Sunday, May 15, 2011

FFXI Ark Angel Hume Swords: Part 1

This particular project is for a good friend of mine. He is my height, so I began the project by realizing something right off the bat - the character holding these swords is very, very tall. So using a sword I have in my home (a real one!) I decided to work between the measurement of that sword (36" from pommel to tip) and what I thought the real swords were (I think about six feet long, yeeesh!) and ended up 46 inches. It seemed to be perfect as far as my height went.

 As my cat Xem watched on, I began with a template of the sword's pommel I sketched up and cut out (which you can see in the upper left corner). I figured out about how wide I thought the swords were (I guessed 10 inches), which are insanely wide in the area of the guard and have more of an 'axe-blade' type of blade, and began sketching from there.

These are the variations on the sketches I started, until we settled on the last one. I also realized the swords needed to be wider than 10 inches, hence why it goes outside of the sketch-assigned area.

This was the blade cut out (and upside down in this picture, excuse me for that.

And tada! The swords cut out via three methods: bandsaw (general shape), jigsaw (the curved shapes, which bandsaws don't do well), and scrollsaw (the holes in the center). Next up will be the beginning of sanding.

Fortune's Railgun: Part 1

Those of you who know me know how I love big props, so when a client asked me to take on a several foot long railgun... I was all ready for it! First, one of my friends, upon hearing that I would be doing this from Metal Gear Solid 2, was awesome enough to loan me a PS2 CD that has all the character sketches and 3D models on it. How I needed this, as the reference pictures I could find were generally terrible! So sitting for several hours in front of my TV, I built this full sized paper replica of the gun.

It is 5 feet long, 22 inches tall, and 2 inches wide. I decided that it would be built out of foam insulation for lightness topped with resin for strength (and several dozen layers of gesso between them!)

Here was the gun mostly cut out of foam. The scope is not going to be out of foam - it will be metal and PVC pipe, but it is currently remaining there so I can sketch things out to proportions. Speaking of proportions, the proportions of the gun are slightly off. The actual gun is easily six feet long, but for the size of my client it had to be reduced in places to make it work. I believe it will be next to unnoticeable in the final product.

Now one thing you might notice are the red lines on the paper gun. Originally I thought I was going to include a wooden skeleton for stability on the inside of the foam, but realized that this solution would not work and instead resin would be used to strength the gun.

Here is the gun completely cut out. A drill and my jigsaw finished what the bandsaw was unable to.

Here the gun has been sketched onto the foam. The wiggly lines indicate where the gun needs to be carved into while the clean areas are the most up-raised parts. I am really excited about this project. Next up is carving all of those details into the gun.

Darker Than Black Mask

I started this project off much like I had Tobi's mask - with Crayola Model Magic.

Unfortunately, I rapidly discovered two things about this mask. One is that this was going to need to be much thinner than I first expected, and second was that the eyes of the mask, in a screen shot of the anime, are further apart than actual human eyes. I needed to remedy both of these problems.

So my first step was to work out a new design for the mask. I began by making a basic shape on paper of what I thought the mask looked like. In some images of the mask, the chin is more rounded and in others, it is quite pointy. The rounded but slightly pointy chin was a mix of the two. I also discovered a new material to work with at this point while searching for a material that would be a cheaper substitute than wonderflex. It is called Sintra, which is used in sign making, and is heat moldable. Unlike wonderflex, it is smooth on both sides, comes in many different thicknesses, but does not stick to itself. It is also quite cheap (a 4'x8' sheet was 40 dollars from a local place) so I was pleased to give it a shot.

Here you can see three variants on the mask in one shot. The farthest right is the paper mask I worked out with eyeholes. The one on the far left is the previous attempt with model magic, and the one in the middle is my first experiment with the Sintra. I discovered that using a heat gun, as I did with wonderflex in the past, worked but it could 1) burn the Sintra leaving scorch marks and 2) did not heat it evenly enough to get a smooth flow.

This was my first real attempt of the mask. I discovered that by putting the Sintra in the oven at 200 degrees, it turned as flexible as paper. I only had to gently hold it in the position I want for about a minute in my hands, and it stayed perfectly in that shape. I also quickly drilled the eyeholes so I could start to see what I was doing.

It was about this point, as I sketched on the eyes, that I realized I needed the mask to be flat to cut out the eyeholes instead of curved. I also realized the mask was too long and would not fit properly under a wig. So I made a second mask and this first mask became a 'test mask' so to speak.

Here is another set of multiple stages. The top-far-right is the test mask, and the center-top was the newly cut and curved mask.

You can see from this incredibly silly picture how I look through the corner of the eyes more than the center - this gives the appearance of the eyes being further apart than they really are. For any question of it - I could see perfectly through the holes with only a very faint mark directly in the center that didn't bother me at all. It also shows how the mask fits easily enough under a wig to give the right illusion it requires.

