Zombie Drill instructor Animatronic Puppet

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 ✭✭✭✭
    That is a very cool character, Chris  B) 

    Cant wait to see the finish!


  • 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!


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

  • 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.


  • 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.


  • edited December 2017
    More progress on the sculpt!

  • 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
  • looks so good. is this going to be in a puppet feature? 
  • @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 ✭✭✭✭
    Awesome eye mech! Really great *thumbup*
  • edited April 2019
    Progress continues!

    From this angle the changes are subtle.  Mostly the upper lip and nose.  From the side view (don't have a photo at the moment) I redid the jaw.

    I'm working on final textures now, and can't wait to get it molded so I can move on to other aspects of this project!  I've been doing all this live on my twitch stream, and I'm sure folks are plenty tired of looking at his ugly mug!

    Molding this will be a challenge, but I'm excited for that process.

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