First off – the second edition to The Prop Building Guidebook is finally here! Go buy it so I can feed my babies! And if you like it, please leave a review on Amazon or wherever you purchase it from. And if you really like it (or you really liked the first edition), feel free to shoot me an email; the sad fact of being an author is you do not know how people are using your book unless they decide to tell you.
What’s in a letter? Prop or prank? – The Chasing Aideen blog has a fascinating look at prop letters on stage. Through conversations with directors and historical artifacts, we get a glimpse of how prop letters range from nonsensical scribbles to fully-realized reproductions from the imaginary world of the play.
Skylight Music Theatre’s ‘Beast’ puppet a giant thing of beauty – It really is. This massive, fully-articulated puppet looks like it stepped straight out of a Guillermo del Toro film.
Adam Savage Behind the Scenes of Ghost in the Shell! – In this video, Adam Savage heads to New Zealand to see some of the practical masks and animatronics which Weta Workshop designed and produced for the upcoming Ghost in the Shell film. The aesthetic is an amazing blend of smooth futuristic tech with old-world hand craftsmanship.
The Make: Guide to Dungeon Master Crafting – A lot of props people love models and miniatures, and a few enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons. Make has put together a guide of some fine tutorials on how to make your own miniature terrain and buildings for whatever role-playing games you prefer.
And finally, I’ve started this Instagram thing where I’m sharing all my photographs of prop shops, prop builders at work, and other backstage theater stuff. Come check it out!
Shop Tips: Cutting Foam for Propmaking – First up, Tested visits Frank Ippolito’s shop to see what tools he uses to cut flexible foam sheets. I want to try one of the blades he uses, which allows him to make some interesting cuts.
Shinken Sword Commission – The Prop Solve is back with an epic post on fabricating a fantasy sword for a client. The post is filled with pictures of every step, showing not just the successes, but the mistakes and learning experiences along the way. I especially like the build break-down she prepared for her client.
Queens Prop Shop Has Crafted Real Name for Itself in Booming Industry – NY1 visits the Prop “N” Spoon warehouse over in Queens and fabrication shop in Rahway, NJ. Check out the video to see some of the cool props they have built as business booms in NYC.
Adam Savage Examines the Props and Spacesuits of The Expanse! – We go back to Tested for this video of Adam Savage talking with James Murray, props master for Syfy’s The Expanse. Check out all the scratch-built armor, weapons, and other sci-fi elements for this sprawling space adventure.
Paperhand puppet master takes Chapel Hill-Carrboro teachers to school – In local news, puppet maker Donovan Zimmerman is teaching puppetry to local elementary students. Zimmerman is cofounder of Paperhand Puppet Intervention, which produces incredibly imaginative and poetic masks and puppets out of mere cardboard and papier-mache. It’s a wonderful program that will probably be cut as both art and education are eliminated in the next four years.
Yolanda Baker is the Last Disco Ball Maker. She has made tens of thousands of mirror balls by hand for the past fifty years at Omega National Products in Louisville, the last American manufacturer of this iconic object. Chances are, if you have a US mirror ball, it was made by her. She even did all the balls in Saturday Night Fever.
Make Magazine shows us How to Make Breakaway Bottles and Window Panes. They use sugar glass, ugggggghhh. The process they describe is easy enough to adapt to isomalt, though, which is superior to sugar glass.
Adam Savage visits Weta Workshop’s Model Painting Shop. Adam seems to be visiting all sorts of cool places lately, and the model painting studio at the shop that built Lord of the Rings is no exception. Check out all the cool work they did while learning some painting tips for yourself.
PuppetVision has a Pinterest board with 92 pins of Animatronics & Puppet Mechanisms. You can spend days looking at all the clever ways to make objects move and come to life.
“Designing Windows is an Art”. Take a look at this interview with Erin O’Brien, a freelance window designer at Bergdorf Goodman in London. She talks about how she got started and shows off some examples of her work over the years.
The Rooms They Left Behind – After their deaths, the New York Times photographed the private spaces of ten notable people. The photos are such wonderfully crafted images filled with real life set dressing, hinting at the lives of these people.
Locked & Loaded: The Gun Industry’s Lucrative Relationship with Hollywood – The Hollywood Reporter has an incredibly in-depth look at guns in Hollywood. This article takes us from the NRA’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit, to the ISS armory, with stops at the Internet Movie Firearm Database and discussions with the gun manufacturers themselves. You get a glimpse at some of cinema’s most well-known firearms, and we examine the seeming contradiction where actors can be anti-gun off-screen, but gleefully wielding weapons on-screen.
Raw Steak and The Revenant – Cinefex takes a look at the meatier effects from Leo’s Oscar-winning role, including several scalpings and a zombie skinned bear in a suit for a dream sequence. Besides the tight turn-around, most of these effects were built on set in the middle of the Canadian Rockies.
Adam Savage Visits The Lion King’s Puppet Shop – Adam Savage goes backstage while The Lion King is playing in San Francisco and talks with Michael Reilly, the show’s puppet supervisor. What more is there to say?
Artem: Inside a Real-Life Santa’s Workshop – Artem Studios has been making weird and wonderful props and effects for commercials, television, and film for the past 30 years. Little Black Book sits down with the founders to talk about some of their recent projects and how they approach their work.
First off, I’ve already gotten nearly a hundred responses to my quick survey about my upcoming book, The Prop Effects Guidebook. I’ll probably close it down after this weekend, so if you still want to fill it out, it’s your last chance. I’m sure I’ll have more surveys on different topics over the next couple of months.
Wired talks with the props master on Stranger Things about some of the retro 80s props used on the show. The show is set in 1983, so props master Lynda Reiss had to track down several iconic pieces which are hard to find but recognizable to many. And if you haven’t seen the show yet, do yourself a favor and watch it as soon as possible.
As China becomes the next superpower, it only makes sense to check out some of the prop makers working in Shanghai. Global Times looks at three props people working in TV, film, and on a freelance basis.
Take a look at the set designs in this year’s Berkshire Theatre Festival. Though no mention is made of the props shop, it’s a nice behind-the-scenes look at how the scenery and effects come to life.
Finally, Adam Savage gave a TED Talk on his love of costuming and cosplay. You can watch the video or read the transcript which Tested has graciously provided.