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Where to start?

Eric ShortEric Short Springdale, Ohio
I have grown up with horror movies all my live. I have always been fascinated with the strength and power fear has over people. My dad owns his own haunted house and I want to own my own eventually. I like the animatronics that can be bought for haunted houses, but I want to create my own creatures for my own haunted house, whenever that will be. My question is where should I start with schooling myself on making my own animatronic. I haven't done anything in this field, not really latex either. Just what I apply on my self for the haunt, but that is pre-made. Is this site even a good place to start? Any input would help me out greatly.

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  • Eric ShortEric Short Springdale, Ohio
    Also, if this site is a good place to start, what should I start with? Enhancing my sculpting abilities? Working on sketches? Learning board layouts for animatronics? There are so many ways to get started, that I am not sure which one is the best or even if any are.
  • so building animatronics has a number of skills that are required. sculpting, molding, foam running, building the mechanisms, seaming and patching, painting, hair punching and some direct fabrication techniques. 

    It is a tall order to learn all of it yourself. Start at the beginning, for a face create the eye mech first. There are several prebuilt ones that you can either buy or print. then you need to make an eye bar for you sculpture that give the correct placement of the eyes. Then sculpt your monster head. Then make a matrix mold of the head and a 'buck' the inner skull. Now cast your foam latex TWICE. One is the work skin that is going to get ruined as you pull it on and off the buck for fitting and testing. the other is a 'Hero' skin that will get painted and punched. begin cutting your buck up to make mechanisms to move the various parts of your face. try not to install the servos in the head and instead install them in torpedo tubes away from the puppet, it makes them easy to service and cool.

    Now with all of that said, foam latex will not stand up year after year for your haunted house, It does however give the most realistic results. You could make your skins out of Latex but remember that it is not stretchy so you must  sculpt your head in the most extreme position. This is how most consumer level animatronic for halloween are made. It's a trade off and your call. do you want to recast and paint the head every one or two years or use latex which will have no subtle facial movements in it.

    I hope my rambling helped.

    Chris
  • Eric ShortEric Short Springdale, Ohio
    Thanks, it helps to see the process typed out. Helps a lot, for me, at least. I figured just jumping right in is the best bet, but I wasn't sure because I have no tools or items. I will have to buy them as I go. I still have to set up shop. Right now, all I have to work with is an area under a porch that is enclosed by tarps. The temperature will make it harder to work, plus I know things won't set right, but it's all I got right now and I should be happy I even got that. Once my shop is set up then I will start with the creating. I will then get start watching these tutorials as I go. I am excited for when I start on building the mechanisms. That part is what I really want to be good at. All the other processes I want to learn, but I don't expect to be great at it. Thanks again for your input. Hopefully one day everyone will see my animatronics on the market.
  • Thom ComptonThom Compton Woodhaven, MI (Travel full time)
    You may want to check Craigslist for an easy up type tent. They can be pretty cheap. You want to weigh it down and tie it out. Tarping the top is always a good idea. You then can go to a home depot or similar store and get styrofoam insulation in fairly thin sheets. You use this on the inside of the tent walls and rig a simple ceiling. Add a heater and you are set. I have actually done this and it makes it possible to work in cooler weather. It is cheaper than it sounds, if you are desperate for room.
  • Eric ShortEric Short Springdale, Ohio
    Thanks for that input. I will have to try that, but I will probably do tarp all around. I have the main supports under the deck to give me my walls. Right now I am waiting to get power outside. My girlfriend's dad can set up the outlet, so I don't have to pay $250 for a company to do it. Once I have power then I will get the tarps. The styrofoam insulation is a good idea. I didn't even think about insulation lol. 
  • Mike RuyleMike Ruyle Madison Heights, MI ✭✭
    I'm having a similar issue with power! Glad I'm not alone on that front.
  • Eric ShortEric Short Springdale, Ohio
    Ya, it's nice to have someone who can do this for me, but it's also unfortunate because I have to wait till he has time. And that isn't until after Christmas, but that just means I can't work on the messy parts yet. I can still work on the mech portion on a smaller scale till I finally get the shop set up. Just hope its not as bad of a winter as they are saying. *Crosses Fingers*
  • Thom ComptonThom Compton Woodhaven, MI (Travel full time)
    Power is always only an industrial extension cord away. :) paired with an industrial surge protector, you are in business pretty quick. Run it through a door or window and seal the gap. We're there is a will, there is a way.
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