Zombie Drill instructor Animatronic Puppet

Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
edited November 2017 in Puppets
For my Twitch live stream ( https://www.twitch.tv/vexfx ) I plan on incorporating an on-screen Zombie Drill Instructor character to add a bit of Hollywood production value.  I'll be sharing the process of bringing that character to life here on the forums as well.

On last Saturday's live stream I sculpted a quick maquette to test out different ideas for the character.   This was a fun process because our community on Twitch was able to take part in the creative process and make suggestions/give feedback.

Since this was just a quick and dirty maquette with only primary forms I wanted to do some digital painting on the character to change some of the features and explore different colors and textures.

On last night's live stream we did a quick digital paint, which will be us as reference when we start sculpting the final character.

I'm pretty happy with how the character is turning out.  We may make a few more changes before moving on, so any suggestions and feedback is welcome!

Next steps include:
  • Sculpt the final character in Chavant or Monster Clay
  • Make a 2 part fiberglass mold of the sculpt
  • Do a clay lay up inside the fiberglass mold and produce a mold core
  • Create a fiberglass underskull
  • Cast a silicone skin
  • Design and build animatronic eyes/lids
  • Build and incorporate a hand-operated mouth mech
  • Paint the skins
  • Fabricate & finish the hat
  • Design the cigar with embedded LEDs for animated glow, and incorporate tubing and a connection so smoke can be fed through from an attachment point in the jaw
  • Fabricate teeth and eyes
  • Final character assembly and finishing work
  • Explore voices and character performance
  • Film the puppet on a green screen
  • Compositing and visual effects pass
  • Take a nap
More to come soon!

Post edited by Chris Ellerby on


  • Kai RottmannKai Rottmann Oberhausen NRW Germany ✭✭✭
    That is a very cool character, Chris  B) 

    Cant wait to see the finish!


  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    Quick update on the animatronic zombie puppet.

    Here is a screenshot of the animatronic design for the eye mechs.  If it looks familiar, it's because the design is from our lesson with David Covarrubias on 3D printed eye mechs.  I made a few changes to suit my own needs, but the base design is great!

    I've already started printing and assembling things, and so far it's moving great.

    Right now I have both eyes moving, and will be hooking up the eyelids tonight.  I'm also trying out a new transmitter by Taranis  (X9D) which seems promising.

    More to come soon!

  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin

    Eyes and eyelids are now working!  Transmitter is setup with some switches set for winks, blinks, etc.  Video to come soon!

  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    edited November 2017
    Here's a video of the eyes in action.

    In addition to being able to control blinks/lids with the left joystick I setup one of the momentary switches so I can easily do fast blinks.  There are also 2 switches that let me control winks, and a third switch that lets me roll the eyes back and adjust the lids so you can't see the iris/pupil.


  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    edited December 2017
    One more update on the animatronic zombie puppet project.

    Sculpting has been underway for a bit, and I've made some good progress.  This is a slightly older pic, but it's better than nothing!

    Cowboy hat is a placeholder, as I don't have a drill instructor hat for him yet.

    I will be sculpting more on this character tonight on my live stream.  Drop on by and say hi!  twitch.tv/vexfx  My usual streaming schedule is Monday Wednesday, Friday.  7PM to 11PM PST.  But I almost always go later, especially on Fridays.


  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    edited December 2017
    More progress on the sculpt!

  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    edited January 2018
    Texture progress on the face. 

    Started re-sculpting the neck, shoulders, back, and chest a bit.  Should have some more progress soon.

    Every bit of sculpting has been done live on my twitch channel.  twitch.tv/VexFX
  • Sebastian PottsSebastian Potts United kingdom
    looks so good. is this going to be in a puppet feature? 
  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    @Sebastian Potts it will be filmed on green screen and incorporated into my live stream on Twitch.  The character will appear based on different activity in the stream.

  • Kai RottmannKai Rottmann Oberhausen NRW Germany ✭✭✭
    Awesome eye mech! Really great *thumbup*
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