Tag Archives: Special Effects

Making Props for a Feature – Part 4

So this is was by far the most complicated prop. The client wanted an Etch-A-Sketch (remember them?) that could write messages by itself. Yep, a haunted Etch-A-Sketch. Possibly one of the biggest challenges. How to do it? Well two obvious ideas came to mind, CG and practical effects. CG was the cheapest option, but I didn’t think it would look nearly as good. So I put forward the option of practical, and the production team went with it, good lads!

It was a fairly straight forward process, so to break it down;

  1. I sourced my components,an Arduino microcontroller, two stepper drivers, two stepper motors and a button.
  2. Machined a coupler which I mounted to the back of the Sketch’s control rods.
  3. 3D printed some pulleys.
  4. Coded v1 (some basic movement)
  5. Assembled it all together.
  7. Decorate to make it look like it was owned by a kid.
  8. Duplicated the decoration on hero version.

Below is a quick test video


As you can see in the early version I had some issues with the Y axis, this was due to the belts not being tight enough, so when it reversed direction it wasn’t traveling far enough. This countered by adding a bit of extra code, although if I had the time I would have created a jockey wheel. Just at the time my 3Dprinter was being a little tetchy.

This was a fun prop to work on, and I’m so glad the production team gave the go ahead for me to do the practical version.

Making Props for a Feature – Part 3

This particular prop was something one of our actors was wearing. In a particular scene they start to glow, but for it to look any good they needed to cast a light that interacts with their surroundings.

The way it worked as I ran wires through out and hid some connectors in the seams, so that I could attach LED strips to the blindside to the camera, this allowed for a flexible rig. Could run of a 12v wall wart or battery if needed.

This rig didn’t get as much screen time as I’d have liked ended up casting across a pretty featureless wall. Still, I got to flex those sewing muscles (and by flex I mean flinch as I kept sticking myself)

Making Props for a Feature – Part 2

So enlisting the aid of Louis, this time it was a coffin in the making… a rather unsettling coffin as it was child size. It’s hard to describe how uncomfortable we were when we finished making this. Nothing special about the construction of this coffin, other than it didn’t have a lid or sides, as we wanted to be able to shine light through the sides for effects.

Making Props for a Feature – Part 1

So I’ve just come back from filming a feature film (my first!), and while I can’t say too much about it right now what I can share with you is some of the behind the scenes of the props we had to build for it. The first up is a rock that is not a rock. Or, a rock that you can hit someone with and not actually kill them!

To achive this it was a simple job of some foam, silicone and paints! Along with some help from Ash, our makeup artist on the final detailing you would have walked right past this on the path and not noticed. In fact our runner did when we asked him to fetch it!