Tag Archives: vintage

Have You Seen These Links Before?

How a Wes Anderson movie prop maker helped develop That’s You! – Annie Atkins is one of Wes Anderson’s go-to prop makers, and has been featured on this blog before. She also designed the “props” for That’s You!, a new video game for the Sony Playstation. This article is an interesting look at how the skills and talents of a prop maker are still vital even in a purely digital environment.

Etching Brass Plaques – “Switch and Lever” produced a short video where they experiment with three different ways of etching graphics onto brass, and compare the results. Brass etching is something I’ve always wanted to try, but I’ve never gotten down to it. I’ve gotten down to brass tacks, but not brass sheets.

Vintage Ad Browser – Two interesting sites came over the S*P*A*M email list this week. The first is Vintage Ad Browser, a collection of over 100,000 print advertisements. They are organized by subject matter and by decade. I’ve always found ads useful for period research, not necessarily for the subject matter (which is often idealized), but for what is going on in the background. For instance, an ad for a stove will also have pictures of pots and pans, and serving bowls and utensils, so you get a quick sense of what was typical for the time period.

Cover Browser – The second site collects over 450,000 covers to books, comic books, magazines, video games, and more.

Interview with Ross MacDonald

Ross MacDonald has built period props and vintage books for dozens of films and television shows over the years. Check out his web page for a portfolio of his work. I recently talked with him about making props and working in the industry.

Ross MacDonald. Photograph by Greg Preston
Ross MacDonald. Photograph by Greg Preston

How did you get started doing props?

Weirdly enough, I had been doing some television-related work, even back when I was starting out as an illustrator. I was doing this thing, this was up in Toronto, called the Artisan’s Schools Program. It was a grant program. It was me and a couple other guys, we would go into the schools, and we’d start off performing poetry, I would do big drawings, and the third guy, if he was there, would do music. Continue reading Interview with Ross MacDonald

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

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

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.”

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.