Week 1 Homework

Hey Students,

Please post your first assignments here! 


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    Homework 3d printed version brow mech. 
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    8 parts in the build printed in ABS. Designed it during the class and 4 hrs of grow time. Designed in cinema 4d sliced in simplify3d. 
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    Sorry, I don't have my parts 3D printed, yet, like Troy. But, I think I have my course of action pretty well though out though:

    I’m currently working on a set of three characters: Ethyl, Methyl, and their Black Cat, named Shadow.


    For this class my main focus will be the mechanics intended for Shadow. Whereas Shadow’s vocal communication will be restrained to inner thoughts/ breaking the fourth wall-style, to communicate with the audience. Shadow will only interact with the other characters NON-verbally, in the same manner as real cats do, through body language. In order to convey this body language, Shadow will require nearly as much functionality in movement as a real cat is capable of. To that end, here is a checklist of movements I’m looking to achieve with Shadow:


    1. I plan on making two versions of Shadow: One capable of sitting and lying down, and a second version that will stand only.

    2. Shadow will have dialating pupils, and the eyes will be capable of moving side to side. The pupils will be able to go from the typical slit-pupil shape, all the way to a fully round large pupil shape. This will primarily be accomplished with a scissor-like mechanism, strategically attached to the iris.

    3. Shadow will also contain independent upper and lower eyelids. In actual use the eyelids will usually work in tandem. But, by designing them with the ability to work independently, it affords that opportunity for if, and when the script calls for it.

    4. Shadow will have the ability to wiggle it’s nose

    5. Also, the whiskers will be able to twitch.

    6. Shadow’s ears will have the ability of two separate movements: side to side, and front to back. (If you’ve ever seen a cat hear bagpipe music for the first time, you will EASILY see both these separate movements on display. Lol.)

    7. The fur on Shadow’s head and back will be able to stand on end.

    8. Shadow’s tongue will be able to move via a three or four line tentacle mech. And, the tongue will be able to extend approximately two inches, (48mm), from the mouth via the use of a parallelogram mech.

    9. Shadow’s paws will mostly be controlled by rods, but there will be a trigger on each of these rods to allow shadow to bare the claws on each of the paws.

    10. Finally, Shadow’s tail will contain a compound-tentacle mech. Unlike dogs, cat tails are capable of more complex s-curve like movements. Dog tails tend to be capable of up-down movement, and side-to-side wagging movement. Cat’s tails on the other hand tend to be more complex. Their tails are capable of the same up-down movement, (which signifies happy or sad), and side-to-side wagging movement, (which usually signifies anger, and or “Back off, human. Or I’ll claw your eyes out!”, when wagging fast). But, the outer third tends to move independently, (if it curls forward your cat is usually telling it is happy and content. This can also include a SLOW wag from the other two-thirds. If the outer third is twitching, your cat is usually letting you know it is curious about something.)

    Yes, I know, probably seems rather complex. But, who ever said cats were simple? A good number of these features will be automated with an Arduino and servos with the ability to interrupt the program remotely with radio control. The intention with this design is to expand the capability of the puppet to it’s fullest, yet keep the number of puppeteers to a minimum of approx. just two. Granted, not all functions will be necessary ALL the time, but if all those functions are already present and available, it opens up how the character can emote and connect with the audience. And, anything that helps make your character seem more like an actual living entity, the easier it is for the audience to believe and care what happens to the character.

    For the mech.s that will be in the cat’s head, most will be controlled by “sub-micro” servos, which are some of the smallest and lightest available. For mech.s that need more strength from possibly bigger servos, and/or providing a more comfortable location for carrying the batteries, and Arduino, I plan on using “Gold-N-Rod” cables from Sullivan Products, ( http://www.sullivanproducts.com/GoldnRodContent.htm ), specifically their #507 cables, which are 36 inches, (91.4 cm), long. The brass plated, stainless steel cables are .032 inch diameter, with an accompanying yellow, nylon outer sheath. (The last time I purchased some of them, they cost $2.69 USD each.) They also include “Gold-n-Clevises” and retaining clips, as well as couplers. (If needed, you can order this cable in bulk.) These cables are extremely thin, but quite strong and reliable. I’ve been using them for various animatronics, for years!

