Tag Archives: youtube

The Giraffe puppet from Tall Horse, made by Handspring Puppet Company

War Horse

War Horse is currently playing in London’s West End, and is tentatively scheduled to open in New York in 2011. In “Making Horses Gallop and Audiences Cry“, Patrick Healy gives more in-depth information about the show and the amazing puppets, designed by Adrian Kohler:

The basic construction material for the horses is cane, which Mr. Kohler soaked to make it more moldable. “It is light, flexible, and the figure increases in strength as more and more struts are bound together,” he said. The struts create the look of joints in the horses’ legs and necks.

Silk patches were then applied to gauze to suggest the animals’ skin patterns and also partly to conceal the two puppeteers inside each adult horse.

The article also has a great number of photographs showing the puppets.

The puppets were constructed by the Handspring Puppet Company, a South African puppet group. It was founded in 1981 by Basil Jones and Mr. Kohler. On the website, they give a little more information about the horse puppets:

Some of the horses are fully articulated with two interior and one exterior manipulator and because they have aluminium spinal structures, they can carry human riders. Other horses are more abstract with no legs and only one manipulator.

The Giraffe puppet from Tall Horse, made by Handspring Puppet Company
The Giraffe puppet from Tall Horse, made by Handspring Puppet Company

The horses are based on the designs first used in Handspring’s production of Tall Horse, about a giraffe. Elsewhere on their website, they describe this puppet:

The puppet was constructed from a frame of carbon fibre rods and takes two puppeteers, on stilts, to operate it. The puppet is fully mechanical – its head, ears and tail can be manipulated by the puppeteers, through a complex system that allows the puppeteers, inside the body frame of the giraffe, to manipulate the appendages through bicycle brake cables.

The giraffe can turn its head, flap its ears and tail and walk with the swaying, graceful gait that anyone who has enjoyed the sight of the magnificent creature in the wild will recognise. Manned by two puppeteers on stilts, the giraffe is the central character of Tall Horse, which is a magical tale of the discovery of Europe by Africans.

If you are interested in learning more, Handspring has a few books out. Journey of the Tall Horse: A Story of African Theatre describes the production process for Tall Horse, while The Horse’s Mouth: Staging Morpurgo’s War House gives an in-depth look at the current production of War Horse. Until then, I’m looking forward to 2011!

A Silicone Severed Head

Dragon Skin

This week, at the Public Theatre, we begin working on some props for The Bacchae. Since there is going to be a dead corpse which is picked apart and torn up on stage, Jay Duckworth has ordered some “Dragon Skin” from Smooth-On to experiment with.

Many of us in the props world are familiar with Smooth-On and their range of products for molding and casting. My father, a potter in Pennsylvania, has been using their polyurethane for years in his mold-making, and they’ve really pushed some new products for theatrical purposes in the past decade or so.

A Silicone Severed Head
A Silicone Severed Head

But wait, there’s more! Their website isn’t just some bland information portal. They have a treasure trove of guides, tutorials, and instructions for using their products. On the special effects and propmaking section you can find step-by-step video sequences, photo sequences, and examples of what other people have done with their products.

You can also find a Smooth-On video channel over at YouTube. This contains many of the same videos showing molding and casting with their products as their website. They also have a list of “Favorites” showing videos from other users making and casting molds.

Behind the Scenes: Props in the Movies

Behind the Scenes: Props in the Movies

Nowadays, DVDs come with all sorts of special features, such as behind-the-scenes footage. Occasionally, there’s a clip about the props of the film. Oftentimes, these featurettes are fairly fluffy, presenting a couple of key props or special effects and only going so far as to show “Look, we had to make props for this movie too!” But every once in awhile, you find one  that goes a little further and shows the props people at work, with a discussion of the specific challenges the props master faced on the film or television show.

I found some of these on YouTube to share with you.

Behind the scenes – Making of the Lord of the Rings Props

Lord of the Rings took place in an entirely invented world, and so nearly all the props had to be built. It’s amazing how many artisans and craftspeople they had on this show, and this video highlights some of them.

Life on Mars Behind the Scenes with the Prop Master

Life on Mars takes place in 1973, and this video does a great job of showing how Jim Lillis, the prop master, and his team went about researching and organizing all the information they needed to prop the show.

Behind the Scenes on Supernatural

This is a bit on the fluffy side, but it is interesting to hear the Christopher Cooper, the prop master, talk about the process of creating more fantastical props for this show.

So there you have it. Are there any videos available online that you’ve found interesting or helpful? Drop a link in the comments.

A tour of the Mythbusters Shop

A tour of the Mythbusters Shop

I’m not the only props person who is enthralled with Mythbusters. Working there would be a dream come true. There is a video on YouTube of Jamie giving a tour of their shop. It’s an amazing space, the kind every props artisan wishes they had. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have an entire warehouse to fill with tools, materials, found objects, and miscellaneous parts. Still, it’s a great video to watch, showing how they organize all the various bits they’ve accumulated over the years, and the challenges of keeping order in such a large shop.

Mythbusters: Behind the scenes tour, part 1

Mythbusters: Behind the scenes tour, part 2