28 SERVO 01.2016
websites, and You Tube videos. I have certainly “borrowed”
ideas and techniques for projects others have created, but
my primary interest is to build something original. I spend a
tremendous amount of time watching other’s videos and
visiting websites for new ideas.
This is the time of year that all the new haunt videos
are being uploaded, so I scour them for ideas. There are
also a number of conventions that can provide inspiration.
As these are scattered all over the country, it is not realistic
to attend them all. The video camera again comes to the
rescue and there is a plethora of videos available online that
showcase the highlights.
My favorite videos are those that cover the premier
industry haunt convention — Transworld’s Halloween and
Attractions Show — where all of the year’s new
animatronics are on display. My idea notebook is always
close at hand so I can easily jot down notes on potential
A search of the Internet on animatronics will yield an
amazing number of results. Granted, many of the projects
shown are built by professional prop shops for the
entertainment business, but they are a tremendous
collection of what is possible to accomplish. Be sure to
bookmark any sites that look interesting. (My wife calls this
wasting time on the computer. I call it research.) You never
know what will spark your creativity and start you on the
path for a new character.
Another fantastic resource is the rapidly expanding
number of Maker Faires that are popping up in cities all
around the country. I recently attended one in San Diego,
CA and came away with a plethora of ideas for new
creations. So many things to build and so little time!
Once I conceive an idea for a new project and
determine its scope, I need to decide whether it will be
something I work on by myself or if I will collaborate with
others. I thoroughly enjoy my solo builds as it allows me to
have total control of the design and implementation of a
build, but working with a group has its own rewards. When
I’m working with a group, I will put off starting the design
process until after we have had a chance to discuss the
project. However, if this will be a solo build, I can jump
right into the design phase.
Stock Up on Supplies
Some essential materials you want to have on hand
when roughing out your design might include:
Hot glue gun
Popsicle sticks or paint stirrers
Nuts and bolts
PVC and fittings
Wire and string
Adding Substance to Your Idea
I begin the process by making a rough (very rough, as
an artist I am not) sketch of my idea with as many detailed
notes as possible. These include not only the build specifics,
but my thoughts on exactly why I am doing the build: What
will its role be and how will it be integrated into my show?
I also start to do some brainstorming on associated props
that will be required to add the “background.” In the past,
this was an area I often overlooked in my zeal to build
props. It is important that your character be placed in an
appropriate setting that is stocked with items that help tell
the tale of your character.
Decide on what materials and methods of movement
will be utilized. The more violent the actions of the prop,
the more robust the building materials need to be. The
majority of my servo projects are constructed of aluminum,
however, I primarily reach for steel when incorporating
The next step in the process may be the most often
Post comments on this section and find any associated files and/or downloads at
Figure 1. The hot toys: a hot glue gun and a heat gun.
Home Depot PVC Cutter — http://tinyurl.com/lgat3lu
Harbor Freight Heat Gun — http://tinyurl.com/2chdnbd
Spider Hill Prop Works Joints — http://tinyurl.com/pshd3cn
ServoCity Actobotics — http://tinyurl.com/okmbccc