The eye holes were 'hidden' in the screen shots, so I improvised. From a left over pair of pantyhose from my Deadmau5 head, I used a sharpie to color them black and hot glued pieces of it stretched over the eyeholes. The pantyhose all but melted into the hot glue, which I quickly realized was a requirement to keep the hose from running. The illusion worked very well in a quick test with a camera and flash. I could see well enough through the eyeholes to not be concerned and they could not see my eyes.

I used black paint around the edges of the eyes to help further the illusion of the hidden eyes, and covered the mask in white gesso. The Sintra is easily damaged by nearly anything, and this hid any marks from sanding. It looks perfect in pictures, so I was pleased.

I cut templates for the lightning bolt over the eye as well as the mouth. Again, some compromise had to be made with the mouth. In some images it is 'smiling' and in some it is 'flat'. We went with this. The over all mask highly pleases me. The simple solution of the eyeholes turned out to be a very positive one, and the material choice has led me to believe I will be making all further masks with Sintra. I still have mounds of it left over, eep!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Deadmau5 Head: Part 4

After several tries, this is the final shape I ended up with for the ears. It fits the curve of the head where the ear sits. I missed snapping a picture in here, but I doodled on the head where I wanted the ears positioned and drilled out some 1/4 inch holes.

With that complete, thus began the epic attempt at getting this fabric on the head. Definitely, definitely, definitely get some super stretchy material. In the original deadmau5 head, it looked like some lightly fuzzy material so I went with a rather pricey stretch velvet that blends pretty well into itself.

I used some 1/4 inch weather stripping with glue on one side to add the additional lip that's needed. The part of trying to get that fabric on, there was no way I could stop and take pictures. I used spray glue to help hold the fabric in place while I stretched and contorted it, and hot glue to actually hold the fabric inside the head. There ended up being a single crease at the lip of the head, but I think if I did this again I would try a different method as this method ended up with some wrinkles at the corner of the mouth I couldn't get rid of. Still, the client was happy so I moved onto the next part.

 I worked on the ears next. I had some stretchy red scrap material which I tried first. After trying to use spray glue and laying it over, instead I sewed a very basic bag shape inside out and pulled it down over the ear. This worked really well, so I went ahead and made the bag out of the black.
Here, you can see the rebar I used to hold on the ears. This required some decent cutters to get through, but could be bent with pliers. I bent the rebar and used hot glue to secure the rebar through the holes I drilled earlier. While this worked for this project, I think I would chose to do a different method in the future. This would have worked well for the more commonly used hard-foam ears, but for the soft foam it tended to tear as I pulled the ears over the metal. Unfortunately since this was a commission, if the hard foam inside broke I couldn't repair it. 

Since my face looked terrible in this picture... here's the head on me! Almost finished!

With the ears both attached and all ready, I snipped the fabric over the eye, cut a hole into it, and pulled it back like I had everywhere else. I reopened the hole I drilled earlier to keep the eyes in, and carefully pulled the light-trigger out of the socket it sat in and glued it elsewhere so it would be accessible once the eye was in. I reattached the eye. You can see both eyes in and lit up here!

I slowly used a dremel to cut the edges of the bigger light domes off and then glued them to the head.

I then used some leftover foam to get the helmet inside the head to the right level and glued everything in, including the helmet to the foam.

And then finally, I used screen mesh (like used for windows screen in a dull black/gray color) and if you can believe it, pantyhose! Yep, cut up panty hose. I glued the pantyhose covered mesh to the inside of the head and... tada! The head is complete, and here is me wearing it. You can see well enough out of it that I was taking pictures of the head with it on! Also, you can see how bright the eyes look in dimmer light and how they look really lit up. I love the effect.

Over all, there's some things I'd change about the whole head, but I'm fairly pleased with the final effect of it. My client is very pleased with the pictures, and it'll be shipped off very soon! I'm hoping my client will send me a picture with them wearing it as they DJ.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Deadmau5 Head: Part 3

Eyes, ears, and more eyes!

Started off by plotting out the eyes a little more. The client decided he liked the LED of the smaller lights, but liked the size of the bigger eyes more. So I made a double-pattern. One was the cut out for the size of the smaller lights with the domes removed, and one was where the bigger eyes would sit.

You can see how the bigger eyes will look. They're just taped on here for reference for my client.

I cut out the inner eyes, practically disembowled the LED lights, and set them in by reversing the screws. I will do more screws when everything's set to go on permenantly - I discovered the toggle switch can be moved, so I moved it to a better location for the client to click the lights on, but unfortunately I need to figure out a better way to set the switch so the eyes won't break at some point. That's in the works.

