Animax Designs – Virtual Puppet
Animax Designs has become a leading theatrical creature shop for puppets and advanced effects technology for television, film and theme parks.
Thanks to director of operations, Rob Saunders, I was called to perform a brand new piece of technology for a huge party hosting the heads of creative teams from across the international producing spectrum during the IAAPA Expo.
Aside from showing off creatures and 3-d branded characters, owner Chuck Fawcett wanted a new an animatronic head that could be controlled virtually.
The week prior, I flew to their workshop in Nashville where I quickly named and developed the backstory to this character to promote conversations with the guests. I also wrote bits and jokes for pre-recorded special “hellos” to executives, and shout outs to passersby when the head wasn’t being performed live.
The art, molding, painting, engineering and programming departments pounded this last minute idea out in a matter of days, working right up until the event, leaving me with about twelve minutes to familiarize myself with the rig.
Once your hands are scanned over a panel, each hand and finger controls the 16 different motors in the face, including consonant and vowel lip positions. The controllers (the brain) were provided by the geniuses at Weigl Works. I think I heard they ran about $16,000 each.
Not only a beautiful piece of art, puppeteering with this kind of technology allows for smooth prerecords with live integration, recording the manipulation of a live performance for immediate playback, direct improvisation with audiences, and as the clients will attest, opens the door of conversation to utilize this for advancing concepts.