Tag Archives: design patterns

Almost finished

Gramophone Horn

I did the props for Elon University’s Wild Party back in February, but I haven’t gotten around to posting pictures of a quick gramophone horn I made. The budget was tight and nothing was available to borrow or rent, so I decided to construct my own.

Pattern pieces
Pattern pieces

The style of gramophone horn we needed is made up of six “petal” pieces all connected together. Luckily, I found a drafting of the pattern piece needed online. I scaled it up and copied it six times onto some matboard (I used two different colors of matboard because that was all I had in the shop). I attached the bottoms of the pieces to a hexagon of plywood I had cut out.

Extending the back
Extending the back

The horn was attached to a length of PVC pipe which I heated up and bent. The back of the horn needed to be longer, so I cut some trapezoids of Masonite to extend the shape back.

Mounting to the table
Mounting to the table

The record player itself was totally not the kind that would have a gramophone horn, so there was nowhere to attach it (a big apology to all you fans of historical accuracy). It was also a rental piece, so it could not be modified. Since the upstage side would never be seen, I attached the horn itself to the table, and built this little plywood bracket to hold the horn so it would look like it was coming out of the record player.

Almost finished
Almost finished

I cut out some matboard “trim” to run along the circumference of the horn to strengthen it and give it a nice clean edge. It was almost ready for paint, but the back of the horn still looked pretty bad.

Tapering on a curve
Tapering on a curve

To finish off the shape, I needed a piece that could taper from the horn to the pipe, while curving around the bend in the pipe. The shape was also starting from a hexagon and ending up as a circle. Also, it was only a day or two before opening night. The quickest solution I could think of was to pattern a scrap piece of Wonderflex and wrap it on there. It needed some sanding and filling to make it smoother, but otherwise it worked like a charm.

Wild Party
Wild Party

So there you have it; a down-and-dirty gramophone horn made of paper and plastic.

 

Feeling Creative and Design Patterns in props

I focus a lot on the “building” and “making” of props on this blog; it’s time for a bit of information about the organizational and motivational part of the job.

43 Folders is a website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work. It’s great if you’re a prop master trying to get more organized or motivated at work, or a props artisan trying to manage your time and energy better.

I found one post in particular to be interesting. The Problem with “Feeling Creative” talks about how “creative work” is still work. There are a lot of books and blogs out there which want to inspire you to feel artistic, but the only way to really get creative work done is by hard work and perserverance.

Merlin Mann, the author, writes:

The athlete got good not by reading reviews of headbands, but by waking up early, lacing shoes in the dark, and hitting the track to train hard. While the surgeon got good not by watching reruns of Trapper John, M.D., but by slogging through medical school, residencies, and hundreds of hours of face time with patients, colleagues, and mentors. “Feeling” had nothing to do with it.

He continues his post by introducing the idea of “design patterns”, commonly used in the fields of architecture, design, and software engineering. As he explains:

By documenting and categorizing the things that “tend to work” within a given context (and within a given set of constraints), individual patterns can provide the basis for a pattern language that encourages flexible problem-solving that discourages the costly and time-consuming tendency to reinvent the wheel.

It got me thinking about props, and whether there are any design patterns in our fields. The paperwork and prop plots used by propmasters have become fairly standardized throughout the industry. Prop artisans have tried-and-true techniques for building chairs, casting an actor’s head, or distressing leather. Props running crew layout their prop tables in much the same way throughout the country.

For your homework this weekend, think of any other design patterns which may exist in props. Think of some things which you wish had design patterns, or things you wished could be taught in schools to upcoming prop professionals. Write all about it in the comments below.