Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: No-Face Animatronic Mouth!

Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: No-Face Animatronic Mouth!

Articles Blog

hello cosplay lovers Adam Savage here in
my cave and I am currently getting ready for a New York City comic-con it is just
about a month away and it’s time for me to get started and the costume I’ve
chosen for New York comic-con is in fact an old costume I am rekindling my
romance with it is actually the costume that is the primary subject of my TED
talk a love letter to cosplay it’s no face from Hayao Miyazaki’s spirited away
now I wore that costume on San Diego’s comic-con floor something less than 10
years ago and it was wonderful big white floating face over this void but this
time I’m going to add a mouth not the mouth up here in the floating face I’m
gonna add the giant mall with which no face begins to eat everything in the
movie at the beginning of act 3 and this is this is not unique other people have
done this before they’ve added the big mouth with teeth and the tongue and all
that I am adding some real animatronic flair to this costume I want it to be
creepy I want it to be awesome and this isn’t me adding this to the no
face costume I’m actually totally dismantling and rebuilding it from
scratch except this time with a mouth there’s gonna be a lot of mechanical
problem-solving right up front to make this thing work effectively and that’s
where we’ll begin all right it’s time to take him down he’s he’s
been there a while and he’s not he’s not mechanically very sound he’s held
together with a lot of tape and stuff come on Betty come on buddy
so there’s a couple of aspects of this costume I was really pleased with one
was this big vacuform hood behind his head allows you to kind of both see at
him but also see through him so he’s makes him kind of translucent which was
a unique aspect to this costume when I built it the difficulty with this no
face execution is that the mask in the hood all hang off a kayak helmet off of
my head that is a bad deal Ripley that’s a bad call
Henson they have a rule never to make the puppeteers support stuff on their
heads is so hard on your neck so I have I’m gonna build a new chest harness
similar to the one that I hold on to my Totoro costume with in order to hold
this on my shoulders and my torso rather than on my head so he’s actually likely
to get a little bit taller but I had to play around with all these relationships
in order to understand exactly where the mouth goes it’s gonna go right about
here and the activation for it’s gonna be my
left arm so I’m gonna have a fake left arm yes there’s a lot of logistics the
first step is to kind of start to take this guy apart figure out the main
relationships where this mask hangs in relation to my face where my
arms are and then I determine where the mouth is
where’s how does this all work let’s see here
Oh a lot of fabric in a no-face costume oh there we go
that’s why yep it’s all coming off hello old friend
you could get an entirely new persuasion all right oh not bad I think the old
no-face was very hard to wear is all on my head on it the whole thing was
sitting on this kayak helmet that’s bad for my neck oh there we go okay good
yeah okay that’s a little bit but that’s fine it’s actually quite nicely balanced
front to back plus I’ve got this room here so I can this can fall flat and the
mouths its ears okay right so that’s the next thing is for me to figure out
exactly what the shape of the mouth is and how its mechanics work but I had to
get this part done first that went faster than I thought while Adams working on the no-face build
he’s tasked Mel and I with creating some food for no face to eat yeah and since
like in the movie spirited away no face just consumes a bunch of different types
of food or Anna’s probably tried to start out with some fish and then maybe
some buns and some Tam and all kinds of stuff yes so we’re starting out with
this upholstery foam pretty much straight out of a chair cushion it looks
like and we’ll cut this up with a foam cutting saw to start and then go in with
shears and rough out the shape in a more 3-dimensional sense yes cool all right so I am just taking the
shears in and adding more refined feel a little bit more comfortable doing
it this way just because especially for SI the lips and stuff I’m just afraid of
taking too much off and so I basically just start out by shaving away and more
than likely what I’ll also do is go into the sander and start to get smooth out
these sort of jagged edges and essentially start to look at it
especially now that I can just rotate and rotate and rotate I can start to
like sort of shape out what it’s going to look like in three-dimensional space
for like even finer details I really like these little sheers
they’re so cute you kind of kind of feel like your head were to Scissorhands or
something just trimming away bushes but they’re really good for only taking a
small chunk out once I got the shape mostly roughed out you can see it’s got
some good movement dimension I want to go ahead and hide all these trim lines
by sanding it smooth and get a nice soft curve all the way around I can do most
of the rough cutting on the belt sander and then I’ll go back in with a dremel
tool to get some of the finer details and more delicate parts like the tail I can even get some detail like gills if I
just gently run this you can start to see I’ll get a gill
shape there so I can get some details on here I just have to be careful not to
get too much purchase because the sander will bite and just pull the phone right
into it just yeah I know this is so
inconsequential to the total thing but I’m like and it’s also like a dead fish
it’s not a living fish that’s correct yeah yeah okay I like this though that
allows me I’m super positive clothes I can park it right there and then that’s
nice and organic what have you’ve done domains rah rah rah rah rah rah rah
okay this is about the right distance maybe just a tiny bit shorter here is no faces mouth and my goal is
that the mouth is hidden in no faces costume until I reveal it and the way I
want to reveal it is that I will pull a lever underneath my no face robes that
will peel the lips back exposing the teeth there’s one and then the mouth
