this was a very long process of testing, building, rebuilding, rebuilding, rebuilding… here is some of that process:
an early test of the leg mechanism. getting the legs to work was one of the most difficult parts of the process.
first time it looked like a “cat”, even without the tail. the entire head would be replaced including the speaker.
my circuit used ethernet cables to connect the arduinos (i used two) to the cat. this worked really well, except the leads on the back of the ethernet jacks were a bitch to solder, and they never stayed in place, so the circuit was shorting out all the time until i taped them together.
this is the inside of my controller. its incredibly ineffecient, mostly because i was just kind of making things up as i went along. one arduino controls all the servo movement, while the other does all the sound stuff. but they share leads on the ethernet jacks. there were also three separate power sources, a 9v battery for the sound, wall usb plug to power the servo arduino, and a wall plug to power the servos. i probably could’ve powered everything with the wall wart, but for some reason my old college arduino wouldn’t take power from anything but the usb jack, so it wasn’t worth it to add onto the already ridiculous circuit. this image doesn’t even show the completed circuit, there are 14 more orange and green wires that i added for servo control.
*i’ll add more images/video of the finished cat after i get video from the show and we shoot the dvd extras.
I tried to brainstorm some really complex ideas for the 3d zoetrope, like I wanted to have a cat turn into a crucifix and back into a cat but have it set up so the shadow cast by the cat did the opposite, start as a crucifix, turn into a cat and back. After thinking about how that would possibly actually work, I decided to do something simpler, and used a story I’ve told countless other times—a cat eats its own poop. To make it a loop, I had the poop turn into a flower. It could have stayed poop and I kind of wish that it had, but the flower looks nice and adds color.
I started by tracing a record and cutting it out of paper, then printing a circle broken into 16 even slices and tracing that on the record shaped paper. I started with the flower just growing from poop and then being eating to make sure my slices were even enough to produce the animation effect.
Then I started making cats. I had only one bag of pipe cleaners, so I made alternating colors pink and purple, and they had black heads.
Once I had the process for making the body and head down, making sixteen wasn’t so bad.
After I finished that I experimented with the turn table.
As you can see, the black heads didn’t work. They got lost in the darkness and didn’t read as part of the cat body. Fortunately, the heads were just attached by twisting the pipe cleaners, so I could twist them right off.
The pink and purple heads looked much better.
The video documentation is pretty glitchy because the strobe speed and camera speed do not match, but I think you can basically see the effect.
I made a cat marionette. It was pretty challenging. I originally wanted to move then legs, head and tail individually, but that was way too may strings to move around, so I simplified it to just the head tail and supports for the body. It was still really difficult to maneuver, I think in part because of the construction method, which involved lots of small wood squares connected by denim fabric.
This was the inspiration for the strings mechanism, from the marionette book.
This is one of his legs. You can see the notches I cut to glue in the fabric.
Here’s the body before I painted it.
I painted the whole body black and then gave him white skeleton bones.
I filled in the bones with florescent orange paint and painted a colorful face.
I made another cat puppet that doens’t really look like a cat. We had to do one mechanism. My first three or four attempts were failures. I was trying to get the ears to pop open and then flap back into place to show surprise. I finally just used a very basic mechanism, attaching the tips of the ears directly to string, and putting some stretchy string separated by tube segments into the ears to make them snap back into place.
After that I got more used to it and added little leg mechanisms to make his front legs move back and forth.
I had to reinforce the body with a stick so the head wouldn’t fold back on itself.
It was hard to get the movements as fast as I wanted them, mostly because of the friction between the cardboard and wire. It would probably work better with wood or plastic or something.
We made animal puppets last week to make documentaries. I had a really hard time getting the head right on my puppet. He’s supposed to be a cat, but he never quite got there. He’s a crust punk. I like the details and his outfit, but after making six different heads, I had to give up on getting it perfect and go with what I had.
I used foam for the structure of the head, faux fur fabric for the head and body, old clothes of mine for his clothes, sticky felt for his face, wooden dowels for his arms and legs, yarn for the whiskers, acrylics paint for eyes and nose. Safety pins and old scraps from a shirt and jeans for the patches and I think that’s it.
The final head structure.
The nose/mouth. This was really hard to get right.