Reference Images

If we leave aside some of the microcontroller, software, and connectivity things I plan on doing to the WOPR desk, then this project boils down to the category of prop replication. The original W.O.P.R. is a movie prop and my plan is to create a replica of this.

One of the first steps in building any replica is to gather reference images and dimensions of the thing you’re trying to replicate. In my search for reference images, I wanted ones that included decent front and side views, and hopefully views that had good references for dimensions, such as things that I already know the size for, or people for whom I can determine an approximate height.

The first such reference image is this one, which includes an actor who is listed at 5’10” standing next to the WOPR. This image is more useful than you think:

WOPR with Actor Reference

Notice how he’s standing straight up and not leaning into or away from the prop.

So in the raw image, 5’10” stands 834 pixels from the bottom. The prop stands 692 pixels from the bottom. A quick run through the magic encabulator tells me the WOPR prop is 83% of the actor’s height. So, 83% of 5’10” (70 inches) is 58.1 inches. More importantly, using this one image there’s a scale of 11.91 pixels per “real world” inch.

I can now extrapolate a couple of “finger in the wind” height estimates. Heights are from top of object to floor unless otherwise noted:

Object Actual Height Desk Required Height
Actor 5’10” (Irving Metzman) N/A
WOPR Top 58.1” 41”
WOPR Top Shelf 42” 29”
Left Light Panel 10” (panel only) N/A
Central Light Panel 12.7” N/A
Large Lettering 5” (letter only) N/A
Small Lettering (capital) 1.5” (letter only) N/A

In my plans, the top shelf is going to be the height of my desk, so that’s where the majority of my downscaling is going to happen. Assuming that my encabulations are correct, the new top shelf (desktop) will be 31% lower than the original, so to keep the WOPR top the same proportional distance from the desktop, it looks like that should come out at 41”. The original prop has the WOPR top 16” higher than the WOPR shelf. For my desk, it’ll be 12” taller.

These values aren’t cutting values, as in, I’m not going to use these numbers when I cut the wood. However, these numbers are invaluable in helping me determine relative sizes when I eventually scale the prop down to desk proportions.

Dead Code Prop

As it happens, I got lucky while looking for width reference images. The sequel to the Wargames, a movie that we typically do not discuss in civilized company, actually re-used the rotting original WOPR prop. When that movie finished shooting, they auctioned off the prop. For the purposes of the auction, someone took pictures of the prop on and next to a wooden shipping pallet. This is freaking fantastic because those pallets are a known uniform size of 40” x 48”.

Take a look at the pics from the online auction:

Dead Code 1 Dead Code 2 Dead Code 3 Dead Code 4

There are still way more measurements I need to take, but it looks like I can probably do a decent job by making the main (tall) piece of the WOPR 18” wide. There’s a couple of reasons for this. The first is that the average 6’ man has 18” of shoulder span and from the above photo, the actor’s shoulder span looks (again, just eyeballing) roughly the same width as the WOPRs central core. Further, if I look at the other pictures from the prop near the palettes, somewhere between 18” and 20” looks about right.

I’ll only really know whether I’m happy with the dimensions when I get it all laid out on plans with the desk height scaled adjustments, etc.

First Sketch

My next step was just to familiarize myself with the shape and components of the prop. With a piece of graph paper and my relative ratios and a ruler, I drew the following rough sketch. It’s not something I can cut from, but at the scale of “n graph paper boxes” everything should still be in the same scaled position as it is in the other pictures. I’ve lowered only one of the pieces originally at the top level height, just to play with the idea a little.

First Sketch

Looking at my first sketch it seems like I might’ve gotten my WOPR central core a little too narrow. I also don’t like how the top shelf doesn’t maintain a clean line on other side of the central core like it does in the original prop.

Next steps? A more precise drawing, possibly a 3D model. Also, since originally doing this sketch I’ve discovered that I don’t have room in my office to put the WOPR in with the core piece right-aligned. For the final desk, I’m going to have to flip it and orient the core section on the left.