will open now I’m gonna control the mouth from the bottom here and this
dynamic hinging where I’ve got it mounted up here that’s the end result of
about a day of experimentation at first I thought the mouth would go here and
that my hand would be the tongue it turns out there’s not enough room inside
the costume for me to do that so I had to modify that and come up with a
different arrangement and I’m really happy with this one because I didn’t
want to lock this top jaw to no face because if that’s a perfect relationship
it doesn’t look natural doesn’t look biological but by doing this I end up
getting this sort of ancillary movement out of it that I really like every time I delve into animatronics
puppeteering Mechanics for costumes I end up having an even deeper amount of
respect for my friends like Rick Baker or Mike elizalde or Richard Taylor all
of them amazing animatronic engineers and designers with beautiful teams I
become so frustrated by the process right because I’ve got a certain amount
of spring to lift these lips and to open this mouth but as soon as I load this up
with fabric all of those mechanical relationships change and shift and I’m
having trouble right now if you can tell that I’m a little flustered frustrated
frustrated because I’m not able to get the lips to fully extend with a single
actuator so I’m playing around with some mechanical advantages look this whole
thing and this is the check-in pista camera in which I’m a little frustrated
so that’s what’s happening that’s why I’m sort of rambling about other people
in their work while I’m trying to solve mine we have figured out how to make the
teeth we’ve got these beautiful teeth there’s only one right now but this
piece of white translucent plastic is actually an old cutting board which I
cut and modified to screw down to this so the teeth will be really nice and
robust they’re gonna look awesome I just have to figure out a way to reveal them
by opening the lips I finished most of the sanding and
smoothing out of the shape I’m pretty happy with how it’s looking I’m just
gonna go in with a dremel and get some of these finer details around the mouth
it gives me a little bit more control because it’s handheld and it’s got
obviously a smaller surface area once that’s done the fish as you can see it’s
got great little wobble and wiggle to it but in that scene where no faces just
gobbling all these pieces of food up we need it to have a little bit more
structure because it’s not very delicate it’s not a very graceful scene so he’s
just gonna be shoving all this food in his mouth and chomping it and this tail
seems a little bit fragile for that what I’m gonna do is take these pieces of
rattan which is rigid but has a little bit of flex and I’m gonna use that to
create basically a spine for the fish so give it a little bit more structural
support one thing that I learned on this project working with the foam initially
I thought of it as a purely subtractive process so it’s a monolithic shape and
you can just carve and trim away but Adam brought up the point that you can
also add to it so it doesn’t just have to be removing material like stone
because of that we can glue things to it we can add all sorts of features like
fins and leaves and it doesn’t just have to be removing one of the things I have
to do now is to glue my fish back together with some barge I’m gonna set
that up to dry and while I’m doing that I’m going to cut some details fins and
leaves for the carrots using some foam nice it’s like a magic art mm-hmm so
this is a trick Adam showed me it was just to take a plastic Chicago screw
poked through the head with an awl and then feed the screw through and then I
can take these little pieces of styrene that I’m using for eyes and glue those
right to the heads of the Chicago screw on either side so it gives that
indentation and a little bit of dimension around the eye socket I think
that’ll look pretty good hit that with a little CA glue and actually I’m gonna do
this the smart way and wait to attach these until after I paint that way you
don’t have to worry about masking them it even looks so cool with the just the
flat heads of the screws okay yeah so we have human teeth on this
table and I figured why not put human teeth and fish you know just really
enticing has a soul now that kind of sort of thing yeah I’m gonna put fish in
it i’ma put teeth in fish not fishing teeth there we go glob you’re on oh man oh dear it’s so disturbing yeah
whoever thought human parts and other creatures would be mortified it’s like
you are asking for the song because I love you creepy no no no thank you for
listening Alexa yeah seriously okay I can’t tell you how many days that
we have been plotting to shoot this piece to camera about catching up on the
no-face mechanism and the reason is is because I thought the mechanism itself
was gonna take me like two days the answer like six seven days of work
however my no-face costume is back on track to be reconstructed this time with
an entirely new development which is the mouth here we go you ready yeah yeah I
am so pleased let’s talk a little bit about what it took to get here so what we have here is a fairly
straightforward animatronic mechanism a mouth with lips the wrinkle being its
size it’s a very large mouth and that I only have one hand for activation my
other hand will be no faces hand so my left hand will do all the activation
which means I wanted to design a rig in which the lips and mouth moved with me
only doing one thing and I think I tried like at least five different mechanical
solutions I’m not kidding five completely different mechanical
solutions of bolting different things to this like cables and take-up reels and
bungee cords and stuff only to have everything fail until today so what I
have now is a mechanism in which the top lip is connected to the bottom jaw by a
cable around a pulley the bottom lip is connected to the top jaw by a cable
going around a pulley this is kind of a modification of Stuart freeborn’s
mechanisms that he used in both Chewbacca and in moon watcher Chewbacca
obviously from Star Wars moon watcher the ape from 2001 and so here is that
dynamic movement I open the jaw and both lips curl back which is really cool I
also decided to not do a hard mount of the jaw against my body so I have this
