How should an absolute beginner learn mechanics?

I've been a bit intimidated even in the design basics  course because I realized I'm in a catch 22: I've never made anything so none of my designs are clear enough to be blueprints, yet because I have no clear blueprints I don't know what materials to buy and how to make anything. Are there any books or resources you'd recommend for learning mechanics as an absolute beginner for stopmotion & animatronics?


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    Hi Morgan,

    It can all be a bit overwhelming, so I find it helps to focus on small goals first.  I would start by picking a single simpler project to make, figure out what skills and materials are needed to complete it, and work towards that goal.  

    For animatronics, I would start by looking into microcontrollers like the Arduino.  There are a lot of resources and documentation for them to help get you up and running.  Then you can start learning about servos, linkages, joints, etc.  Make something simple first, then start adding more complexity over time.

    There are also build systems out there to help make prototyping a lot easier.  I'm a big fan of actobotics.  https://www.servocity.com/actobotics/

    For stop-motion you would want to look into basic machining, wire-based armatures, ball and socket joints, etc.  You can do a lot with hand tools since the scale is so small.

    I would also recommend our learning pathways, which help guide you through a series of courses focused on a subject like animatronics.  Here is a good starting point:  https://www.stanwinstonschool.com/pathways/mechanical-effects-basics-online-courses-for-beginner-animatronic-fx-mechanics

    That should help get you started!

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    just jumping in here with a question/suggestion. 
    I heard BJ mention how he would build mockup mechanics with things like popsicle sticks and paper fasteners etc. So even though I haven't finished the eyebrow mech, I'm already thinking about how I can build other things, but, what is really missing from my knowledge is how  build mock ups. I could see a course than just jumps into building something ridiculous but that teaches the basic knowledge of mechanics, things like levers, pulleys, linear vs axial vs radial, etc. Using things like tubing and rods and then nylon fasteners instead of collars etc. Though as I write this... I realize that's what the eyebrow class really is, and you just need to keep going with it. You'll learn you doht need to buy a ton of bolts and rods, you can use plastic tubes etc. I should probably just delete this post now, but I'm curious about your thoughts. Maybe there is a course or kit that will help fill in these questions... like.. I didn't even know a lock nut exists. Yes my hands are very soft. 
    Thanks! Jonah 
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    Ya, super happy you didn't delete. You crushed my soul with "hands are very soft", laughing so hard. So, ya, I have the engineering degree and I still think there should have been an easier way to learn just the terminology. I found the "quickstudy" and "sparknotes" laminated trifold cram study helpers are great for that. As to SWSCA courses, I have found that each course I take here will have a section that just stops and really processes the basics. I will scan through some that I have completed and post some here that were the best at explaining terminology and the starting blocks.
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    I have lots of courses I think are crazy amazing but specifically mechanics, Go to main page and select Pathways, Both "Mechanical and Animitronics Fx Basics" and "Model Making" are your aim but the first class in each is saturated with terminology and fabrication techniques. In the FX basics first course:


    And the model course class "Junkyard Robots", parts, making do with something else, and mod techniques.
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    Morgan, these are different disciplines so some expertise on the viewer/reader's part is expected when you hand your design to a builder/maker. It isn't 100 percent your place as a designer to understand all those steps so don't be discouraged. Some knowledge as to what it entails to build a final project would be wonderful but designers create the idea, image, and vision and often do nothing in the build stages other than communicate the vision. I want to know everything, so I sympathize with the request but because this industry is split into stages from concept to finished film in possibly 15 different disciplines, each has its own Pathway course set on the main page. A great glimpse into this collaberation idea is in the Filmaking pathway. Don't let mechanics stop you from getting your design idea down and if the next stage is also your responsibility, start down that pathway but if not, focus on the collaberation sections within Filmaking. The mechanical and animatronics fx courses start with a great introduction speech about listening to the designer and figuring out how to make it for real, they expect that to be part of their job.
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