Tag Archives: research

The 100 Best Sites for the Prop Maker

When I began my blog back in 2009, it felt like only a handful of sites for the prop maker were out there. Since then, the field has practically exploded and you can find information everywhere. I post links to sites regularly, but I wanted to make a list of the sites you should be checking out regularly. So I’ve collected and categorized what I consider to be the 100 best sites for a prop maker. Now, this is far from comprehensive, particularly if you are working on specific objects or using less-popular materials, but hopefully it will keep you busy for awhile. If you know of a site I’ve missed, drop a note in the comments or send me an email!

Forums

Forums remain a great way to find information about prop making, since much of what we do is so specific and unique. You can ask a question, search for answers to other questions, or just browse through and pick up tips on how other people work.

  • Replica Prop Forum – A very active and very informative forum filled with fans recreating their favorite props from films, television, video games and other media.
  • ControlBooth – A US forum for technical theatre, with a small section on props.
  • Blue Room Technical Forum – A UK forum for technical theatre, also with a section on props.
  • The 405th – Halo costuming forum
  • Dented Helmet – Boba Fett costume resource
  • The Hunter’s Lair – Predator Costume and Prop forum
  • Astromech – Forum for the R2-D2 Builders Club
  • Cosplay – For fans of dressing up as fictional characters, this also has sections on props and similar items.
  • PropPeople Forum – A once-thriving forum that still limps on, this is the only one devoted entirely to props people working in theatre.
  • TheatreFace – Forums built around the TheatreFace social network, with a section on props.
  • Brass Goggles – Steampunk forum with some prop-making threads
  • The FX Lab – Special makeup effects, mask making and creature design.
  • Haunt Forum – Lots of information for those who build their own sets and props for Halloween displays and haunted houses.
  • The Clubhouse – For modelers, sculptors and model collectors.
  • Concept Art – Forum for concept artists with a small section for sculpture and other 3D media.

Prop Makers

Many prop makers have their own website or post their work online, but a few go the extra mile and show how they’ve built specific props.

  • Volpin Props – Unique commissions for props and objects based off of items from video games, television and films.
  • Punished Props – Another fine replica artist making props from video games and other pop culture.
  • Fake ‘n Bake – If you ever want to make fake food, Anna Warren’s site should be your first stop.
  • Dave Lowe Design – One of the prop masters at the Hallmark Channel.
  • Kamui Cosplay – Armor and cosplay from Wonderflex and Worbla built by this talented German artist.
  • Blind Squirrel Props – A replica prop maker working on commissions and personal projects from all manner of films, television shows and video games.
  • Folkenstal – Interesting weapons and items based on the video game Skyrim.
  • Theatre Projects – Props and prop-related information from a freelance theatre prop master in Chicago.
  • Amethyst Angel – Armor and other cosplay projects.
  • Jay Surma – Another prolific replica prop maker.
  • 2StoryProps – Yet another replica prop maker.
  • MRX Designs – A prop maker working in the Steampunk and Lovecraft genres.
  • Tom Banwell – Leather and resin Steampunk projects.
  • Barnyard FX – A behind-the-scenes look at the props, exhibits and displays by Greg Aronowitz, a prolific special effects artist and design specialist on over two hundred films and television projects.
  • Spirits Dancing – Puppetry and prop-making from Hilary Talbot, a working Australian artisan.
  • Fevereon Props – A prop and costume maker out of Georgia.

Blogs

A number of sites may not be devoted entirely to teaching prop-making, but they still have regular tutorials, news and information relevant to the prop maker, or deal with comparable and related industries.

