk to us here at Jedi News.
It was my pleasure, now I should get back to work!
You can find Paul and TRamp on Facebook. Head over there to like and follow his page to stay up to date with all his product developments and at which shows around the UK he will be attending in the coming months.