Tag Archives: movie

Friday Link-a-Dink

As you may have noticed, articles on this blog have been appearing a little less frequently than before. I have decided to drop down to only two posts per week, rather than three. New articles will now be appearing every Tuesday and Friday. I have some ongoing family issues that take a lot of my time, and this seemed like a good way to ease the pressure without just totally dropping the blog altogether.

That being said, on to the links!

Volpin Props has a step-by-step guide up for his latest prop creation, a Magister’s staff from the Dragon Age video game. I’ve been following the progress of this piece on his Twitter and Facebook, and it’s great to see the whole thing finally come together. And, it’s a nice introduction to matrix molding.

I don’t know the source of this, but this video showing the inner workings of animatronic heads recently surfaced on the Internet. I find it fascinating to see all the mechanisms and bits that go on the inside, and how it all comes to life when the skin goes on top.

This comes from last July, but I never actually posted it: Ten Props that Have Been Used in More than One Movie. One day, I want to do this for my own shows, because some props in my stock seem to be trotted out for every other production.

Do you need a “Do Not Disturb” sign for your show? How about 8700 of them? Collector’s Weekly looks at the “Do Not Disturb” collection of Edoardo Flores, who has accumulated that many from hotels around the world.

 

First Links of Spring

We start off today with this look at making a mold of a Zoidberg mask. These techniques are way above my pay-grade, but it is interesting to see such expert work done on a mold. This is actually the 9th installment of an ongoing series dedicated to creating a mask of the eponymous Futurama character, so check out the other parts if you want to see how it was sculpted and designed.

Set designer Anna Louizos has grown tired of seeing set models, set decoration and props ending up in the dumpster after a show closes, so she has begun a website selling them off to collectors. Check out this news story on how she got started, then head on over to the web site itself. Collecting theatre memorabilia is not nearly as wide-spread as collecting movie memorabilia, but hopefully this site makes it more common.

This sounds like it could be a nightmare: your theatre company wants to use the scene/prop shop as a performing space for one of their shows. Check out this video as Paddy Duggin, a carpenter and prop maker at the State Theatre Company in Australia, explains how they did exactly that for an upcoming production of The Seagull.

And finally, we have the movies, where if you need a plane, you just build a plane. Find out why the production designer for Non-Stop needed to build a plane from scratch rather than re-purposing an existing one.

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!

Midsummer Links Dreams

It’s opening weekend here at the Santa Fe Opera! Two of our five operas open, the first tonight, the second tomorrow. It has been quite the hectic schedule, and we still have three more operas to open before July is out. Nonetheless, there is always time to read fun articles about props; here are a few that came out this week:

In “The Art of Animatronics: How Old School Movie Magic Compliments CGI“, Jim Nash looks at how practical effects are still being used despite the pervasiveness of computer-generated imagery. He points out how the technology that controls animatronics has gotten more sophisticated over the years, and how practical effects can sometimes be preferred for budgetary reasons. And the article has pictures of dinosaurs.

As if to reiterate the points in the previous article, the Stan Winston School blog has an article about the making of the Spinosaur for Jurassic Park III. Even with the advances in CGI since the first Jurassic Park movie, the third one still built a 12-ton, 1000-horsepower “puppet” version of the Spinosaur for many of the scenes. The iconic fight scene between the Spinosaur and the Tyrannosaurus Rex was mostly achieved by having several tons of robots crashing into each other. CGI simply enhanced it.

For a step back in time, Tested has a great article on the robot shark technology in Jaws. The mechanical shark in that film arguably ushered in the age of animatronic creature movies through the 80s and 90s. It’s a great look at how the shark was made, with some nice photographs as well (it looks like the shape of the shark was achieved with plywood!).

Whew, that’s a lot of articles about animatronics for a props blog! How about something a little more prop-related: the Dremel. Make Magazine has ten tips for Dremels and rotary tools.

Why Film Prop Men Often Die In Their Youth, 1938

Today’s little chestnut first appeared in 1938. It just goes to show that the difficulties we props people have dealing with directors and actors is nothing new. If anything, it is the one thing in our line of work that has remained unchanged throughout the years.

By Frederick C. Othman.

Hollywood, July (U.P.) – The title of today’s movie story is “Why the Prop Man Went Mad.”

Abe Steinberg was the bedeviled property man, working on the set of a Twentieth Century-Fox picture called “By the Dawn’s Early Light.” Warner Baxter, Alice Faye, and Charles Winninger were the stars, while Gregory Ratoff, the Russian actor-writer, producer-director, was functioning in his fourth category.

When we arrived Steinberg was placing fruit cocktails on a dinner table in the home of the American consul in an unnamed Manchurian town. Winninger was the consul, Miss Faye was a Russian adventuress, Baxter was a roving newspaperman.

With the cocktails carefully placed on the table, the cameraman ready to go, and the performers starting to do the scene, a fly buzzed across Steinberg’s canned fruit. He ran for a spray gun and set a vapor of insecticide across the dinner table. That fixed the fly, but it didn’t appease Ratoff, who paced, and thought and frowned. Everybody was quiet while this went on. Suddenly Ratoff’s face lit up.

Not Fruit, Fish!

“That’s what’s wrong,” he said. “They didn’t have fruit cocktails in Manchuria. They have—maybe—fish. Get me some fish.”

“What kind of fish?” Steinberg wanted to know.

“Shrimp,” snapped Ratoff. “Canned shrimp.”

The property department was fresh out of canned shrimp. So was the studio restaurant. Steinberg sent out to a grocery for a couple of cans of shrimp. This took time, because the Fox lot is many a long mile from the nearest food store.

Finally Steinberg’s shrimp arrived. He dumped the fruit from the cocktail cups and filled them with shrimp. He doused the latter with ketchup and an hour and a half after the cocktail episode began, the cameras again were ready to turn.

Ratoff called his actors. Miss Faye looked at the shrimp and said:

“But I can’t eat shrimp.”

Steinberg staggered away, talking to himself.

Originally printed in The Washington Post, July 19, 1938.