I was about to write your monthly music, but I came across a picture of the new all-female Ghostbusters gang. I’ve seen it before, and outside the damn ugly costumes the upcoming Ghostbusters doesn’t really fetch a reaction from me, but then I saw the particle throwers. I should not have seen them, because that did pull an emotion from me. I’m looking at them and I have to wonder Who the hell designed these pieces of trash?
Here’s the thing; the original particle thrower / proton wand is an excellent example of great prop design. It looks self-made and yet done by someone who knew what they were doing professionally. It looks safe, but dangerous at the same time. It has bits and pieces that have an innate quality to them that’s instantly understood because it has a resemblance to real world equipment. There’s nibs and nubs that have at least some sort of clear meaning to them. It being painted black only lifts all the smaller steel and lighted up details towards the viewer’s eye. Sure, it’s essentially a box with two tubes to it with other bits protruding out and some wires going here and there, yet it all works because it is cohesive piece.
The new proton packs and particle throwers we saw from Tufts Medical Centre look like a fucking toy with no thought behind it.
The first bit that’s fucked up is the handle. All the weight of the main unit on the wand is on that curved handle, which would stress the arm more than if it was aligned with the rest of the unit. It has a slight inwards curve to it, which is nice to see, but the handle itself looks incredibly small and lacking in ergonomics. The handle they have should have larger grip that would conform to the hand, not a screwdriver like circular piece. It’s shiny plastic as well, which usually means it has lousy friction.
The original particle thrower can be argued to be worse in the sense that it had a straight angle handle protruding from the main unit, but that’s where the weight distribution comes into play again. When you have, for example, a spear in your hands, you are able to muster more strength and control to it because of its straight nature. The same is with the original particle thrower. As the particle stream can be compared to a strong water stream that has a nature to wonder around, having an innate idea where straight forwards is for the piece becomes highly important. With the handle-above approach that the new thrower has is just stupid, especially when you consider the push from the particle stream now comes towards underneath your hand. Your wrist and the rest of the arm needs to do extra work to keep it the thrower lifted and in right angle. Notice how Egon’s female version is holding the prop piece from the very end, not from the handle part itself. That alone should tell you how bad ergonomics these particle throwers have.
The problem with handle-above approach wouldn’t be bad if the main unit would be about the same size as the original, but no, the new one has to be huge and look like a goddamn hobbybox. First we see that it’s gunmetal grey for whatever reason with exposed wires, coil and goddamn soldering, meaning that it would degrade at a higher pace than if it was protected, and that if somebody would touch that those exposed bits it would most likely short circuit and explode in your face. You don’t want an important component of an unlicensed nuclear accelerator to explode in your hands, the short circuit shock may travel to the backpack. If they just had put a damn plexiglass on top of that bit, it would make some sense, but these bits are dangling out just to show that it’s self-made, like the original. On the underside you have some other bits as well, and why in the name of all that is good you’d put what looks like buttons and other important nib knobs on the surface you put on the table? Every frigging side of the main unit has something on it just to make it look busy and it’s so awfully realized.
But you know what’s even better than exposed wiring? Those copper pipes. Copper pipe is relatively expensive, those are very shiny. Like new. The first question we have is Why the hell are they there? I’m assuming they are coolant pipes, which would mean that the proton throwers warm up even more than in the originals and that the throwers carry cooling liquid inside of them, which adds quite a lot of weight to them, making the handle even more of an stupid idea. Not only that, but that makes the proton throwers about five times more expensive to build than the original. The original has heatsinks to cool down the thrower, but none of the throwers ever really overheat throughout the movies. Ghostbusters The Game used overheat as a mechanic, but only in regards of the proton backpack. These bitches on the other hand have incredibly expensive active cooling for components that are exposed to air.
The main unit is an incredibly good example how hard it is to design a box, and whoever did this design just fucked it up. The original particle thrower doesn’t make a real difference between the different parts, blending them more or less seamlessly together. You see a clear welding line where the handle meets the main unit and keeps simple. All the buttons and knobs are positioned near the handle, making it easy to use. There are few separate pieces seen in the movies that are used with the other hand to change the settings. With the new pack everything needs to be set with the other hand, because the hand on the handle has access only to the trigger button. Hell, even the pilot of the animation got it right as well! There’s an extra button next to the copper pipes, which I assume is the main power switch because of red cover, which just shows more that everything is all over the place, almost literally.
Then you have the goddamn… I don’t even know what to call it. I guess it’s the barrel of the thrower. Visually speaking, it’s a bad design. The connecting piece looks weak and has added useless rectangles glued to it to give it an interesting look, but unlike with Lightsabers where we can assume them to be some sort of energy packs, these are just glued on pieces. The large tube is large for the sake of being large, housing a red light inside. Of course, because y’know, proton stream is red. And sometimes blue to white, emits sparks, sometimes white, sometimes core red with an orange aura, but the most iconic one is red with blue electricity surrounding it. But why the hell does the fat barrel have just one black bit on it that looks like electric tape? The original particle thrower had an actual handle, one that the user could grab and have a proper hold of. Now that the barrel is fat like that, they don’t have full grasp on it. Perhaps they were going for a similar grip as with an assault rifle, but that doesn’t work if there is no surface to grab on. Secondly, assault rifles’ barrels grip are specifically designed to fit the shape of the hand be gripped strongly if necessary. The new particle thrower barrel looks like piece of shit because of this. They would almost certainly lose their grip of the barrel the moment the particle stream kicks back harder because it’s smooth metal with nothing to properly grip on.
And yeah, nice aluminium pieces at the front, don’t put any effort to make it look interesting like the original’s.
The biggest gripe I have with these designs that they had or have superior alternative. The photo above is the most circulated one from Tufts Medical Center, and shows most details on the particle throwers. However, the gripe I have with those is that we do have or at least did have good new designs for the particle throwers already that were not the old ones.
This is from Paul Feig’s Twitter. That looks what it should look more like, even if it the particle thrower is more or less the same. There’s a closer look at the thrower there too. However, this picture is from July 6th, and the photos from Hufts Medical Center are from August 1st. Why weren’t these packs used in Hufts Medical Centre? Why were these “new” packs and throwers used? They are just incredibly awful in design, and should be used as an example how not to design something like this. I sincerely hope that these particle throwers where just kitbashed in five minutes for the hospital visit in order to keep the actual props in the best possible condition, and that these “new” props will not make any sort of appearance in any media again.