would like to focus on some of the additional steps he
takes in the evolution of a project.
Brian spends considerable up-front time making his
conceptual drawings and building the maquette scale
models. He breaks down the project into individual
components and tests each one separately. The end result
is that he goes into the actual build with the confidence
that each component will perform as expected (Figures 7
He also diligently documents every step of the process.
Not only does he record everything step-by-step, but takes
numerous videos of the important elements. Having such a
thorough record can be an invaluable reference if you ever
need to reproduce a prop. It also allows you to easily show
others your techniques. (Just like mom taught us ... we all
need to share!)
A thorough record is very useful when working with
others so they can visualize exactly what direction you are
going in. Valuable lessons can be learned by the inclusion
of the failures and problems encountered along the way, so
be sure to include them in your documentation as well.
Brian’s process very closely resembles how a
professional prop shop would approach a project. He shows
that their methods can directly benefit DIY prop builders.
They do make their living doing this, so take advantage of
Like many conceived projects, the product that was
actually completed in the time allotted differed from the
original proposed design. Oftentimes, our vision for features
we would like to include is currently beyond our reach and
we are unable to complete them for the original release.
When a display is exhibited, the public is usually unaware of
the items you did not complete and simply appreciates the
presented product. This allows the opportunity to make
additions and improvements to develop your character over
time as they continually evolve. In this way, they always
have something new to offer.
You might think that the time spent on the unused
items was time wasted. Nothing can be further from the
truth. The new concepts, techniques, and knowledge
gained in their creation will certainly find a place in a future
It’s Time to Call in
As my projects get more complex, I find the need to
enlist other builders who can contribute the skills I lack.
Collaborating with a group on a shared project adds a
tremendous amount of fun to the work, but it also comes
with its own set of challenges. Communication among all
the team members is crucial. Bringing a project to a
successful conclusion requires that the group have a
defined project manager who maintains communication
SERVO 01.2016 31
Figure 9. Scale model of the saucer.
Figure 8. Foam core is easily shaped and formed.
Figure 10. Tentacle designs being tested.
Figure 11. Detail of the opening tentacle.