Tag Archives: automata

Unboxing Some Props Links

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!

Smithsonian Magazine has a great article on the history of the humble suitcase. It seems that every show that takes place in the twentieth century involves a suitcase. Even the shows that don’t require a suitcase often get them added in rehearsal (only to be cut during tech rehearsals when they realize they can’t carry their other props, and they don’t know where to put the suitcase at the end of the scene).

Speaking of histories of objects, the Toaster Museum is a whole website dedicated to the history of the toaster.

Popular Woodworking has posted a quick guide to screws. This downloadable PDF first appeared in a 2004 issue of their magazine. Now you can download it or print it out for easy reference to the different kinds of screws, different screw heads, and the best screws to use for common applications.

The Credits talks about building the sets for The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. Though the initial reviews of the film indicate it may be the weakest of all the Lord of the Rings films, the scale and detail of the sets—both miniature and full-scale—are breathtaking to behold.

Dug North came across these nifty kits for getting started with automata. Timberkits are solid wood pieces that you assemble to make your own working automata. Seems like a cool gift if you didn’t get what you wanted this Christmas!

Speaking of Christmas gifts, if you got my Prop Building Guidebook this year, head on over to the Amazon page and leave a review!

Friday Links

Friday Links

Before I jump into this week’s links, I wanted to mention that next Saturday (October 26th), I’ll be traveling to Central Pennsylvania for a book signing at my alma mater, Bucknell University. If you’re in the area and want a signed copy of my Prop Building Guidebook: For Theatre, Film, and TV, or just want to say hi, swing on by the Barnes and Noble from 10-11am!

First up is this fantastic glimpse into the Trinity Rep prop storage. Take a look at the thousands of props which props master Michael Getz keeps in what was once an old cotton mill.

Dug North has another great installment of 10 Handy Tips for Woodworkers and Automaton-makers. The tips are useful for anyone working on smaller and more detail-oriented props, not just automaton or wooden pieces.

Collectors Weekly has a great article on the history of amusement park dark rides. A “dark ride” is like a haunted house, except you ride in a car, rather than walk. Collectors Weekly interviews George LaCross, one of the leading experts on dark rides. LaCross has produced a documentary on the history of the Knoebels Haunted House, a well-known dark ride which I must have ridden at least once a year throughout my entire childhood.

Fresh has a quick little interview with Alexis Labra, props master on the film Bunks

and Marvel has a short interview with Barry Gibbs, prop master on Thor: The Dark World.

Finally, this is interesting in its possibilities. Disney is developing software to help design automaton and other moving machines. It looks like you just draw what you want a figure to do, whether it is a cheetah that runs or a man that pushes a block, and the software will automatically position levers, linkages and gears to create that movement from a single rotating axle. The video below shows it much better. Not only can you design it all, but it looks like you can then send the drawings of the parts to a 3D printer or laser cutter and have them fabricated exactly as they were in the software. It’s the future!

Automaton from Hugo by Dick Georges Creatives

Hugo

I saw the film Hugo last month. Have you seen it yet? A large portion of the plot revolved around an old automaton shaped like a metal man. When the characters managed to repair the automaton, it drew a picture on its own. While that was cool, it became even cooler when I later found out that this automaton was created without CGI or visual effects. The prop makers actually built an automaton that could draw an entire picture with a pen and ink. Check out this video:

The company who constructed the automata, Dick George Creatives (based in the UK), took 8 months to create 15 different automata. Two could actually create the drawing, while the rest were used for various stunt and action sequences. It’s well worth watching.

You can find also check out some photographs of costumes and the automata while on display.

Automaton from Hugo by Dick George Creatives

Friday the 13th Links

Trinculo’s Attic is a new theatrical electronics firm founded by Ben Peoples. They have books and products to help you get miniature electronics into your props projects, like flickering LED candles, or making props move on their own. He has some workshops coming up soon too if this is an area you are interested in learning more about.

Speaking of using miniature electronics to control things on stage, Rich Dionne recently had a blog post about buying an Arduino microprocessor. Right now, he’s using it to control his model train set, but he is envisioning using it as a super low-cost and easy-to-learn controller for stage automation.

So, you like automation and animatronics? The Character Shop, one of the larger of the animatronic creature shops (you’ve probably seen their work) has a nice section on how to learn animatronics and find a job in the business.

And if you still haven’t had enough animatronics, Jack Buffington of BuffingtonFX has a lot of information and process shots detailing his build of an animatronic creature way back in 1997.

Ok, that’s enough about electronics and animatronics. Dug North has this great collection of 21 tips and tricks for rotary tools (Dremel tools).

My Links Friday

Mary Robinette Kowal tells us we almost didn’t have the Muppets, and lays out four ways the world of puppets would be different if not for Jim Henson.

Saul Griffith brings us a curriculum of toys. He categorizes the different ways a child can learn to make things and to interact with the physical world, then suggests toys and games which will help grow the skills in each of those categories. Looks like fun for adults, too!

The New York Times has a summary of the science, health and legal implications of e-cigarettes since their introduction. Giving them to an actor for use on stage of course raises additional concerns and considerations than when a private individual who already smokes uses them, but this article does a good job of laying out all the different governmental and scientific forces jockeying for a say in the future of e-cigarette use. If nothing else, this article should show you that the legality of using e-cigarettes on stage will probably remain ambiguous and evolving over the next several years.

Finally, enjoy this video of a wooden automaton who can pick up an arrow, draw it in a bow and fire it at a target: