Creature Features

I caught a few episodes of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop a while back when my wife was in the hospital. It was very entertaining and informative, and probably the closest a reality show has come to portraying what prop builders actually do (though the show deals with creature building). I recently found that the SyFy website has some companion Creature Feature videos to go with the show.

In the videos, the expert mentors on the show, Peter Brooke, John Criswell and Julie Zobel, take you through the process of building a creature. They start with design and sculpting, go through the animatronics, show you different finishing techniques, and end with how puppeteers bring it to life. It’s not an explicit “how-to” guide, since they gloss through everything quickly and don’t go into details. But if you have some experience, it is great to see how the masters do it, since you can get a lot of inspiration of new things to try on your own.

Friday Night Links

Friday Night Links

Happy Friday, everyone. It’s that time of year when summer seems to be winding down; summer theatres are getting down to their last few shows, schools are getting ready to start up, and busy props people are panicking that they haven’t taken a vacation yet. If you’re stuck inside on a computer, I hope these links will keep you busy for awhile:

The Credits has a great interview with Conor O’Sullivan, prosthetic supervisor for films and shows such as Saving Private Ryan, The Dark KnightGame of ThronesX-Men: First Class, and the upcoming Hercules. While the art and craft of prosthetic effects often gets all the press, this article delves into something just as important: the logistics and planning to get it all done. Putting a fake tattoo on an actor is far different than getting matching tattoos on 150 extras every morning in less than five hours.

Fon Davis shows you how to make your own vacuum forming machine in this video. While others have shown how to build cheap or free machines like this, Fon goes a step further and assembles a machine entirely out of found parts, modified with only a drill and some duct tape.

I needed to make some small translucent crystals for a project I’m working on, and the Arms, Armor and Awesome blog has a fantastic tutorial on how to cast gems out of clear resin (h/t to Propnomicon for the link).

The NYC Prop Summit just got a webpage. The Summit itself is typically held each year around August (this year it is August 22nd), where props people from in and around the New York City area get together to network, celebrate, and learn new things. They also have a Facebook group where members go for help or advice.

The Halbard

Halbards of the Christian Middle Ages

“The halbard may be derived from the German Halbe-Barthe; half battle-axe; or from Helm, casque, and Barthe, battle-axe; or from Alte Barthe, old battle-axe: in Germany and Scandinavia it dates from the earliest centuries of the present era, though it was not known in France until the Swiss introduced it in 1420.”

The Halbard

The Halbard

1, 2, and 3. Three kinds of halbards, somewhat like the ranseurs, eleventh century.

4. Swiss halbard, fourteenth century.

5, 6, 7, and 8. Four German halbards of the fourteenth century.

9. Swiss halbard, beginning of the fifteenth century.

10. Swiss halbard, end of the fifteenth century.

11. Swiss halbard with three-pronged hammer, end of the fifteenth century.

12. German halbard with three-pronged hammer, beginning of the sixteenth century.

13. Swiss halbard, middle of the sixteenth century.

14. German halbard, sixteenth century, engraved and gilt, a very handsome weapon.

15. German halbard, sixteenth century.

16. Venetian halbard, end of the sixteenth century.

The illustrations and descriptions have been taken from An Illustrated History of Arms and Armour: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, by Auguste Demmin, and translated by Charles Christopher Black. Published in 1894 by George Bell.

Though halberd is the preferred modern spelling, this article uses halbard, an accepted variant.

Casting a Rubber Hammer

Casting a Rubber Hammer

I recently came across the Brick in the Yard Mold Supply YouTube Channel, which has well over a hundred videos on molding, casting and finishing techniques. I started off by watching this one on casting a rubber hammer. Brick in the Yard has been selling molding, casting and special effects supplies out of their shop in Texas since the mid-nineties, and their collection of videos give an in-depth look on how to use a lot of them. So check it out:

Friday Rehearsal Report

The Compliance and Safety Blog has created this great infographic on PPE basics (personal protective equipment) that they shared with me.

Volpin Props has an extensive build diary for his latest project, a shark bazooka gun from The League of Legends. It’s quite the complex process, using casting, vacuum forming and even some puppetry.

Dug North has a new tutorial up showing different methods for bending brass wire, tube and sheets. You can make some pretty quick but intricate small props using nothing but brass.

The Walking Dead has a video showing off some of the best props, effects and explosions from Season Five. Warning: if you haven’t seen Season Five yet, it gives away quite a few spoilers. Also, blood and guts and stuff.

Finally, Nick Offerman tells us why we should build stuff. Besides playing Ron Swanson on TV’s Parks and Rec, Nick is quite the accomplished woodworker, and runs his own shop employing half a dozen other woodworkers.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies