Animatronics Project- Nephropoleon

Here is the first semi-successful attempt at animating one of the Morphoids – Nephropoleon.

Nephropoleon panel

And a little about Nephropoleon.  As you can see, the awkwardness is appropriate, but I am still debating whether or not I will attempt to make the movement more efficient.  It could be more efficient, but right now, I’m not totally sure it’s worth the effort.  The nice thing about working with Nephropoleon (and Arduino, actually), is that I have more than one, so could make a second version without destroying this one.  Arduinos are infinitely re-programmable, so I can tweak as much as I need, and re-use the ones I no longer need for another morphoid, or another project.

This particular part of the project has taken me some considerable effort, even though it may not look like it.  I needed to figure out how to build a sufficient structure to hold the mechanical parts so that they would work the best they can.  I had to figure out how to program the Arduino to control the servos to move as they should, in the range and timing that they should, and how to get it to pause the program when there is not enough light- as in, when someone approaches the morphoid.  (This is not evident in the video, but it’s an important part of the project.)  Also, how to deal with seemingly simple things, such as how to turn the power on and battery changes.  It is important that there’s not an obvious opening on the outside, so I’ve actually sewn the battery packs right inside, and needed to come up with a way to have access to the power switch (and be able to find it!) without it being really obvious from the outside.  Also, a big challenge with these is the fact that they’re stuffed- the stuffing interferes with the mechanics on the inside- the resistance is enough to overpower the servos.  I had to rig up a few different ‘guards’ to keep stuffing away from places it might cause problems. I also went through a couple of days of frustration when I kept having a problem where one of the servos wouldn’t work- trying everything, replacing hardware, reprogramming, redoing the circuit, etc.  All the components seemed good, and nothing helped. I only got past it when I started over from scratch, although I still have no idea what the problem was, so hopefully it doesn’t return.

I am learning a lot.

Soft Robots

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this before, but Matthew Borgatti, over at Har.ms has been working on making soft robots. I wish I had the facilities to look into doing something like this for the Animatronics Project, but I think even if I could, the components would take up way too much room to fit inside a Morphoid, even a large one. A girl can dream.

I am making slow progress in my own way, hopefully I’ll have something to post about that soon.  (Essentially right now I’ve got parts of things, mechanics and code, all in pieces all over the place, but not lined up and working properly yet.  I’ll share when I’ve got something that will be easy to see what I’m doing, rather than all this research and pieces of things and code that probably looks like gibberish to most people.)

Bad Teenage Poetry: Walls

While cleaning out some old boxes, I found some interesting stuff from my childhood.  Maybe I should start a new blog: Bad Teenage Poetry. Ok, maybe just a blog section.

Here’s the first entry, dated February 9, 1998.  I would have been fifteen.

For your entertainment.

 
Walls
 
Thunder rumbles in the distance
My walls shudder around me
Lightning flashes
Blinding the sky
The walls quiver as I watch
All my life, I’ve built these walls
Made from stone and working hands
My need for protection
The storm presses against the stones
I feel the pressure building
My walls shudder again
In vain I try to keep them up
But these walls took years to build
And seconds to destroy
I try to block out the impending storm
But winds whip around me
Throwing me like a leaf in the fall breeze
My hands cover my terrified face
As I realize I’ve no protection
The storm can have me now
As walls are never sturdy enough-
Pushing walls, they seem solid
But there is always something stronger.
I stand tall; proud
When the walls hold me up
But now I try to hide from the storm.
Lightning misses me, I crumble more
Rain pelts me, tiny stones from a deafening sky
The storm has come back,
Stronger than walls.
These walls fall again
What good are falling walls?
 
 

Videos by Puppet Camp Friends

I thought I would share some of the video work available online from some of the other Puppet Intensive participants.  One night we had a bit of a video show and tell/ heckling night, looking at video work from anyone who brought work to share.  These are just a few.

Maybe I’ll start with a clip by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop- this is the music video to Feist’s Honey Honey.

 

Feast, by Rob Leveroos. See more at Lone Feather Studio.

Feast from RLeveroos on Vimeo.

 

Brian Fidler’s Ramshackle Theatre, with a trailer for their Sci-Fi Double Feature.

Sci-Fi Double Feature – Trailer from Edward Westerhuis on Vimeo.

 

And finally, a short video by Shelby Lyn Lowe.

There is quite the contrast among all the work- I enjoyed that everyone came from such different backgrounds.  Some ideas of performance, such as Rob’s visual poetry, are such an interesting contrast to my idea of performance, such as my work, A Bacteriophage Dissection, below.

 

(Ok, I’ll shut up about Puppet Camp now. Maybe.)

Puppet Camp Aftermath

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 - Dress Rehearsal – Statues Excercise, with masks – That’s me on the far right. -

Things got a little crazy in the last few days of the Puppet Intensive- finishing everything up, running spacing and dress rehearsals, cleaning up, and the wind up party.  I don’t have very many photos from this part of the experience- I was too busy participating.  :)

For the final day, we started with our usual yoga-style warm up and massages, but no Suzuki.  Breaking for lunch early, we went into the theatre to do our spacing rehearsal.  The spacing rehearsal is to decide what needs to go where before the show, and who will help with setting up what, so that the show runs as smoothly as possible.  There was some time where we were waiting for Pete to finish what he needed to take care of with the tech people, and everyone decided to take a nap.  (Funny, I remember a similar picture from Katimavik, six or seven of us sleeping in the Katima-van.)

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After the spacing rehearsal, we took a bit of a break, to get into our black clothes, and get something to eat.  We re-set everything to where it should be, and ran the dress rehearsal, complete with all of the lighting and sound cues, black out and brown outs (to change the scene).

After a few Suzuki exercise demonstrations, our projects were up.  My group, the Raven Girls, went first, with our short show about a baby who realizes it is actually a raven and flies away from it’s mother to join it’s raven people.  A few more wonderful plays later (where we all had specific responsibilities to help with scene changes), we did our Epilogue, a short 3 second scene of the ravens eating the human mother.  Then, one final show, Adeline, a funny little girl with a wonderful sense of adventure.  To end the show, we did one of our favourite (self-indulgent) exercises- our Braveheart killing scene.

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- Nose man puppet in progress. -

After all of the excitement of the show, we still had some work to do- cleaning our stuff out of the theatre and cleaning up the mess of open studio.  I had picked most of my tools and materials up the day before, which was really smart.  I traded a few of the puppet faces I had made with some of the other artists, so now I have a few faces to play with on my own.  We cleaned and vaccuumed the studio, and then did all of our wind up activities, including our final games tournaments (Four Square, Rock Paper Scissors, and Pass the Woody), and gave a couple things the group had made to Pete and Juanita – “Ester’s Squirrel” and a little “Juaneedlefelted” heart.

We drank, and we danced traditional Newfoundland dances, as well as a few others,  played some crazy games, more four square and a few we made up, and as the group got smaller and smaller, we said goodbye.  Tougher and tougher to say goodbye.  The next morning, getting up by myself, packing, and going to find some breakfast before driving home, I could almost hear the whispers of a puppet camp song…. “Sin jen jen jen…. ungame tanda zo….”

It’s hard to believe it was only two weeks, it felt like 3 months in some ways and two days in others, and I made some wonderful new friends.  Whether they knew it or not, they pushed me in ways I would never have been able to push myself, and I think I won’t fully understand the impact of this experience until much farther down the line.  We hit the wall, and climbed right up on over, and what a journey it was!

I will always remember the wave Caleb gave me as I was pulling out of the parking lot- a puppet camp theme turned joke, a long dramatic, reaching wave, which lasted (I’m sure) until I was long out of sight.

Goodbye for now, puppet friends!  Happy journeys, and all the best!