Puppetry design assistance Posted by originalazrael on Nov 13, 2018
Greetings all! I recently started LARPing, (Live Action Role-Playing), and I decided to build a couple of puppets for me and someone else.

So the first one is an Ent character (treefolk). The idea of the puppet (if it is a puppet), is that I will be inside the costume on a frame. He is tall and spindly, so my idea so far is:

- Using Stilts for the legs, bought these ones here: (https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com.au%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F222698758593) bought the 18-30”, but not sure if that’s too short, yet. Will have to wait for it to arrive. Will cover stilts with exterior puppet.
- designing a backpack frame for the body and head. Still working out the details there.
-long arms means I need some sort of extended reach.

What I need help with:
-need a plan for some sort of arm control system. I’m thinking a  type of claw like this: (https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com.au%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F223141756916), but with a trigger for each finger, and possibly also being able to move the puppets fingers too....
-need a plan for the exterior. I was thinking some sort of vacuum formed plastic, but open to any suggestions. Needs to be lightweight so I can carry it for a couple hours, but still durable enough to take the occasional  hit.
- design ideas for the backpack frame, to hold the head and whatnot.
- considering a movable mouth, but with full time control of the other limbs, may not be feasible.
-any other suggestions are gladly accepted and considered.

Now, as for the design for my friend, she heard what I was to do and asked if I would build a dragon shoulder puppet for her. I have a few ideas, but would also like some others.

-Idea one, Shoulder puppet, her arm inside, fake arm below
-Idea 2, Puppet on glove, fingers in puppet, fake fingers in glove
-Idea 3, and the one I want to try, Shoulder puppet, wire running down to hand for controls to head movement

Going off Idea 3, this is what I need help with
-controls. I was thinking brake wire running through shirt, then some sort of control pad in hand. Need help figuring out how to do each:
- control option 1: one control in each hand, one for left/right, one for up/down.
- control option 2: wires connected to each finger that with each finger doing something different, but without puppetry experience, probably don’t want to overwhelm her with trying to remember which finger does what movement wise
-control option 3: a control pad. Something like a simple little twist button for left and right, and then pull or push button for up/down.
- Otherwise, I’d be happy to hear other options for control ideas, for any of the above options, or something different.
-also considering wing movement, but that might have to be scrapped.

Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. Also, I’m new here, so I’m hoping this post is allowed and in the right place

Thanks in advance,
Re: Puppetry design assistance Posted by Shawn on Nov 14, 2018
Welcome to Puppets and Stuff.  You have some ambitious ideas.  It is kind of hard to give you direction without knowing what your skills are.

I well say that you might need to scale back a bit on your first idea. Even professional puppeteers don't normally try to make a single puppet do all things. Often more then one puppet is made to accomplish different things. BTW even though you are inside it is still considered a puppet. Mascot or body puppet would be the term most would use. There are body puppets that do the things you want but often they have a second puppeteer that is operating things via remote control. Vacuform plastic can be light weight but often is not really that durable. You might be better off going with traditional fabric over foam construction. I well say that 2 hours in a body costume is not feasible. I've performed body puppets and my limit in a costume is about 30 mins before I need to take a rest.

My suggestion for the shoulder puppet is for your friend to buy one.   I am pretty sure they have seen one of the many that are available out there.  They are your idea 3 and controlled using your control option 3. You need a universal ball joint in the neck of the puppet that translates down to the ball/knob at the hand.   
Re: Puppetry design assistance Posted by Shawn on Nov 14, 2018
Have a look at this video over at YT:
Re: Puppetry design assistance Posted by FauxFox on Nov 14, 2018
Agreed with Shawn on the suggestions. If you really want to tackle these projects, I know of a few resources online.

For the Ent: You might look into making what we call a Waldo, which can manipulate fingers animatronically, but if you don't want to get that intense, perhaps some simple grabbers could be taken apart and modified. You might buy something cheaper than the ones you found on eBay, tear them apart to see how they function, and mimic it with materials that are the size you need -- PVC pipe, fishing line, etc. Otherwise, some arm extensions might be the first place to go, then as you get confidence in building, working with moving parts can be incorporated, later. The nice thing about puppets is, they're relatively easy to modify once you build them to your liking, aesthetically. I have done this for several of mine -- replacing arms, mouthplates and eyes, and it's not as tough to do as you'd think.

For the dragon: Follow the YT video Shawn suggested to do what we call a Bowden Cable setup. If you have access to a 3D printer, our forum member Tioh has some excellent handles which you can print, here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:222456 and https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2452175 which, when combined with a brake cable and some springs, would work very well to move the head, etc.

Good luck!
Re: Puppetry design assistance Posted by originalazrael on Nov 14, 2018
Yeah, I did see that video before, which led me towards option 3 instead of option 2. And yes, she could buy one, but I want to try my hand at it myself. As for skill set, I’m completely new to puppeteering, but I am skilled with my hands, and very eager to learn, and teach myself something new, where I can see what I do wrong and figure out my plan from there. I’ve got an engineers mind, according to my actual engineer friend.

And yeah, not worried about time. I’ve done a few film projects before as a droid, (wearing a suit from vacuform), and had to do that for many hours of filming, so at least I’m used to wearing something like this for long periods of time. That suit wasn’t even thermal cooled, so it was hot as balls.

I decided to try triple layer Worbla from peoples suggestions in a Facebook group, so we will see how that goes. Just gotta figure out how to do the tree look....

As for the hands, I looked for those toy robot hands for children, and would rebuild the controls, or may just build it from scratch like from this with a slight modification here and there: (https://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-Animatronics-robotic-hand/).

For the face, I decided a simple helmet and face paint would do, and it should still have the desired effect.

I’m going to be posting my results on this thread, so we’ll see how it goes. Right now, I just gotta wait for some things to be delivered.
Re: Puppetry design assistance Posted by Shawn on Nov 15, 2018
Looking forward to what you come up with.

Worbla actually has a tutorial on making it look like wood. https://www.worbla.com/?p=4920
Re: Puppetry design assistance Posted by Tioh on Dec 21, 2018
I have used Worbla to make antlers for a deer puppet. Worbla dies work, but it's not a tough material. If you need more structural stability use Wonderflex underneath.

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