Frequently-asked questions about the web site

Since I tend to get the same questions repeatedly regarding the content of the 'Helmet Project' and I can no longer find the time necessary to respond to all of these emails, here are some answers I have put together for some of the more frequently-asked questions:

Are you planning to add ________ to the site?

Sorry, but I have no intentions of adding any new categories to the site anytime in the near future, because those that I have already started are my primary interests, and they are also more than enough to keep me busy for a LONG time. If any MAJOR new professional leagues appear, I will probably add them to the site, but I do not foresee myself expanding much further into minor league or semi-pro football (unless I change my mind :). I lost interest in baseball permanently after the 1994 strike, so I have no intentions of adding baseball helmets to the site.

And I think it should go without saying that there are far too many high schools in the U.S. to even conceive of ever adding all them to the web site...

How about adding a corresponding set of helmet images facing the other direction?

Sorry, but this is not in my plans either. My intention with the web site is to illustrate basically what the helmet designs look like, and a single image should suffice for about 99% of all designs. When a logo is used on just one side of the helmet, I have tried to note the situation in the comments section on the various pages. While I can certainly see why a set of helmet images facing the other direction could be useful, creating such a set would be a colossal amount of work, while at the same time not being any fun for me.

You can create your own rightward-facing helmet image rather simply if you have access to the Paint program that comes with Windows: start the Paint program; open the helmet image that you have saved to your hard drive; go to the "Image/Flip-Rotate" menu item; select "Flip horizontal"; and then save the flipped image to your hard drive. Of course, if the original left-facing helmet image contained any letters or words, they will now be backwards (unless the letter(s) have horizontal symmetry).

Why do you not consider photographs of mini-helmets to be an acceptable resource? They're just smaller versions of the actual helmets.

I do not collect mini-helmets myself, but based on the many photographs I have seen of them, I can tell quite easily that there are "good" and "bad" mini-helmets. If there was some way to know that a particular mini-helmet was an accurate reproduction of the "real" thing, then perhaps I could use photographs of them as a reference; however, I've seen far too many badly erroneous ones to have any confidence in them. So, I do not consider mini-helmets to be in any way a substitute for real helmets. The more common problems I see with mini-helmets are (roughly in order of frequency): decal size not in correct proportion to helmet shell; improper outlines around the logo (either wrong color or wrong thickness); decal similar to, but not identical to one used on "real" helmet; improper sequence or thickness of stripes; and shell color different from "real" helmet.

What software do you use to create the helmet images?

Lots of people seem to miss the mention of these that is made towards the bottom of the main page at the web site. The only programs I use are the "Windows Paint" program that is distributed with the Windows operating system (specifically the Windows XP version), and another program called "Micrografx Windows Draw" that was included on a free software CD my brother-in-law got with a computer he bought. I have never used Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Corel Draw, or any other graphics software program, and I know nothing whatsoever about any of those programs, although I would assume that they have features that are comparable to or superior to those in the Micrografx Windows Draw program.

"How do you make the helmet images?"

I get some version of this question pretty often, and it strikes me as being sort of an odd question, because the fact that it is asked seems to imply that I can write back with some short answer, which is hardly the case, of course... anyway, the basic process of creating one of these images is as follows:

Typically, a considerable amount of time is spent tracking down enough photographs to show clearly what the helmet looks like, and then more time is used locating a suitable copy of the logo worn on the helmet (if any); but if I'm fortunate, some kind visitor to the web site will provide me with these things (which is sort of the whole idea of having the web site, after all :). Far more time goes into this step than into the actual artwork.

Suppose I'm working on a helmet image for a team that uses white helmet shells, and on those helmets are worn decals that look like this:

First of all, I open the "Paint" program that comes with the Windows operating system and insert this logo image into a "blank" drawing field. Now, through extensive trial-and-error, I eventually found a way to distort a logo such as this in a way that mimics to at least some extent how it would appear if it were placed on a roughly spherical surface (like a football helmet). One of the two graphics programs I use for this work, "Micrografx Windows Draw v.6.0 LE", has an effect called "sphere", which does the job quite well (go to the menu item Tools/Image Effects/Sphere if you have the program). Here is a picture before and after applying "sphere" to it:

before "sphere"
after "sphere"

Notice how the area of the image around the little yellow square is distorted just a little, so that its top and right sides appear slightly "further away" than the bottom and left sides. This is the area in which I try to place the logo to get an appopriate distortion for the helmet angle I use at the web site. Using the example logo from above: in the Paint program I place it in a field of the proper background color (white, in this case, since the logo is worn on white helmets; a red background would be used for a red helmet, etc.), and then I use the "Select" tool to "cut out" a square shape containing the logo, with the logo positioned somewhere to the upper right of center of the cut-out region; this "cut-out" square is then saved to a temporary .bmp file, then opened in the "Draw" program, and then has the "sphere" function in Draw applied to it. The black borders around the pictures below represent the edges of the cut-out region:

before "sphere"
after "sphere"

I then rotate the image by some angle that looks about right (usually 15 to 25 degrees) and resize it using other options within the Draw program. I usually have to re-do the resizing at least once or twice to get the logo to the correct size to go on the blank helmet image. At this point the logo looks something like this:

This picture is then copied back to the Paint program and placed on the blank helmet image using the Select tool again:

Inevitably, some pixel-by-pixel manipulation is necessary to finish up the image, but it is basically done at this point.

