Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Alien Technology - constructing my new set

My industrial looking alien set is almost finished - just a few details to add, a few wires to tidy up, then glue everything down and it's done. I'll be posting some good photos of the finished set very soon. Until then, here are some photos of how it was made and how it looks so far. Sorry about the horrid shiny flash lighting in the photos, I will light the photos of the finished set properly, I promise!

The set is the workplace of the two monsters I posted a photo of a while back. I've indulged a lot of my obsessions with this set - electronics, 'alien' alphabets, technological looking stuff...
My main inspirations for the design of the set are the spaceship interiors you see in science fiction (Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey etc.). I've always loved the fact that there are so many important looking buttons and dials and lights and screens, yet none of them actually do anything - they are just designed to look important by the set designer.
The other visual influence on this project was 1950/60s machinery - the huge broken machines you find abandoned outside college metalwork departments, the disconnected 'mystery' boxes you find on the walls of school basements that once controlled heating systems that were removed decades ago... I think I just like machines which serve no purpose. Anyway, I've built one of my own.


Here is a photo of some, but not all, of the things I used to build this set (one or two things that I didn't use managed to sneak into this photo too).

The materials I used included: a sheet of MDF, a sheet of foamboard, woodscrews, lots of metal washers of assorted sizes, upholstery nails, flat wooden shapes with holes drilled round the edges (from the Arnold Basketry Kit!), those plastic cap things for covering the heads of screws in silver and white, brass rings, brass panel pins, brass picture turns, paper-mache craft boxes, old bits of meccano, different coloured electricians tape, lots of PVA glue, acrylic paint, sandpaper, some tubes from a duplo set (like big lego), nyloc nuts, a fine point Sharpie marker, LEDs (light emitting diodes) of different sizes and colours, lots of resistors of different values, heatshrink tubing, insulated wire, lead free solder, aluminium wire and probably quite a few things I've forgotten.....

So, er, yeah, lots of random stuff. Most of the fixings are available from any good hardware store and the electronics components I ordered from Maplin.

This shows some of the bits and bobs arranged on the piece of MDF that will become the back wall of the set so I could get an idea of how things should look. I then glued down all the bits I wanted to be painted with the background colour, using PVA glue. I used upholstery nails to look like rivets, wooden shapes too look like metal panels and metal washers to add detail. I also drilled a line of holes across the board where a row of LEDs will be.

Once the glued was dry, I painted over the entire background with a specially mixed 'steel' colour. I mixed two small pots of Games Workshop 'Boltgun Metal' paint with a large amount of cheap white craft acrylic paint and a little black and blue acrylic. This made the paint slightly metallic looking. I applied it using a sponge to avoid brushmarks.

The strip at the top is made using black and red electricians tape over the row of holes for the LED. I added details using washers and some plastic tile-spacers that I had already painted black. Everything was coated in a layer of PVA glue to protect it and make it shiny like metal (as opposed to the matte wood it is actually made of).

This is the floor of my set. I made it by sticking rectangular panels of sandpaper in a grid pattern with small gaps between them, onto a large piece of wood using PVA glue. I then painted the sandpaper with a mixture of PVA and grey acrylic. I used a darker grey acrylic to paint the 'grout' between the tiles, then before it dried I smudged it about with a sponge. I then used a large piece of bubble-wrap to print a spotty texture onto the tiles, first light grey paint, then dark grey - hopefully this texture will help to disguise tie-down holes. I then went over the grout again with a fine brush and a very dark grey paint.


If you look to the left of the photo there is a little black box with wires coming out of it and LEDs on the front. I used lots and lots of these in this project. They are made from those tiny brown paper-mache gift boxes you can buy in craft stores. I painted boxes and lids with acrylic paint then PVA to strengthen them. Then I poked little holes in the boxes with a pin so I could push the 'legs' of LEDs through. I also sometimes pushed resistors through to decorate the boxes. Then I wired up the LEDs.


This is what is inside the little boxes - messy but functional. I think made 12 of them in all. Some of the LEDs on the other side are not wired up - I cut the 'legs' of these LEDs and cover them in hot glue to hold them in place and insulate them (don't want to short out my circuits!). Then I solder the LEDs together in series with a resistor (the value of the resistor depends on the type and number of LEDs) being very careful not to burn a hole in the cardboard with the soldering iron. The wires are all colour coded so I know which terminal of the battery they need to go to. I will be running the LEDs in the set on three seperate 9V circuits.

Obvious Warning: if you are going to mess with electronics never use mains electricity, you'll end up killing yourself and/or burning your house down, and don't leave your creation switched on unattended in case it catches fire!


This is the front and back of the (almost) finished back panel of the set. Lots of LEDs, lots of buttons and lots and lots of wires... good job I quite enjoy soldering!


This is a front and back view of my console. It was made from a Christmas gift box and some upholstery nails. The buttons are all plastic screw-covers (with the backs snipped off) with symbols drawn on them with a fine marker, then covered in a thin layer of PVA to stop it rubbing off.
The 'big red button' is a safety nose for stuffed-toys!


This is roughly how it will all fit together - at the moment things are still propped up instead of glued in place and there are still loose wires and a few details missing, but you get the idea.





There will be photos of the finished set next time, along with close-ups of some of the details and descriptions of how I made them.

Until next time, have fun. Oh, and if you haven't already seen it, watch Michel Gondry's 'The Science of Sleep' - cardboard stop-motion cities, celophane water, tin-foil time machines and huge hands - brilliant film in my opinion.

10 comments:

emmyymme said...

It looks fantastic! It's great to see your drawings from the sketchbooks being realized in 3D - can't wait to see the finished thing!

Miss Shine said...

That's really cool! x

Sven Bonnichsen said...

Gorgeous set! Wow. :D

Ryan McCulloch said...

This is looking VERY cool!

Woolly Monster said...

Thankyou kind people :)
I has been a whole lot of fun to make.

Michael LeTendre said...

Love the set. I'm working on something similar right now and posted a few pics of the parts i'll be using, you should check it out.

Basically, it'll be a factory...but I also want lots of different machines and buttons and stuff like you have. Your floor is really cool looking too.

http://bulletproofvideo.blogspot.com

Nofby said...

Go Ceri! Your best yet, I love it

castlegardener said...

this looks terrific, well crafted, and looks like a good one to animate in as well...

Paul (Vortex42) said...

WOW! Looks awesome!

Aravind.J said...

Great! Nice set with electronics too!!