Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First Welding Project Completed (Sort of)

My beginner's welding class wrapped up last night and although I thought I was pretty much done with my bird at the end of the last class, I was working until clean-up time. I'm satisfied with the result but next time I'll know how to avoid the screw-ups I made on this project. I like the texture I added to the bird to hide the welds. I wish I had had the time to add more. It was a little tedious adding some welds and then grinding them down and then adding more to fill in. If I ever do it again, I'll have it down to a two step process. I didn't want to overdo it since I was winging it. No pun intended.

I thought welding was a blast and am signing up for the next session that starts in two months. I already have a project in mind.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Here Composts the Bride

Latest Halloween project: an undead bride resting quietly for eternity in her coffin. Suddenly she sits up and practically throws you the bouquet. Fun, eh? I made the coffin from fence boards. The bride's head is a prop readily available on the web and the wedding dress was a 5 dollar garage sale find. The pop up mechanism was made from PVC pipe. A pneumatic cylinder drives the prop.

I have some refinements left. I have to improve the arm/bouquet action. The inside of the coffin will be painted black. A spotlight will turn on when she sits up. She needs a bridal veil. And finally, I have to add sound effects and activate the whole thing from a motion sensor.

I also plan to build a coffin lid that appears to have the groom's head smashed through it and a hand that appears to claw at the ground from underneath the coffin lid.What am I doing here? I need to get busy!

I admit I love testing my props just as people drive by our house. They freak out for a second and then give me a big approving grin. Unless they're on their cellies, and then they never see a thing. As I like to say, "If you're not talking to Jesus, get off the damn phone." You never know what you might miss.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Penultimate Class

Here's my guy with his feet, legs and body welded together. He's looking pretty good.
A blurry photo (I guess he moved)
Another with flash.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Revenge of the Wind Ups

Once my kids discovered the magic behind stop motion video, they could not be stopped. They borrowed my camera and took thousands of pictures of Hotwheels inching their way down the hall in epic races, battles and adventures. We'd download the pictures and they'd watch as I manipulated a Picasa slideshow to simulate the "motion". Inspired, they'd rush off to film some more action. Mortified by the amount to dirt and trash on the floor, I'd try to use Picasa's limited editing tools to hide the filth in the pictures. Yes, I could have gotten up and cleaned the floors, but I'm an artist.

Eventually, they grew frustrated with the process because the Windows Movie Maker loaded on my laptop wouldn't render finished videos into any shareable format and I grew frustrated because they had all thousands of photos stored on my computer but their storylines had no beginning, middle or end, not to mention climax or denouement. And their frequent use of deus ex machina grew tiresome and predictable. I love my kids, but everyone needs some tough literary love once and a while.

Eventually we worked together to tell a story through stop motion video. We set up the scene on a table and cleaned up the background and marked the spot of the camera. We also tried to move the characters in the same distance in each shot, although we weren't too precise about that.

It didn't take much to convince the boys to use Blondie's brilliant "Attack of the Giant Ants" as the soundtrack. I migrated the project to my desktop where Movie Maker works as it should and the published work is now viewable by all. The kids have moved on to other projects but they learned a little about storytelling, preparation and minding the details of the process through this little exercise. I have learned to clean the floors more often. Or to embrace the dirt as a metaphor for my dislike of housekeeping. I am, after all, an artist.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Today's project was pretty small-- solder this interval timer kit for my flailing zombie.

These are my weapons of choice for this job. A soldering iron and an unsoldering iron. It has another name, but who cares? It comes in handy.
Solders are looking pretty good. I have my good days and bad days, soldering-wise. Otherwise, everyday is a good day.
This is about halfway through. Notice the two puck-shaped potentiometers that look exactly the same? They are not the same and you have only one clue to tell them apart. Good luck!
Here it is completed and connected to the small offset motor from a kid's toy. The interval timer serves to turn the motor on and off at set intervals. I know better than to define a term by using that term but, hey, it's the Internet where people are always "loosing there minds", so I feel entitled.
I attached the motor to Miller's free arm and set the timer to go off for 5 second once every 60 seconds or so. Here's the effect--more like twitching than flailing. It's not quite what I wanted but I think it's just enough to freak out a few people Halloween night.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Family Fun with Flip
and Audacity and Movie Maker. Well, not so much Movie Maker. I thought it was slow and rigid and not nearly as user friendly as the Sony software I used to use. But that was a few years and several iterations of Windows ago and we are now on a bit of an austerity program and I can't just go out and buy software on a whim.

This whim was two years in the making. I wrote the script two years ago. Last year, we tried to film it but the kids and I just got frustrated with each other. Apparently it is easy to be James Cameron nasty when your project is in the hands of uncooperative actors, even if they are your own children. On several occasions I was heard proclaiming, "I'll never work with you two again!"

"They're only children! You're a tyrant!" my husband shot back.

"It's MY movie they're destroying!"

The movie project was put on indefinite hiatus.

Finally, this year we hit upon a winning formula. We recorded the script on the computer separately and then just filmed the scenes afterward. I cut and pasted everything in a purposely sloppy way to give me some leeway for syncing up the audio and visuals. Since I wanted to mute the video's onboard audio track and add my own audio and soundtrack, I used Audacity. Audacity is freeware that makes you wonder why it's free. It's like magic. It is as flexible as Movie Maker is rigid.

The extra long opening is my indulgence. I deserve it for what I've been put through over this project. James Cameron would understand.