It is the most accurate Stargate replica ever created. The 1:1-scale Stargate is a screen-accurate reproduction of the Pegasus Galaxy gate, featured for five years on Stargate Atlantis.
Last week the gate’s creators pulled back the curtain for the project’s very first public display in London.
Conceived and built by the fan group Les Enfants de Mac Gyver (EMG) — the “Children of MacGyver” — the Stargate 1:1 Project used a segment of the show’s original prop to help in the gate’s design. (The original gate props were cut into segments and sold at auction.)
Made of resin and cast fiberglass and with a diameter of six meters (nearly 20 feet), the Stargate has a working light track to illuminate the glyphs and chevrons. The team even rigged an Atlantis-style dialing device, with sound effects, to conduct a dialing sequence. (Watch it at the end of the video below!)
Along with EMG the gate’s structure was built by Reis Martin, while Michael Glanville built the lighting system, interactive D.H.D., and sound effects. Madeleine Young made the special paint for the gate, and Alex Walton soldered hundreds of L.E.D. lights.
After some ten years in development the fan group finally had the chance to raise and light their work and show off the gate to the world. Next it will be converted into the Milky Way gate (from Stargate SG-1). The group hopes to put the screen-accurate prop on tour at fan conventions, and also make it available for rental to private events.
GateWorld caught up with EMG president Quentin Brichet to debrief him on the project, and where the Stargate is going next. But first, take a look at the project’s global unveiling:
GateWorld: Tell us a little about your group! Who is Les Enfants de MacGyver, and how did you come to be? Have you done other projects together before?
Quentin @ EMG: Les EMG is a non-profit association, created two years after the beginning of the SG1:1 project. We felt we needed a way to be transparent about how we would use any donation someone could give us, and also to have a way to protect us if there was any problem with MGM regarding copyright and trademarks.
The goal of the EMG was first only to build a Stargate. It is now to build replica props and sets, and to share those along with original props with the public (for example at conventions) for them to be able to see how much work and craftsmanship is involved in producing those kind of things.
GW: Tell us about the genesis of the Stargate 1:1 Project. What made you choose to take on something of this scale?
EMG: I was in a LARP [live-action role playing] group and we had this discussion: “Should we make a Stargate for a LARP? It would be cool.” And I said, “Yeah but let’s make it 100 percent accurate!” I still have no idea why. The fact is, I wanted to make at least one big thing in my life.
Also I always loved to see the behind-the-scenes in movies and series to discover how they made the sets, props, and special FX. So I knew this project would lead me to learn a lot of new things. I really like the Stargate for what it is: a set with intricate design, huge and beautiful. The start was really more for the challenge than for the love of the Stargate franchise.
GW: The 1:1 gate has been ten years in the making. Amazing! Why has the work taken this long? Has it changed at all over the years?
EMG: When you try to achieve this kind of project you have to be realistic about the cost and the time involved. We started out saying it would need two years and $20,000. We were wrong. Mostly because we were aiming for perfection, and we didn’t know anything about how to make it.
So the first years were used to learn more about the Stargate (there weren’t a lot of references at that time) and to decide which technologies we would need to make it. Then we had to learn those technologies. I mean, you don’t make a giant silicon mold completely right the first time!
We had to make most of the pieces from scratch too, and it takes time to make it right. And as the people involved were scattered throughout the whole French and Swiss territory it was difficult to work on it other than on our holidays.
GW: You got access to a piece of the original Stargate prop to work from. How did that come about, and what did you gain from it?
EMG: At the end of the TV franchise, they sold everything at auction: set pieces, props, wardrobe, blueprints, crew caps, and more. And at that time I bought only a back-panel, because it was cheaper than a whole segment. That gave me a good idea of the size, shape and details of the gate. I could even reuse some parts of it to make the front-panel of the gate.
But once we finished making nearly all of the parts of the gate from scratch, we had the opportunity to buy a full segment. We really wanted something 100 percent accurate, and so we chose to abandon our previous work (I know …) and start again.
That’s also a reason why it took so long. This time we had to renovate the parts we could and remake the parts that were too damaged, using mostly 3D scans and 3D prints. Our gate is actually cleaner than the one from the show.
So, it was mostly a way to be even more accurate — to have the right hue for the paint, the right color for the chevron, and all these details that you can’t get exactly right just by looking at the show. The original Stargate is mostly black. Did you know that?
GW: So was this a segment of the S.G.C. gate that you got ahold of, or the location Stargate?
EMG: The section we have is actually one from the S.G.C. gate. Some parts have actually been screen-matched with the first segment of the gate and the second chevron!
The glyphs we have on this segment are Monoceros, Gemini, Hydra, Lynx, and Cancer.