  • Prop Agenda – Now, I couldn’t omit my own blog. How-tos, news, videos and more from the props world.
  • Make Magazine – Blog companion to the magazine, this site regularly has posts on prop making and associated materials.
  • Tested – What began as site for testing consumer electronics has quickly grown to have regular features on props and prop making, particularly with Adam Savage as one of the regular hosts.
  • Propnomicon – A regularly-updated look at props built around the mythos of HP Lovecraft.
  • Lost in Schlock – Down and dirty prop making tips for low-budget films.
  • Design Realisation – backstage at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
  • La Bricoleuse – costume crafts teacher at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
  • StageBitz – a prop inventory software company that regularly posts prop-related news and interviews.
  • David Neat – Theatrical model making.
  • Stan Winston School – The new school run by the peerless studio responsible for the most famous practical film effects of the last thirty years runs a blog of related information. The school also has online video classes you can take for a paid subscription.
  • Meanwhile in the prop shop… – A Tumblr of random encounters in a regular props shop.
  • Theatre Safety – Articles and information on safety in the performing arts.
  • Technical Direction Tidbits – News and tidbits from the world of technical theatre.
  • Rosco – Spectrum – while also a lighting company, they do have tutorials on their paint and coating products
  • Mantle Studios – The sculpting blog of Jason Babler
  • The Dark Power – Bizarre sculptures and metal art with a theatrical flair.
  • Design*Sponge – Inspiration and reference for all manner of interior-design and furniture-related things.
  • Fake Believe – A behind-the-scenes look at props and sets made for various photography projects.
  • Haunters Digest – Tutorials and showcases of haunted house props and Halloween decorations.

Tutorials

If you need to learn how to build specific items or work with certain materials, these sites have collected the information you need.

  • Instructables – If you need to build something, chances are, you can find a tutorial here from someone who has already built it. This site should be your first stop for finding how-to’s, period.
  • Smooth-On videos – Tons of videos on molding and casting.
  • Deviant Art – You have to do some digging, but people post a lot of tutorials here, or post props with a detailed “how-to” in their description.
  • Woodgears.ca – Wood working by an engineer.
  • Hirst Arts Fantasy Architecture – Tutorials for molding, casting and painting of miniatures and models.
  • Ultimate Paper Mache – Information and tutorials on, you guessed it, paper mache.
  • Monster Makers – You may never need to make monsters, but you may find their tutorials on sculpting, molding and casting, working with foam latex and painting to be helpful.
  • Paint-Sculpt – Tutorials and reference for both painting, and, wait for it, sculpting.
  • The Gizmologist’s Lair – A cornucopia of tutorials and links to all manner of gizmo-related projects.
  • Craftster – Projects and tutorials from the crafty side of the prop-making spectrum.
  • Mask Makers Web – Information and links for things related to masks and mask-making.
  • Costume Properties Construction Handbook – An online book of sorts with helpful information on building objects like hats, armor and masks.
  • Puppetry Home Page – Information on building puppets, and lots of links to other sites.
  • Proptology – A magazine devoted to props from 1995-2004 with some articles available online

Tools and Reference

  • Fastener Information – Everything you want to know about bolts, screws and similar fasteners.
  • This to That – Interactive tool for selecting adhesives for specific materials.
  • Golden Paints virtual paint mixer – Pick a color and this site will tell you which acrylic paint colors to mix to get that color.
  • Glass Attic – 1700 pages of everything you need to know about polymer clay.
  • Green Theater Choices Toolkit – A rundown of common building and crafting materials ranked by their environmental impact.
  • Sizes – A vast index with information about the sizes of practically everything. From definitions of units of measurements, to standard sizes of common furniture, to sheet metal gauges, and everything in between.
  • Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards – A guide to help workers recognize and control common chemical hazards in the workplace.
  • Wood Database – Pictures and information for identifying or selecting hundreds of types of wood species.
  • Toxipedia – Encyclopedia of toxins.
  • Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety – Provides health and safety information to artists worldwide.
  • Beacon Adhesives Adhesive Selection Chart – Like “This to That”, but dedicated to adhesives from the Beacon company.
  • Colorit Color Formula Guide – Pick a color to see which RIT dyes to mix to get that color.
  • Chemistry in the Toy Store – A look at the chemistry of various toys, including recipes to make your own slime, play dough, disappearing ink and other novelties.
  • Properties Directors Handbook – An online book showing how a theatrical props shop is setup and organized.

Research

Organizations and job sites

Finally, if you want to join a larger community of props people or find a job in the industry, check these sites out.

Friday Prop Notes

Tested has quite the in-depth interview with Harrison Krix, one of the top videogame replica prop makers on the Internet these days. They delve into his process for building a prop, his workshop setup, and how he got started. Harrison has also contributed some photographs to my book, if you are interested. By the way, Tested is a website run by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman (of Mythbusters fame), and it has a lot of other cool stuff inside, such as this video showing some models Adam Savage has made for films.

Just look at these color photographs of Paris in 1914. I love the signs and lettering on all the shops.

