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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Using the Vacuum Former

Some of you may have heard rumblings of a replacement in the works for the DIY Madame Leota projection effect I helped popularize a few years ago. Well, it's very close to complete, so I thought I'd share the progress.

I had two main issues with the Madame Leota effect. 1) It's Disney's, so it would never be truly "mine," no matter how well I replicated it. 2) It's practically impossible to replicate it perfectly, since, though the video is easy to find, projecting Leota's face onto anything but her actual head will result in some funky distortion.

The solution: build my own version from the ground up. 

You've already seen the first stage, my vacuum forming table. Here's what comes next.

The head form that I project onto needs to actually be the head of the actress in the projection video. So I made a plaster lifecast of her head, which comes out like this:

And then I modified it to suit a projected face, reducing detail to what needs to be there to register the face properly, and removing what would get in the way.

But I don’t want to project on a heavy plaster head form. I want a lightweight copy of it.

So I put the head form (called a “buck” in vacuum forming) on the table. The paint sticks are guides so I can put the frame into the right place.

Then take the heated plastic out of the oven, press the frame down until the vacuum suction engages, and bam! A split second later, I have a lightweight, plastic head form to project onto.

Admittedly, it took a half dozen tries to get the machine figured out, but now that it's working, we're in business!


  1. Congratulations. Will you sell the plastic form to project onto or will you use it as a mold to make a form from another material? In any case, I'm looking forward to trying it. Jay S.

    1. Thanks Jay. The kits will come with plastic head forms. The plastic makes a perfect projection surface because it's nice and smooth.

  2. You have taken an unattainable tool and made it reality! You are my hero! Good job, can't wait to see what all you make with it!