GW: Can you give us the specs on the finished product? What is the diameter of the gate? What is it made out of? How much does it weigh? How many lights does the Atlantis gate have?
EMG: The gate is around six meters in diameter. It’s made mostly of resin and fiberglass cast in silicon molds. The panels are mounted on a wood skeleton, which is fixed on an aluminum structure. It weights around 600 kg right now.
The lights are made of led strips, and there are three under each glyph, as well as two for each chevron plus six squares of four power LEDs under each crystal. That makes 126 strips and 54 squares of power LEDs in total. Fun fact: the led strips under the glyphs are glued on turkey trays used as reflectors!
GW: What have you loved about this process? And what is most satisfying about the final product?
EMG: Learning! The fact that I now know how to make silicon molds, casting resins, and lead this kind of project are real competencies. And of course it was a lot of fun to share those new skills with people eager to learn and work on the project, even for a day.
Now seeing this finished is amazing. I had seen it in parts in my garden, and even like that it didn’t seem that huge. I was relieved that the panels were sturdy enough. It really feels like it will stand for 10 years.
Also the London team, led by Reis Martin, made an exceptional work and the fact that there was a D.H.D. and that we were able to dial the gate was just incredible, and really playful. Seeing everyone really amazed and pleased was a really nice feeling. I mean, we made it for people to have fun with it!
GW: What has been the most difficult or challenging about the project? Is there anything you wish you’d have done differently?
EMG: I wish we had the skills to make it at the start, I wish we had a workshop, and I wish my team members were closer. But hey, one of our goals was to prove it was doable without all that, and we did!
So yeah, the most difficult part was to work in the garden and the house, to plan everything correctly, and also at the end of the project to build the structure for the gate as this part just can’t be learned. Without someone capable of designing something appropriate and sure for the public to stand under it, we couldn’t finish this project.
GW: If you are willing to share: How much money have you invested in the project?
EMG: If we count the money involved in the professional grade materials, the exhibitions, the transports, the money used to buy the references (the Stargate section), and all the trial and error … I mean all the expenses of the association, we would be around $60,000. Maybe a bit less.
We still have to pay for the base to make it stand, which will not be cheap.
GW: What additional challenges does your team face in transitioning from the Atlantis gate to the Milky Way gate? Will the chevrons light up? Will they move? Will the inner track even spin?!
EMG: We really wanted a fully functioning Stargate. The real goal from the beginning was to have the Milky Way Stargate with the spinning glyph track, the lighting orange chevrons, and the locking main chevron. So yeah, we’re going for all of that.
More than making it spin, the main challenge is making it stand and finding a way to lift it without using a crane. The spinning part is actually pretty simple. Now it may cause the gate to shake too much; then we would need to find a way to avoid this movement. This could be a challenge too, because even the static S.G.C. Stargate — which was firmly attached to the ground and soldered — was still shaking while it spun …
GW: What are your plans for the Stargate now? Where can fans come out to see it in person?
EMG: The Pegasus Stargate is now disassembled and there is a good chance it will never be displayed again, sadly. But the SG-1 gate is made to be touring at conventions, mainly in Europe. The fans should be able to dial the gate and take pictures with it.
We also have no intention to put a “No Touching” sign in front of the Stargate. We really want people to be able to feel it! We hope to be able to use it for fan movies, LARPs, weddings, and maybe birthdays … all that as a rental if possible, to be able to survive and make other awesome projects.
But to achieve that we’ll need the green light from MGM. So we hope to find some sort of partnership. But we have had no contact for now.
GW: Finally, why did you embark on this project? What does Stargate mean to each of you, personally, that you’ve invested so much in the 1:1 project?
EMG: Most of us are hardcore fans. One of them is Bra’Zat, who has been chosen as “Superfan” by MGM to represent the fanbase.
Most of us are also professional specialists (I’m a stage technician, and we have people who know everything about motors, 3D modeling, etc.). And there is this will to make something together. I think it’s really the bond we have now.
At least one of us actually is not a hardcore fan … and it’s me. I’m more interested by the thing itself. But hey, Stargate is definitely the science fiction show from my childhood, so of course it means something to me.
I really like the contrast between the serious moments and the happy ones, with jokes and silly behavior in the series. I think w’’re like that too with the EMG. We know the project itself is huge and needs us to work hard, but we love to be silly and tease each other. And we love the fanbase. That’s us, and we’re crazy.
Thanks to Quentin and everyone at EMG for speaking with us, and for their hard work on this amazing project! Stay tuned for more from the Les Enfants de Mac Gyver team, as they prepare for the public debut of the Milky Way Stargate.
On Twitter: EMG_Sg11