Here's a short gif showing our first attempt at programming movements into the An1mal animatronic puppet.
It's super exciting seeing all the body parts moving at the same time, and a really interesting challenge to make believable movements using programming - it's a strange process, half puppetry and half animation.
Some behaviour states will have pre-programmed movements like this one, and others will use a mix of face-tracking and randomised movements to stop the interaction from becoming overly repetitive.
The mega talented Suzie Ferguson came over earlier in the week and created some weird and wonderful sounds for the an1mal, which add a completely new dimension. It's really exciting seeing the different elements come together and merge into one single performance.
The puppet itself is nearly done now, and we're making good headway programming these behaviours. Next week we will work on hooking up the sensors which trigger the behaviours, and integrating the animatronic and sensors into the enclosure which it will be exhibited in. This will give us our first real impression of the audience experience, so most likely there will be a fair bit of tweaking to do after that.
A quick cardboard test of an idea I had for a set based on three doors for three houses. Depending on which way you open a door you can either enter it or alter the shape of the set. It is self-contained and uses Z shaped folds to transform from one scene to the next.
This week I've been patterning the body, limbs, head and features for An1mal and making a faux fur covering for the puppet (also learned a new word - furfetti, which is the tiny bits of hair that mysteriously appear in your coffee when you're working with faux fur), while Roy has been hooking the cables that control the movements of the puppet up to the servos which will power them. At this point we can test one or two moving parts at a time, and below are a couple of quick tests - one with the mouth and ears, and another with the head tilt and turn. Today our behaviourist Elaine will be visiting again and hopefully we can start choreographing some of the animal's movements.
This is where we've got to this week with An1mal. It's starting to take a more solid shape, and mechanically it is working pretty well. The aluminium and plastic articulations inside the puppet are nearly finished, and I've added an outer shell for the head and torso by making hollow plastazote forms. It's been harder than I expected to make forms which hold their shape and position while allowing the cables and mechanical parts inside them enough room to move freely, but now that it's done I'm really looking forward to adding fur and seeing how the character of the animal develops.
Starting work on An1mal this week - a collaboration with Roy Shearer which uses responsive animatronics to simulate an interaction between a human and an animal. The animal uses a camera, microphone and proximity sensor to investigate viewers around it, as well as sound and servo-powered movements to respond to their behaviour. Above are some very early designs.
Below are some short clips showing a few of the mechanisms. First up is the snout which curls up and down, then the ears which flap, and finally a test using a cable to control the jaw and eyebrows which work together.
I've been working this week on the articulations for a cable controlled animal puppet and a template pattern for a glove puppet. Hopefully both these projects will go on to become finished puppets next year, but for now I'm having a lot of fun trying things out and practicing techniques which I don't often get to use.
Here's Ronan McMahon performing with a giant elf puppet I made last week for Bridgemanarts.
I set out to make a cheery, approachable character, with simple body shapes. So the design focused on a clear smile, a circular head, a bell-shaped body and clear colours to define the different body parts. I knew I wanted to use flexible plastic ducting for the arms and legs, so I designed the elf using the wobbly, elongated look it gives.
The head is a hollow plastazote foam sphere. I made a template using an exercise ball, joined the foam pieces with contact adhesive, heat moulded the nose over a can of spray paint, fastened a cane through the middle of the head to support the ears and to join the head to the hat later on, then spray painted the head and features before glueing them in place.
The shoulders and hips have lengths of cane to support them, there is a hula hoop at the waist to fill out the body shape, the body frame is built from foam pipe lagging and covered with lining material, the skirt and collar are plastazote shapes covered with fabric, the belt is a length of wide ribbon, the arms and legs are flexible plastic ducting covered with fabric which tie to the hips and shoulders with ribbons, and the hat is a smaller hula hoop with a pipe lagging frame and fabric cover.
The hat is supported by a cane structure which extends through the head and fastens to the bamboo poles coming from the body which means that the head itself is suspended and doesn't have to support any weight.
The hands are builder's gloves stuffed with plastic sheeting and joined to an old gaffa tape roll which holds the wrist shape open and gives a solid point for the arm canes to tie to. The shoes are 1cm plastazote foam shapes, contact adhesived together, tied to the legs, with velcro straps to hold them to the performer's legs. The buttons are baubles and the belt buckle is another plastazote shape sprayed gold.
Below are some photos taken at the events the elf visited, it was really fun making something so cheery and even better seeing the response of the family audiences.
I am a Glasgow based visual artist and maker.