Category Archives: Useful Sites

Wednesday Link-O-Rama

Here are some quick links for the day.

  • Lonesome West Prop Tricks – Here are some quick tips for Martin McDonagh’s Loneseome West; most specifically, the stove that gets hit by a shotgun.
  • Costume Properties Construction Handbook – Costume properties has a lot of overlap with props; depending on the show, an object may have equal merit as a costume or a prop depending on the logistics of your production. Regardless, the materials and techniques are very similar for each field.
  • Top Ten Colbert Report Prop Malfunctions – If you watch the Cobert Report, you’ll love these prop malfunctions from the show’s history.
  • Stagehand Primer – Local 470 out of Wisconsin has their primer online. It includes a section on properties.  If you want to join the stagehand union anywhere in the country, this section will give you a good introduction as to what is expected of a props person in the union.

Monday Link-O-Rama

I didn’t do a Friday link-o-rama, so here’s one for Monday. Hopefully I will be back to writing more better articles once we get out of tech for Bacchae.

  • Flower Power – The McCarter Theatre has to clean the uncleanable. Read about their solution.
  • Theatre on a Shoestring – A number of how-to articles on prop making, such as fake cigars, hefty chain, and sugar glass.
  • Model-Making Techniques – David Neat discusses tips and techniques for making scene design models. A lot of this info is also great for prop making.
  • Master of the Movie Prop – An interview with Kevin Hughes, the prop master for films such as Borat, Freddy Got Fingered and Boogie Nights.

Animatronics and Automata

I like things that move on their own. An automaton is a self-operating machine, usually through mechanical means. Animatronics is a more specialized type of automaton; it is a form of mechanized puppet. Neither of these should be confused with a robot, which is an object which can sense and/or react to its environment. Here are some starter links if you are interested in making or learning more about animatronics and automaton.

photograph by Compound Eye
photograph by Compound Eye

How Animatronics Works“, by Jeff Tyson. A look at how Stan Winston Studios creates a full-scale animatronic Spinosaurus. In addition to describing the animatronic parts, it’s an interesting look at how to sculpt, cast, and fabricate a full-size dinosaur.

Instructables has a number of guides on creating animatronics of varying complexity:

  • Grim Reaper Animatronic is one of the simplest; it uses an oscillating fan for its movement. It shows how you can simplify things by using already existing parts and mechanisms if you can look at their possibilities. This is true of all props.
  • Halloween Animatronics is a nice introduction to computer-controlled movements. It uses a USB interface to connect the parts directly to your computer for manipulation. My how far we’ve come.
  • How to create simple animatronics – Part one: using the MAKE controller. Using a controller board allows your animatronics to be self-contained, since the controller board takes the place of your computer. You still set up the board with your computer. This tutorial also involves hooking up sensors to control the movement, much like in the first link, where Stan Winston Studios uses arm-length gloves to control the Spinosaurus’ arms.

In a posting called, “Robots, Artificial Intelligence, Steam Power, and Sound Effects“, Michael Addicott describes a number of marvelous contraptions and mechanical devices in use since the Ancient Greeks. He includes such inventors as Hero (one of Bland Wade‘s favorites), and devices like the mechanical singing birds of Theophilus.

For Automaton, the Automata/Automaton Blog is the greatest place to start. Not only does it continually update with photographs and information about both antique and contemporary automaton, but it’s the perfect starting place for further exploration of information.

Another Friday Link-o-Rama

I’m on my honeymoon, so I thought I’d save time with another quick list of links.

  • JT Ringer pointed me to this page on Bookbinding which came in handy on a recent project at the Santa Fe Opera.
  • Craftster – In addition to the blog, there is a large community, articles and tutorials, and a wealth of other resources for the crafter in you.
  • Tips and Tricks for Miniature making – Even if you’re not interested in miniatures and model making on its own, you can adapt many of these tips for faux finishing, dealing with small parts, and using molds.
  • This to That – This site is so ubiquitous it feels redundant to list it here, but in case you haven’t run into it yet, it’s indispensable for props. Simply put, you choose the two materials you need to attach together, and the site will tell you which adhesives will work.

Friday Link-o-Rama

I thought I’d do a roundup of some of the links I’ve come across; you may have noticed some of them appearing in the sidebar on the webpage.

Also, I’m getting married tomorrow, so I don’t have time to do a whole post!

  • Stagelink – A large directory of theatre and entertainment people, suppliers, and news.
  • Blue Room Technical Forum – A UK-based forum for backstage theatre, including a whole forum devoted to props.
  • The Producer’s Perspective – Ken Davenport has produced a number of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, including Blithe Spirit, Altar Boyz, and You’re Welcome America with Will Ferrell. This is his blog.
  • Mask Makers Web – A community of online mask-making resources, including a forum and plenty of links.