How the eyes look with the LEDs on and the bigger lights over them. They are VERY bright and easily light up the whole room with the lights dimmed or off.

This is the cardboard backed ear - but I'm not particularly happy with the cardboard, so I am going to try a different method involving very long screws. I'll be picking those up today from Lowes. Once I have the holes set for the ears, I need to get the 1/4 inch thick lip on the inside of the head, then start attaching all the fabric! After the fabric, it will be the mesh that covers the mouth, finalize the position of the helmet inside, and this project will be ready to ship off to the client!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Deadmau5 Head: Part 2

I started cutting out the ears, leaving some space at the bottom to get it into the head.

You can see the basic circle I worked with in the middle and the rough cut out first ear. The ears are 13 inches x 13 inches in a circle.

Here's the one ear softened out. Funny enough, sand paper worked nicely to smooth out the rough edges even in foam. I'll be putting cardboard behind the ears I decided to make sure they hold their shape all the time instead of trying to work a wire or something into the foam.

Just a little reference shot, but wow is that hard to do without another set of hands! You can sort of see how big the ears are compared to the head.

Oh good, I look like an idiot. I have a balaclava on because my hair kept annoying me as I was trying to get the head on and off. You can see the helmet's temporary installation.  There's two inches of foam above it supporting the helmet and putting it in proper place. It gives me enough room to get the lights in where they have to sit, and puts the face in a nice place in the space of the mouth. The helmet's a nice comfortable fit and keeps the head off the shoulders for added wearer comfort.

After some doodling on the head itself - sharpies are the only thing that works on it, but actually can be erased with some serious rubbing. Dry erase markers don't stay very well but are good for temporary marking. The eyes are five inches apart, and I used the dome lights from the tap light I'll be using to make those little paper circles. Some temporary adhesive to attach the eyes and make sure it looked good. That's where the cuts will be. The lights will tap by pressing them on from the underside before putting the head on I think.

You can see the dome put on (using some of the stickiness of the temporary adhesive to hold it there long enough to snap the picture) at the site of the paper circle. That's exactly what it'll look like sticking out from black cloth I'll be using to cover this. That's all for now! Eye cutting will be next I think.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Deadmau5 Head: Part 1

This, basically, is what I'm making. Every time I look at it, I have to giggle. What an odd prop to be creating! This, my friends, is the head-piece that Deadmau5 wears. For those unknowing as I was, he is a DJ and music producer. This is the head piece he wears when he is DJing, from what I gather.

So my search began. What on earth could I use to make something so hard? For reference, a person's face is supposed to be centered in the mouth. Eep! One of my other fellow prop-makers actually came to my rescue with an idea. Get ready, it's a funny -- the head is actually the acrylic globe of a street lamp. Yep. A 14 inch diameter, 5 inch opening lamp globe. So! First things first, the opening was too small to get one's head through. So I began by cutting into the opening to make it 8 inches wide.

One fast cut with the dremel later, I had a perfect opening.

 Here, you can see a few things. One, I bought two different styles and sizes of lights to go into the head. The client ended up chosing the smaller but brighter light, on the left. With the lights out, it lit up the entire room with just one! In this picture, you can also see the lines I've drawn on the globe. They mark the center going around in all directions, including where the top of the mouth would be.

Here's the mouth cut out. It looks so big on the head, but the cut out piece looks smaller. Odd!

Hi? This is me with the helmet on. My head and the client's head are almost exactly the same size, so I was showing him where the head sat on me. You can see my face is nicely framed in this really blurry picture I tried to get with no flash.

After some quick research, I discovered that the material used in mascot's eyes is called Buckram. It's a very densely weaved material that, as we discovered at the craft store, only hints at the outline of the face behind it and lets me see through. The picture above is the shot in a dim room through the buckram. My client will be DJing with this head on, so I wanted to show what he would be dealing with as far as visibility, and offered that there was a second material of a less dense weave that would show his face more, but offer more visibility. He went with option A, the buckram.

This is the helmet I picked up at Walmart. I removed the outer shell and am going to be working with the hard inner shell. Once on my head, the whole big head no longer tipped forward (due to the slant of the human shoulders) and sat with my face perfectly frammed in the mouth without me having to hold it. I'll be soon attaching the helmet to the inside of the head so that the head sits comfortably at all times and doesn't move too much.

Last picture for this update - a simple shot of the beginning of one of the ears. The ears are a somewhat large oval shape, 13 inches wide and 13 inches tall. I'll be cutting these out and attaching them helmet probably on Wednesday. I noted that I'll need to insert something into the ears to make sure they stand upright instead of bending over... I'll need to ponder that over today and tomorrow!