Tested visits the Jim Henson Creature Shop and gives us this great sixteen minute video. What I love about the Creature Shop (other than how awesome their puppets are) is how Jim Henson started out with simple hand puppets in the mid-50s, and today the company is on the leading-edge of animatronic creature design.
If you love getting obsessive over the details on your paper props, check out the Passport Stamps and Visas group on Flickr. It’s chock full of interior pages of passports from around the world, as well as a few exterior covers as well.
This week’s must-read comes from The A/V Club, who interviewed props master Chris Call. This very in-depth conversation takes a look at his career, propping everything from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Alias, to The Closer. The article takes the time to really dig into the nuts and bolts of a TV prop master’s job and Call’s career path, going far beyond the standard “what’s the craziest prop you’ve ever had to make?!?” kind of questions.
What did Kermit the Frog look like before the Muppets? Collector’s Weekly takes a look at the history of the Muppets, including photographs of a pre-Sesame Street Kermit, and delves into Jim Henson’s journey from five-minute sketches on a local TV station to a worldwide empire of puppet and creature manufacturing.
Fast Company has an article on five dream jobs that will make your inner child extremely jealous, and “prop master” is one of them. Yes, being a prop master is on-par with running a cat-café or being a chocolate scientist. I’ll have to remember I’m living the dream the next time I’m cleaning a mouse nest out of the bottom of a stove or lugging a sofa up three flights of stairs.
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.
Hey, if you haven’t gotten my Prop Building Guidebook yet, you can get it direct from Focal Press for 20% off until April 29th! Just use code MRK95 at checkout. It makes a great gift for graduation (hint hint).
Legacy Effects has a great video on the making of the suit from the new Robocop film. Sure, there is a lot of 3D printing and digital fabrication involved, but there is also a surprising amount of traditional artistry going on, including sculpting, painting and sewing.
La Bricoleuse discovers an armor maker right here in North Carolina. Dr. Eric Juengst is the Director of the Center of Bioethics at UNC Chapel Hill, and he spends his spare time fabricating historic suits of armor (and suits of armor for animals). Check out these photos and video of his workshop and his creations.
Here’s a good step-by-step tutorial on how to do a life cast of a face from Lauren Daisy Williams, a student at UNCSA. I met Lauren at the USITT Young Designer’s Forum this year, where she had all sorts of fun molding and casting projects on display, so it’s nice to see her share the process for some of her work online.
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:
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies