Permel Case Study

Working with Permel

“I have a great history of success using Permel’s broad range of in house capabilities. And I always know exactly what I am going to get because of the CNC (computer controlled routering and engraving equipment they use. These are great guys, and I really appreciate what they do,”
says Richard Molnar, President and Lead Designer at Propology.

Propology is a Vancouver based manufacturer of custom built props and a prop rental business, and has been serving the television and motion picture industry since 1987. Its specialty is in electronic, high-tech, gadget, and technical props, and its prop rental inventory spans circa 1950 to present day.

Richard Molnar, Propology’s President and Lead Designer, has been active in the industry for over 25 years. Back at the launch of his career Molnar built custom props, and he really enjoyed working closely with directors and actors, modifying props until they were perfect. This passion for building unique props grew into his primary business, and since there was a growing need for technology-based props, he jumped in to fill that need. Today Propology’s vast and impressive inventory is comprised of consumer, industrial, and professional electronic devices, as well as technical apparatus, fictitious items, and futuristic (sci-fi) devices.

Catering to the television and motion picture industry is glamorous at best, but is not without its challenges. Planning for props typically falls to the end of the line when budgets are dwindling, so expectations are extremely high; the industry operates in a perpetual state of crises where deadlines are ever tighter, and the complexity and quality standards for production are ever rising.

Because of the nature of the creative process, to build highly authentic props at lightning speed and at a low cost, working with trusted, reliable suppliers is highly desirable. ‘We cannot afford the time or the cost of mistakes. We depend upon suppliers that can collaborate with us on the creative process, deliver what we ask for, and provide multiple components for the prop build,” says Molnar.

Referred to Permel by a colleague back in the 90s, Propology approached Permel with a relatively pedestrian project: engraving a plaque. Molnar says, “I did not really appreciate what Permel was capable of at that time. We treated sign shops as sign shops.

I really began to appreciate what they were capable of when building an electric shock therapy machine for the TV series Smallville,” explains Molnar. “I wanted the body to look like stainless steel, with very modern, clean lines. As is often the case, we had very little time, and a low budget, but we were determined to find a way to simulate this economically. I noticed Permel made name tags on simulated brushed stainless steel, so I had a little discussion with Craig Fotheringham, and explained that I wanted to do something a bit unusual using their materials and expertise. I wanted to use an old Dictaphone machine as a basis for the housing, and I designed extensive cosmetic modifications using this material. Permel produced a numerous parts, which all fit perfectly. It was a very successful project.”

That machine, although relatively inexpensive to produce, required very precise cutting of multiple fasciae, the creation and engraving of buttons, reverse engraving with paint backfills for custom LED lighting, and the production of a remote control. Almost ten years later Propology still rents it out.

That’s when I began to realize that I could be using Permel for more than just signage,” says Molnar. It became clear to him as client expectations were ramping up and there was always pressure to work within compressed timeframes that Permel could often be called upon to provide timely solutions to a variety project requirements. Molnar understands there are tasks and deliverables Permel can provide more quickly, cost effectively, and efficiently than anyone else and with good aesthetic sense. He also recognizes that a great deal of what Permel does is under computer control and very accurate, e.g., laser cuts are to exacting precision. That saves time and money, not to mention reduces stress.

Permel has worked closely with Propology on dozens of successful projects since the early days, including a stunning table top scanning electron microscope! Molnar designs the specifications and Permel delivers, sometimes without even knowing what the parts will be used for. Molnar loves dropping by to show off the final product.

What Propology has come to appreciate about Permel is its very nice cross section of in house capabilities that compliment each other. This means the team at Permel is able to deliver multiple components of a prop build project. What’s also refreshing is that they never seem phased by Molnar’s unique requests. Molnar adds, “One of the great appeals is that they are always upbeat and affable. I really enjoy working with Craig, Robin and everyone else at Permel. They never over promise and often exceed my expectations.

Read more at Propology.

Propology is a division of Molnar Motion Picture Props, Inc.