Tag Archives: vintage

Friday Prop Notes

These guys made a life-size pirate ship using nothing but cardboard and hot glue. And they did it all in five days.

I’m looking forward to the film Monuments Men, about a team of art preservationists who go behind enemy lines in World War II to rescue artworks stolen by the Nazis. Credits talks with the production designer, Jim Bissell, on how they created the locations of a ruined Europe for the film.

Here are some blank vintage labels you can download and fill in with whatever text or logos you need for your next period show.

If you ever wanted to get started with circuits and electronics in your props, but didn’t know where to start, Tested has put together a nice little guide to getting started.

And finally, here is a brief history of the coping saw, which I am sure will answer all the burning questions you have had about the coping saw.

HBO Intro Sequence, 1983

HBO Intro Sequence, 1983

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.

Links for a Taxing Weekend

Links for a Taxing Weekend

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 StandBlade: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.”

I came across this short interview with Mickey Pugh, prop master on films such as Saving Private Ryan and Last of the Mohicans.

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.

And finally, if you missed my Tweet this week, I shared this video looking at the blood effects in Trinity Rep’s Social Creatures, a “zombie” play now running. Production director Laura Smith and assistant props master Natalie Kearns show us how they make the blood and organs squirt and fly.

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.