Monday, August 18, 2008

Design, 8/18/08 (8/19?)

Good evening, or morning, depending where you are. Sorry, but no photos tonight. Instead, I had a stroke of luck on my way home. I decided on a whim to stop at the local hardware store, since Home Depot and Lowes had both been absolutely no help on two previous occasions. I asked the wonderfully helpful staff, and they walked me straight to what I was looking for! Heavy gauge support wire/cable, and treated binding wire! At very, very reasonable prices too. This has been holding up head construction totally, so it can now commence - and not a moment too soon. Though I am starting to worry more and more that it's a moment too late.

So tonight I'm going to talk about designing the head. Most people will tell you that cutting foam block's fine, and for most applications it is. Others swear by building up various materials around helmets and hats and such. For this Tauren, the only reasonable choice was a wire frame head. What's a wire frame? Glad you asked.
A Basic Frame Head
A Complex Frame Head
Let's go into differences briefly. A Basic Frame head consists of a very simple or abbreviated frame - the bare minimums to establish the shape - and sculpting materials over top of it. This requires heavier pipe or wire for the framing, which is harder to work with and requires more specialized tools.
A Complex Frame head consists of something closer to a complete 3D wireframe, providing the bulk of the structure. Because there is more wire, you can use smaller gauges. Again, you'll find materials sculpted over top, but most often you'll find flat surfaces lashed to the framing itself, which provides the shape. This is harder to construct due to the number of wires involved, and lashing them together, but requires less special tools. Just a good wire snipper and two pairs of needle nose pliers.
Both have the advantage of offering a much greater open area inside the head, which translates to more cooling, more room for additional cooling equipment, room for electronics, you get the idea. As a disclaimer, I do not have time for complex electronics this year. Without giving anything away, next years will have a more advanced electronic support system.

So, this Tauren is using a Complex Frame combined with Supported Structure. I'll get to Supported Structure in a minute, as puppeteers are more familiar with it than I am by far, so I'm probably using the wrong term. Regardless, the choice for a Complex Frame came about due to materials. The head will be covered with Springbok hair-on hide ( Those of you attending Blizzcon, please use care when petting, and remember that other people may want a turn. :), horsehair mane, and horsehair braids, plus steer horns. This means a great deal of weight savings need to be found, and quickly. By going with a Complex Frame, I eliminated almost all of the sculpting. The sole exception is the nose. (Note to myself; I need to pick up more suede.) It also allows me to unbalance the head by adding a great deal of additional cooling. The exact design there is proprietary, but I may share it after Blizzcon '09.

Supported Structure means is that the structure will also rest on my shoulders, due to the weight - nearly 20lbs! - being unsafe for neck support alone. A large part of the weight comes from the materials being used. This solves the weight problem, but leaves the balance problem. I will be unbalanced severely to the front, because of the way Tauren themselves look, even before the cooling! This mandates some sort of supporting harness underneath. This is part of the design I had failed to consider, and am having some difficulty finding resources on. If any of you know puppeteers, they're far more familiar with these, and I could definitely use a hand.

With some luck, I should be able to start covering this weekend. I just need to figure out a way to make something roughly the size of my head to do the proportioning. The hardest part of the whole setup.

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