I hope this will make it clear why I must have a copy of the logo worn on the helmet to draw one of these things; I certainly do not draw them pixel-by-pixel directly onto the helmet. Doing that would take me several days, at the very least.

Now, as for the little "spotlight" thing that appears on all the helmet images except the white ones: neither the Paint program nor the Draw program has a feature to create those; they were present on a set of helmet images in this "format" that I found on the internet a few years ago, and I have just used "blank" versions of those images I found to create the set of images at this web site. I do not know with what graphics program the "originals" with their shiny spots were created; neither of the graphics programs I use are able to do this.

Why don't you just contact Joe Blow, the SID at State U.? I'm sure he can provide you with lots of information about historical helmets for State U.

I did try contacting a few universities and colleges directly during the very early days of the web site for information, but unfortunately I never heard back from any of these. I think this is primarily due to the fact that sports information directors and people with similar jobs tend to be very busy (I've known a couple of such people personally) and probably cannot make time for something like this unless they are personally interested in the subject. Now, if you know an SID, coach, equipment manager, or other college employee who you think would be willing to contribute information to the site, please do check with them; I, however, do not have time to compose a bunch of emails or letters requesting help from people who may not be willing to contribute anything.

Let me add, though, that I have been contacted by many college or university employees who did provide some very helpful information for the site. Among the people contributing information towards some of the more complete sets of helmet representations at this site were coaches, athletic directors, equipment managers, referees, football players, former football players, and even professors. The well-completed sections for Connecticut, Utah State, and Idaho State, among others, fall into this category.

Can you send me the original versions of the helmet images? I'm having trouble printing out the ones at your web site.

I'm sorry, but what you see at the site is the original version. Well, almost; they are first created as Windows .bmp files, and then converted to .gif format as the last step. I do not begin with a larger size, or a higher-resolution version than the ones you see at the site, and I have neither the knowledge nor the software to come up with such a version, sorry.

Can you send me some of the logos you have used to draw the helmets?

Lately, I've been getting more and more requests for the logos themselves from people who have seen the web site. I hope everybody reading this will realize that it is not practical for me to send out emails containing the logos to thirty or forty people every time I add something to the site. If somebody wants to start a "helmet logo web site", I would be glad to make contributions to it, although I should mention that most of the logos that I have are small, "non-vectorized", and probably unsuitable for printing out to create decals, if that's what you have in mind. Furthermore, some colleges that have sent me information did so with the expectation that I would not redistribute the logos, and I intend to honor all such requests.

I am offering the contents of this site to anyone who may wish to use it (with certain restrictions), and I think that's sufficiently generous. Please try to limit your logo requests unless you're also contributing something useful towards the development of the site. I don't mind sharing with people who are contributing to the site, but I hardly have time to search through all my thousands of disorganized files to send stuff to people who are not really contributing much in return.

Why is 1960 the cut-off date for historical helmets?

While the actual choice of year was somewhat arbitrary, I felt that a cut-off date for the historical helmets was necessary (at least for now) for several reasons:

  • Photographs, especially color ones, seem to be extremely scarce from earlier years. They are not particularly easy to find for the 1960s, either. Tracking down the necessary information would be an extremely difficult undertaking.
  • The overall helmet shape, particularly the facemasks, begins to differ greatly from the one portrayed in the "template" that I use when you go back into the 1950s. To reasonably depict earlier helmets would require the development of a new set of templates, something I do not particularly feel like working on at the present time.
  • Football helmet designs from the 1950s and earlier are just not particularly interesting (not to me, at least). Most teams (but certainly not all) seem to have worn plain solid-colored helmets before 1960.
  • Once again, there are more than enough helmets from 1960 to present to keep me occupied into the foreseeable future.

Are you interested in information about historical helmets for the smaller colleges?

Yes, absolutely! I will not be able to add many more NCAA Division I-A historical helmets to the site, unless I get some new information from people, so I would welcome information for the other classifications at the present time.

How many helmets are illustrated at the "Helmet Project"?

I am not sure about the exact number, but it is somewhere around 3500 as of June, 2006.