I love the show Parks and Recreation, not least because Nick Offerman is an honest-to-goodness woodworker. The show also regularly features some fun and memorable props. Entertainment Weekly has talked with prop master Gay Perello about her five favorite props from this year’s episodes. You not only get to see some imaginative props, you also get to hear the challenges involved and the process in arriving at a solution for all of them.

An interesting page came through the Prop Masters list this week. The Museum of American Packaging is a photographic collection of thousands of product packages, mostly from the mid-twentieth century. You can call it “doing research” if you want, but I would look at these pictures even if I didn’t have a show set in this time period.

So you’re doing a show about physicists or mathematicians, and you need a blackboard filled with equations. Do you start making things up? Or do you head over to Alejandro Guijarro’s photographic series of physicist’s blackboards?

Some Links for You

Some Links for You

I like this photography series called “Much Loved”. The photographer took photographs of teddy bears and similar toys which have been cherished for decades by their owners, and wrote a bit about their back story as well. It’s great research not just for teddy bears from 50-70 years ago, but also for the kind of extreme distressing and aging that these archetypal and cherished “favorite toys” can go through.

Some more interesting research can be found with these color photographs inside Nazi-occupied Poland, circa 1940.

A whole subculture exists of prop makers making replicas of objects which exist in popular video games. Here is a great step-by-step build of a dagger from Skyrim. Though the end result is a bit “plastic-y”, the process shots show some interesting techniques and use of materials.

Finally, here is an interesting solution to the age-old problem of four-legged furniture that does not sit flat. When your tables or chairs rock, try trimming one of the legs… on the table saw:

Friday Prop-pourri

Friday Prop-pourri

It has been a busy week. I taught the second of my master classes at Elon University, and I am preparing for a big workshop I am teaching tomorrow. I have also finished going through the proofs for my book yesterday; with those submitted, the book is basically on its way to the printers. Just think, in a few short months, it will be in bookstores! Here are some sites from around the Internet for you to peruse and enjoy:

The LA Times has a profile of George Barris, who has been making custom cars for film and television for over 70 years. The Batmobile from the original television series and the Munsters’ car are both his.

This giant collection of vintage hotel luggage tags should help supply you for years to come.

I may have mentioned an upcoming book called The Furniture of Necessity before; it’s a look at the major archetypes of furniture used by regular people throughout the centuries, as opposed to the highly-designed stuff used by aristocrats. It promises to be a great reference for period prop design. Christopher Schwartz has an update on that book in his blog, but that’s not the interesting part. His latest post also features photographs of almost 50 variations of a 6-board chest. This style of chest was popular in working-class European households from the 9th century through at least the 17th century, and again in American households from the 1600s on up to the present. In other words, this page is great research for a prop that can appear in a vast range of period plays.

Scenic charge Lisa Lazar from Berkeley Rep shows off her “bikini-wax” method for removing old paint without dust or chemicals.

This is a fairly fantastic behind-the-scenes look at the original Robocop (1987) film. Watch Peter Weller as he talks about putting his costume on; he’s a very eloquent (and funny) guy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=4_1K2GvCyvY

 

Friday Night Sites

The weekend is upon us again. It’s a holiday weekend; for those of us in the theatre, that means we have to go to work despite all the stores and banks being closed. It is also the unofficial end of summer. But don’t worry; I have some fun links below!

Curtains without Borders is a fascinating-looking project. It aims to record and restore all those hand painted theatre curtains found in town halls, grange halls, theaters and opera houses. It is mostly preserving those painted between 1890 through 1940. The site itself has some photographs (albeit of a small size) from across the country showcasing these valuable pieces of our theatrical history.

The San Francisco Gate has an article about Lori Harrison, the prop master at the San Francisco Opera. Lori gave us a tour of the opera back in 2010 when SPAM held its conference out there.

LA Weekly has a short blog asking “what do you do when your gun doesn’t go off onstage?” Most prop masters know to incorporate backup plans whenever dealing with firing blanks on stage, but if you don’t, this article is a good reminder that you should.

The National Park Service just completed a huge project. Thousands of images from their collections across the country are searchable and viewable online. These objects and specimens give a wide range of information from America’s history and are great for research.

Here are some pretty cool vintage ammo boxes. Unfortunately, none of the images are dated, but the enterprising prop master might be able to use them for further research. And while we’re at it, the whole Accidental Mysteries blog where this came from is filled with interesting vintage stuff and historic oddities.