    The Arduino set-up will be a combination of a standard Arduino Uno Board and Adafruit 16-Channel 12-bit PWM/Servo Shield - I2C interface, (http://www.adafruit.com/products/1411 ), with  Micro Servo - High Powered, High Torque Metal Gear type servos, (http://www.adafruit.com/products/2307 ).

     As best as I can figure, that should fill all the requirements of the first homework assignment. If you need me to go into further information on any detail, just let me know. Yes, I know this overall design is rather complex. But I want the final puppet to be as versatile as possible. And, this is the only way I could think of approaching it.

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    Troy that is totally amazing!!! 

    Jeffrey - all i can say is WOW! youre stepping so far outside of my comfort zone with the servos and arduino programming. i cant wait to see pics of your cats once they're finished! i hope youve hadd a chance to check out Dave Covarrubias and Richard Landon's classes on those types of mechs. theyre definitely more suited to bulding realistic puppets
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    Here is my homework so far for week 1.

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    I have started working on a puppet design for the upcoming eyeblink mechanism lesson. I don't want to hide the fact that the puppet is mechanical- I want to celebrate it by doing a fusion of great androids/ robots. Tin Man, Bicentennial Man, Protocol Droids and maybe a little bit of Terminator for good measure! The shape of the puppet is based on the first class from 2014.
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    Hello BJ, it is important to understand that not ALL of the mechanics I'm proposing will ever be used ALL at once. They will be operated as needed by the puppeteer (s). To use too many movements at once, would get far too confusing for the puppeteers. 

    My intention is to provide as many movements as possible, to make bringing the character to life easier.

    In regards to the servos and Arduinos, don't worry about those, they are intended to help simplify some of the puppeteering, later on. ALL of the mech.s I'm designing can easily be used individually, with just the fishing line and key-ring, or toggle trigger, you have shown for far. Remember, it only appears complex when everything is added together. But, as individual components, it is actually quite simple.

    Yes, I am aware of both of the Arduino class, (I participated in this one), and the "tentatcle"/animatronics class, (I have the dvd). But,the core basis of all the mechanics, for my puppet, are still basic. It just appears overwhelming when everything is combined.

    I will make sure I document ALL of the mechanics I plan to use. And, anybody that wants to can pick and choose which individual mech.s.they want to copy.

    For far too long, there have been too many "trade secrets" in the Special Makeup Effects business. With CGI constantly threatening to replace our work, or minimize it, (see the latest "The Thing" prequel/ remake, or the latest "Fantastic Four" remake to find out how bad the results can be), now more than ever we all need to work together, share what knowledge we have, and we can vastly improve all our skills. Only this in the long run, will keep us ALL in business and working. (Fortunately, Stan Winston's School of Character Arts is helping that come true. Thank you, Matt!!!!)

    And, don't think that, for even a blink of a second, your teaching of of traditional puppetry is of no worth. In fact, it is EXTREMELY useful. It is one of the foundational building blocks of everything we do. So, thank you BE Guyer, for teaching these classes!!! I have,and I know many others have learned a great deal from you!

    (Even the hydraulic T-Rex, from the original Jurassic Park, at heart is just a fancy puppet!) ;-)
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    'Sorry, "auto-correct" screwed a few words up. I HATE "auto-correct"!!!!!!!!!!! I did not mean for my above message to miss-spell your name BJ. :-S
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    Being the type that no matter how hard I try, my wire work is very abstract.  So I dug through my sons old toy and found his K Nex set.  Yup, did the trick.  Attached are photos of my new eyebrow mech using a few items from the set.  The only other thing I did was put long screws in to stop the mech when returning to it's resting place.  Hope this might be of some help.  Two pictures show the front and back with the old wire and the parts for the new devise.  The third pic is a close up.  And yes, with a touch of super glue the parts hold together and can manage the torque. I can also make additional pieces to take with me to swap out and with them already sized, it only took me about 30 minutes to make my new one from scratch!!  Woot-woot!  

