If you have ten minutes, you should check out this video showing the creation of HBO’s intro sequence from the early 1980s. The video is from 1983 as well, and has a great vintage feel. It is fascinating to see the creation of one of the largest scale model cityscapes at the time. Props people are sure to recognize many of the techniques used by these model makers (though the three-month time frame they had to build it seems luxurious for most of us). The creation of the rest of the effects are interesting as well. While this occurred in the heyday of motion-controlled cameras, those were the only systems using computers. Everything else was created by hand, and every effect was achieved with an analog solution.
You have only a little more than two weeks left to enter my Prop Building Guidebook Contest! Don’t wait until the last minute to enter. I also wanted to point out that a week from Monday (April 22nd), you can start voting for your favorite prop in the contest; tell your friends they can vote for your prop once per day until the contest ends on April 30th. In addition to winners in each of the individual categories, the prop with the most votes will win its own prize category, so vote early and vote often! And now, onto the links.
Here is a fantastic article about the guys at Spectral Motion, one of Hollywood’s finest creature shops. They’re responsible for most of the monsters in the Hellboy films, as well as for work in X-Men: Last Stand, Blade:Trinity, and this summer’s Pacific Rim. The article is replete with information about how they got started, what kind of work they do, and what inspires them. It is also heavily illustrated with photographs showing their workshop and the inner workings of some of their creatures. I especially love the following quote about why practical effects are still necessary in an era of digital mimicry:
“A lot of times people turn to digital solutions. That’s also good, if the application is correct. But, you know, a lot of directors that we talk to are of the mind that a practical effect is far better for exactly that reason–because the actor does have a co-actor to work with, to play off of, and to have feelings about.”
From the prop masters email list this week comes Click Americana, an ongoing collection of vintage photos and ephemera from all decades of American history. You can search for specific topics or just browse through by decade, from the 1820s to the 1980s. It has a whole section dedicated to recipes, too, great for when you need to provide period food.
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.
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.
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 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.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies