Ambitious first project for Halloween 2014 Posted by smkoberg on Oct 31, 2012
Hey everybody!

I have my plan for Halloween 2014 which is going to be a full body costume with puppeteered head and arms/hands. I'm starting to get information together now since this is going to be a very ambitious costume and first puppet project for me. 

The final product will be a skeksis character from the Jim Henson film "The Dark Crystal". This first post is to ask a few questions about the head of the puppet, as this is likely going to be the most difficult part...

My plan is to have a latex skin around some form of armature for structure.  The jaw will be manipulated with a servo motor while the yaw, pitch, and roll of the head will be controlled with cables running the length of the characters neck through/around a rigid support system and being attached to some form of head band/helmet I'll be wearing inside the costume.  I'm choosing this method because I want to have my hands free for puppeteering both hands of the skeksis.

My initial idea for creating the latex skin for the puppet head was a "lost foam" method.  I would sculpt the head and neck out of foam, encase this in plaster/ultra-cal 30 shell, then using some form of solvent, melt away the foam core.  Using this mold, I'd create the skin out of slip latex.  I didn't want to use a two-part mold for this because of the mouth and didn't think it would work effectively enough or would allow for too many mistakes to be made in the molding/casting process. 

Do you think this method would/could work for what I'm trying to accomplish or is this too much with there being an easier way of doing things?

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Re: Ambitious first project for Halloween 2014 Posted by Shawn on Oct 31, 2012
Very ambitious undertaking. It is good you are starting now.

First did you see this post I just made yesterday?,7778.0.html  Pretty cool stuff.

I am pretty sure that the person in the link I posted above choose to manipulate the head and mouth with one of his hands. The "hump" on the back is where he is looking out. While it may seem like a good idea to have both arms free to manipulate the puppet arms remember that the head is the most important feature of the puppet. You can get better more realistic movements if you have your hand and arm in neck and head and then mechanize the eyes.  One arm can be rigged to be suspended from a string/wire that is lets it dangle and move while the other arm is manipulated. You could actually rig both arms so they can simply be suspended and then operate either one when you wanted to.

I haven't done a lot of casting myself. I think what you are thinking might work but be careful of your under cuts.  You might still want to make it a two part mold. I personally prefer to mold and sculpt out of modeling clay and then cast that which is then dug out of the plaster mold.  I am afraid any solvent you might use would pit your plaster. Pretty sure the modeling or plasticine clay is the norm that is used when doing something like this.
Re: Ambitious first project for Halloween 2014 Posted by smkoberg on Nov 01, 2012
I have seen that video, very cool.  The method he used is the same as what the Henson Company used for their film, which is what you described: one hand used to puppeteer one of the characters hands, then the other is used to puppeteer the head and mouth.  I have thought about doing it this way, but I'll probably end up trying the servo/cable approach first, simply because its more work and I have a knack for giving myself more work than I need to, but still design the puppet to where I can take all that out and manipulate it this way. 

If I did make a two-part mold, what would be the best location for the seam?  Would it run down the length of the characters face, splitting it into a left/right mold, or would I run the seam dividing the head into front/back halves?
Re: Ambitious first project for Halloween 2014 Posted by Shawn on Nov 01, 2012
I would say that left and right would be the best for the mold so the seam runs down the middle of the face. Granted you'll have to trim the flashing and might have some clean up of the seam but since the surface is not a real smooth finish it shouldn't be too bad.
Re: Ambitious first project for Halloween 2014 Posted by pagestep007 on Nov 01, 2012
I agree Shawn, if it is a two part mold, down the centre of the beak... although if you are using latex, then it will still work with seams down the side of the head, if you are concerned about the seam down the beak. A lot depends on your design . You could build it in several bits and latex them together, as you will probably be doing coloring and maybe other stuff anyway. Again, a lot depends on your design.

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