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1st puppet, (complex blinking/moving eye, Bill Cipher) feedback/help wanted!  (Read 2097 times)
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« on: October 15, 2016, 04:41:42 am »

Hello all! I'm new to this website and new to building puppets. I've always LOVED puppets and wanted to try my hand at building/using one for ages, but it took me this long for the stars to align and me to get my act together and actually start and complete a project.

Here's my baby, a recreation of the character Bill Cipher from the Disney cartoon Gravity Falls. He's sort of a hand-and-rod puppet, his arms and hands are are the standard style that go with that type of puppet, his eye moves and blinks, and he has legs dangling off his bottom. His dimensions are 20 x 20 inches wide and tall, and he's 5 inches deep, with a handle for controlling his eye protruding from his back. He's made of EVA foam, upholstery foam, plastic, fabric, and self-stick autobody vinyl.

You can see a collection of construction photos here

This tag in my cosplay/costuming blog has more construction photos

SO, this puppet has a variety of issues that I'd really like to fix/improve by making a new version, so I would LOVE feedback and advice on how to better design the mechanism.

  • - It's difficult to puppeteer him - he needs a base to rest on so the eye movement mechanism works. POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Make him smaller, and use a camera tripod to provide an easily movable/adjustable base in many locations?
  • - He's too big/heavy/bulky/thick. POSSIBLE SOLUTION: I'm downsizing version 2.0's eyeball to a half-sphere instead of a full sphere, and 4 inches across instead of 6.
  • - Eyelid mechanism is attached to eyeball/pupil movement, so eye movement range is limited by eyelashes hitting the edges of eye socket. Even after only two weekends worth of use, the lashes are getting close to breaking off. POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Move pupil without moving entire eye, so eyelids and pupil movement do not directly affect each other? GIVE ME SUGGESTIONS HERE, please, I beg you.
  • - Blink mechanism is difficult to operate due to the distance needed to move the lids being pretty large--- Right now, the control lever works on 1:1 and so an equal and opposite movement is required to move the lid. I wanted to use some kind of trigger-like mechanism to activate the eye, but the distance my finger can comfortably pull is much shorter than the distance the eye needs to close... Any ideas on how a relatively small trigger movement could be used to create a scaled up, larger movement in the eyelid?
  • - Only upper lid moves, lower lid is stationary (but can be manually adjusted for enhancing expressions). Would be nice if both lids were controllable. POSSIBLE SOLUTION: New control mechanism similar to a pair of scissors? With the option of letting go/releasing one half of the "scissor" to leave one lid immobile while the other moves?

Ideally, I'd like this guy to operate with one puppeteer, one hand devoted to the eye movement and blinks, and the other hand free to concentrate on body language and operating the hands (or just one hand, if the second is posed in place).

One crazy possibility I've considered is freeing up BOTH hands to control the body and hands, but somehow controlling the eye position with my head, and the blinks with my mouth--- I know, ridiculously over the top, but the dream would be to make this sucker a self-contained performance so that he really "comes alive" in public spaces!

Anyway I guess that's all for the moment, please don't hesitate to give me suggestions or educate me. I'm electronics illiterate, so servos and such scare me - but if those might be the only way to accomplish some of these effects I'm hoping for, please help me out!

But if I can keep him analog and manually controlled, that would be the dream Smiley

Anyhoo, thanks for reading!

PS: I also run a comedy blog with this puppet, and there's an assortment of photos in the blog posts that aren't posted anywhere else: https://3dbillcipher.tumblr.com/
Shawn Sorrell
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2016, 07:16:28 am »

Do you have your hand inside him when you puppeteer him? This would give you the most stability and allow you to manipulate the eye almost directly. If you downsize some you should be able to avoid the range of motion needed to move both eye and eyelids.

You need to separate the eyeball from the lids. The eyeball needs to be a ball and socket set up and then your lids pivot or axis is attached to a ring around this ball and socket. In some case the eyelid is actually part of ball and socket holding the eye in. I am doing a really bad job of explaining this. Smiley Google Search: puppet moving eye mechanism Try that google search link then check out the images. Also check out this post here at PandS http://puppetsandstuff.com/community/index.php/topic,8462.0.html It is a thread where Tioh shows of some of his 3d printed parts.

I would keep it to hand manipulation.  Don't try and get the head or mouth involved in this one. Smiley  I just don't think it is the answer here.  Yes sometimes this can be useful but I think it just complicates things for this project.
Shawn Sorrell
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2016, 07:18:53 am »

Oh also are  you on Face Book? If so have a look at this group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/50583854212/ You should get some good feed back there. Try and focus on a single issue if you ask over there. You'll get clearer answers.
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« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2016, 06:09:31 pm »

Thank you for the link! I've read that whole thread now and have a couple of ideas - and yes, I'm a member of the Facebook group, so I was going to post there next. Thank you for the advice - I'll probably just ask about eye mechanism control. Start there. Worry about the rest later Smiley

You wouldn't happen to have the diagrams from this thread saved, would you?: http://puppetsandstuff.com/community/index.php/topic,3562.0.html

I'm just curious to see what their control scheme was like, since the others in the thread seemed to think it was useful, and they say the eyelids and the eyes are independent of each other!

Though what I'm honestly most stuck on is a trigger/control to make the eye move. I tried using a cable and couldn't get it to work! But it might be that I'm just not understanding how to implement a cable control.

I'll take this to the facebook community now and maybe post a sketch along with the question - but obviously I'll come back to this post if anybody posts here Smiley
Shawn Sorrell
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2016, 06:32:00 am »

Unfortunately those diagrams are now lost. They where hosted on flicker and it looks like the owner took them down. We might get lucky and another member could have saved them though. Well just have to wait and see. Members here do not visit as often as on other sites so it can take some time for responses. Smiley

Again if  you can get your hands directly on the control of the eyes the better. Even with that method you still need to have a way to bring the eyes to neutral. Most would use springs for this purpose.
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« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2016, 08:37:23 am »

Yes, the eye lever is held in a neutral position with an elastic cord, so when I release the lever the lid snaps back to it's neutral position. The eye itself is also steadied this way - there's two holes in the back attached with a little tension to the socket the eyeball is resting in, so if I don't push the eye one way or another, it returns to neutral.
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2016, 10:28:43 am »

I would personally spring for (pardon the pun) springs instead of elastic cord. all of my experiences with elastic is negative. It's elasticity is compromised by temperature, use, age, etc. Your metal springs are definitely more durable.
If the half sphere concept doesn't work with getting enough weight off, you might try to find some of those large Christmas balls to play around with. They weigh next to nothing, just fill it with expanding foam to help make it a little more durable.
And welcome to the group by the way.
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