some new technique, component, or
material in the design. This way, I am
constantly expanding my knowledge
of what works and what does not.
Part of the reason I do what I do is
that I enjoy the challenge. If I simply
recreate things I have done before, I
quickly become bored.
The Recipe for a
This project has proven to be
much more complicated than most
and has lots of moving parts. The
scene includes two of the witches we
have used in the past: the stirring
witch and the flying witch. The witch
casting the spell will be rebuilt, and an
additional character will be added: a
skeleton. He will be attached to the
back wall and will interact with the
witch. The two character’s movements
have been synchronized with a new
custom audio track. The lighting has
been augmented to improve the
effect as well. Integrated controllers
and extensive programming will really
bring the tableau to life.
The elements have been divided
up between all members of the team.
Everyone’s role was vital to achieving
the final result. While many of the
components could be completed
independently, some items had to be
put on hold until other elements were
Let Me Put a Spell on
Before any programming or
puppeteering can take place, the
custom audio track needed to be
written, performed, and recorded. The
team of Pat Molloy, Bonnie Barrows,
and Tom Jameson are an extremely
talented and creative bunch. They
were able to take my very vague
guidelines and produce a script that
tied the entire back story together.
This process included a significant amount of back and
forth discussion between the members of the group. I value
the team member’s thoughts, but
sometimes you can have too many
ideas. The story can quickly expand
and become a novel instead of a short
story. My goal is to have our scenes
last between one and three minutes.
Any longer and your audience will lose
interest before your story is completed.
The story they created has our
witch resurrecting a skeleton from the
dead. Their witty dialogue is funny
with just the right amount of
spookiness. This fits in perfectly with
the atmosphere I am trying to create
for the entire haunt.
Matt Totten (our sound engineer)
was also intimately involved. His
responsibility was to take the
completed audio tracks and create a
finished soundtrack. He did a
phenomenal job mixing all the various
speaking tracks with the necessary
sound effects and melding them
together into a spellbinding fantasy.
The track is in stereo, with the
witch’s voice on one channel and the
skeleton on the other. This allows for a
more realistic sound for the banter
between the two characters.
In order to fully appreciate the
split soundtrack, I went with an
upgraded speaker system that includes
a subwoofer to increase the bass. The
audio track’s sound effects — especially
the thunder — really benefit from this.
It does not make sense to put forth all
this effort to develop a fantastic
soundtrack if people cannot hear it to
For the witch’s body mechanism, I
once again turned to my favorite
moving body design which
incorporates Hitec servos (see
Resources) mounted on ServoCity
Actobotics components (see
Resources). It is not always necessary
to reinvent the wheel. If something
works well, go with it (see Figure 1 and Figure 2)!
The head nod was not to my liking, so I took a page
from the Jarvis build (September issue of SERVO Magazine)
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SERVO 10.2016 9
Figure 2. Head design complete with
Figure 1. A tangle of wires, but the first
test is a success!