    Always building - Peter


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    Hey guys, so I'm doing a Lumberjack type character- he has no mouth, just his moustache moves when he talks. I tried the second mech BJ showed and found that the mech is pretty good, however, it is more of an interior movement with springs etc. on the side I need facing in. I decided to go with the first mech but I needed to modify it so that the moustache is centred and not spaced very far. So here is what I came up with. This was suppose to be just a test piece but it actually came out pretty goo, so I may use it for the actual build. I angled the front to match the angle of the front of the puppet. I also need to propoxy the area where the nylon fishing line is attached. I also need to affix the tubing in to front plate because there is some give in the left "pulley". I used one piece for the stopper and just need to attach that too. Also need to make the moustache pieces and attach those onto the collars. Video will follow.
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    When is week 1 homework due by?
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    Here's the Mech from behind. Like I said sorry for it being rough but it was originally going to be used just as a test run. Also have to put rubber on the stoppers to reduce noise...so much to do! LOL
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    This will be my third attempt to post on here...this is a mock up for the mustache mech for a Lumberjack character. My thought was to use the second mech BJ showed in his video... but after starting the mech I realized that the first one lends itself more for what I need.
    Here are some photos of the second mech...

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    So now I'm building the first mech BJ showed, but changed it to fit the design of the Lumber Jack. Here is the mock up version. I need to put Propoxy on the "wings" to stop the fishing line to stop sliding. I also need to fasten the stoppers better and add rubber tubing because you can hear when the brass hits them. I also thought of having separate eye screws for each spring but found they clear eachother pretty smoothly. I also decided I may just keep the mock up - I know it isn't pretty but it works smoothly. I also decided to make the brass curve a different way to clear the foam inside the head.  
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    The mechs look great! I love the fact that you're all adapting them to suit your particular character's needs.  

    Peter, I'm a big fan of using already existing parts. The K'Nex parts were a great idea!

    homework needs to be done before the next class on saturday
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    great at idea on bending the wire for the stops on your mustache rig so they don't wiggle loose
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    Hi BJ,

    The attached are photos from Nathaniel.
    He doesn't have access to the forum right now, so please give him feedback tomorrow in the class!


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    Hi Bj and Class.  I am puppet builder from Brisbane, Australia.  I've really enjoyed this class so far as I have your others BJ. 

    I tried to upload a video but had some difficulty, so I have some photos attached instead.  I am not sure what character I want to incorporate a mech into, so at this stage I just build this to put the principles from this class into action and to have a prototype to play with. I too have reversed the mech to have 'frowning' eyebrows.

    Really looking forward to the next class.

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    @Katherine - I love your mechanical/android puppet idea, looks very cool.

    @Tom Stewart - What is the nose made out of in one of your earlier pics?  Is it model magic?

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    edited August 2015
    Here is my first mech. It was ok but not quite what I had in mind for my character. 

    I will be creating a voodoo doll puppet whom has a rather nasty temper when he doesn't get his way. 
    The eyebrow mech I want to use will need to frown a lot so I redesigned mech to suit. 
    Post edited by Shannon Cooke on
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    edited August 2015
    Here is the redesigned mech.
    Post edited by Chris Ellerby on
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    Here is my revised eyebrow mechanism based on BJ's feedback in class. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqbaqYgkxbg
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    Here are both mechs done the Moustache mech is the first mech you showed us for eyebrows. The second is Mech 2 for wings etc. 
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    Danny Radford- the nose is made from model magic - however, I have been warned by a very competent puppet builder Matthieu Rene that bigger pieces made in model magic crack and flake apart. I never had a problem with it but I trust him so I am carving one from foam. :)
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    Hey everyone, 
    Here is my homework for the first mech we worked on with Bj: "The EyeBrow mech":

    Have to adjust the symmetry, going to work on the other mechs later tonight.

    Enjoy the pictures/videos, please ask any questions, if any.

    Connor Asher

    Video Link:

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    good job  :smiley:
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