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Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Book Puppet... with Teeth

Part of the "Book Eater" script called for the Gorgonomicon book to open, "revealing a mouth instead of pages, with rows of teeth, several tentacles, and an esophagus that continues on for miles." It also crawls across the floor of the bookstore using the tentacles that come out of the throat and lunges at the two protagonists.

On a bigger budget, I would have loved to do all of this with puppets and visual trickery, but it was decided that the throat and tentacles would be CGI.  So, it was my job to make a puppet book identical to the hero prop that would act out the scenes and provide a canvas of sorts for the digital effects.

The result was controlled by two rods that could tilt the book up and down, turn it, slide it, and open its mouth.
Points to Mantan for picking up on the greenscreen a few posts back.  These shots are of the book still in progress, but in the final film, the special effects guy is going to use the green to take away the control rods and add an endless vortex throat thingy and tentacles in the puppet book.
The pages for this version of the book perplexed me, as the puppet had to be significantly lighter than, well, a dictionary and have room for the teeth to hide while it's closed.

With some advice from Jedi Master Dave Lowe, I used air dry clay over a foam board box and essentially stamped in a closed book pages texture.

The teeth are hot glue castings from a plaster mold, so I only had to actually sculpt about 6 teeth. You can sort of see the channel I cut in the inside cover for the lower teeth to hide in while it's closed.  The upper teeth slid behind the lowers.

The torn pages you see here are my last minute addition to help transition from puppet to computer generated throat.  Without those, it just looked like the edges of a box all around, and that sort of gives away the illusion.

It's not a perfect prop, but because it's moving around in all its scenes, I think it's actually a fairly convincing effect.
Of course, I couldn't let anyone else operate the puppet on set. :)

More "Book Eater" to come...


  1. Can't wait to see the final video. I Love seeing how these movie props are put together.

  2. That's very cool...looking forward to seeing it all put together....or at least I hope we get a chance to see it. Great job...reminds me of shooting movies in college...however back then we shot on 16mm film using a Bolex camera...

  3. What can I say, I know my shades of green.

    That greenscreen monstr-o-book is a brilliant idea, s'gonna look good on film I ken.