kind of movement going on and that is this extra bit of dynamic motion that I
think makes this feel far more biological when you add into that these
giant Delrin teeth I haven’t even even added yellowing to them when I do it’s
gonna get real and I’ve got a mechanism that is really robust and super
awesomely disturbing the problem I kept having with this is because of its size
I wasn’t making my mechanics robust enough I’ve never built an animatronic
this large before I needed heavy duty Springs I needed to use bolts instead of
rivets because I was asking too much of the rivets mechanically
there basically was a whole bunch of learning curves here for me to get to
this point of a single handle on a pivot still a few bugs in the system
activating the mouse this is actually one of my failed
attempts at one point I thought I was going to use cables to activate the lips
so that I would squeeze a paddle pull the lips back and then activate the
mouth and this was an animatronic paddle I made using Delrin aluminum in a wooden
slot I’ve got some brass soldered tubes here to hold the cables in the housings
so that they could go around and activate the lips it was too much work
to ask of such a thing and the travel I needed was too much at this scale the
mechanics become kind of diabolical because you build it to work on its own
but then you add cloth to it and that adds all this other weight and torque on
the system and it doesn’t sound like it should but actually it’s way more than
you would expect so let’s take a closer look at the mechanism what I’ve got is
this is the top lip this is the bottom lip both of them hinge here on the jaw
that’s the main hinge for the jaw the bottom hinge and you can see that I’ve
sprung the bottom lip to the top jaw and I’ve sprung the top lip to the bottom
jaw and in addition I have this cable this is for model aircraft coming around
this pulley down to the bottom jaw so as you can see I move the bottom jaw it
pulls on the cable it turns that pulley that moves the bottom lip up and the
same thing is happening with the bottom lip I’m really really abusing this right
now and my testing I’m bringing everyone over and showing them because if
anything’s gonna fail I want to know about it here instead of on the floor at
New York Comicon well now that I’ve tackled what I think
of as the hardest part of this build which is the mechanics its hopefully
slightly smoother sailing from here on in now it’s time to work out how to
actually cover this thing with fabric and some of the pieces you saw in here
we’re temporary just for me to sort of learn how the fabric will move how it
will change the mechanics as I put it on and then my goal is to make a single
piece of fabric that covers the mouth and then drape the rest of the fabric on
no-face so it hides me underneath then I also have to work out how I’m supposed
to see out of the thing and I’m thinking maybe a camera with some fpv goggles or
I may just put a screen here and try and see out of the mouth the last time I did
no face the head was down about here this time as you can see I’ve raised it
about 810 inches and that is so that I hopefully have a little more ability to
see through the mouth if I put a good screen there I’m starting to do the final touches on
these in terms of paint and finishing so I’ve laid a base coat onto the fish and
started to on these carrots and what I’m doing is a airbrushing and spray-paint
detail so I did a test yesterday of some scales which I ever on here and some
color patterns for the koi fish and I’m also doing some detailing on the
carrot leaves so we’ll take a look at that basically what I did was I just cut
some stencils out of card stock and I’m using those as a mask to give it kind of
a graphic pattern that matches the sort of animated feel one of the things I
really like about the foam as a substrate is because it’s porous the
paint sort of sits on the surface but you can still see some of the color
coming through from the inside it lends the fish this almost translucent
luminosity that’s really great for this animal in particular so I’m pretty much done with the
detailing of the main overall fish and I was heavily inspired by sort of the own
like an Oni I wanted to try to make since it’s got teeth and everything
maybe make it look more demonic and so I’ve got this craft foam that I’ve cut
out and done sort of fine details that is the eyeball that I’m gonna be placing
in the center here as well as just eyebrows and little extra you know
details kind of similar to that what you’ve seen in like say a Japanese
woodblock except layered on top to give it some more dimensionality and such and
so I’m gonna be hot gluing this guy on and seeing how it goes something like
that I can kind of finesse it to what I want and then the eye will see right
there it’s something like that yeah give it that angular okay so we
mash this off so that we can do the fun sprays and have you and since now it’s
we’re good to go um we’re gonna start unveiling it I
can’t wait it’s like an unveiling after plastic
surgery yeah except teeth were lost instead of gained it’s just had braces
for four years and finally gets to see the results of all its suffering oh gosh
with a million cavity is apparently oh my god it’s so weird I love it oh my
gosh no great smell it is so creepy it’s yeah it’s like I want yourself ah well off camera I did some preliminary
draping on no face here and I’m kind of excited about how it’s starting to look
deceptively simple really really hard to execute but I’m about to put this on and
just try out the overall arrangement before committing to it by sewing okay
here we go not even sure how to get in all right
that feels very good my question is can I stick an arm out of here let’s see hmm
I I don’t know if this no face has arms I mean I can kind of do a fake arm here
but that’s sort of weird isn’t it maybe I’ve got to do the matter out of out of
here like here yeah maybe that’s how I have to do it okay
I’ll work that out later all right here we go here’s the first mouth test do you
guys ready dad what have you done to me give me something to eat I’m hungry I
wanna eat I’m gonna give it away with my voice right away I should have a frog that’s the first
thing I think I can now pin and sew my drapes and then I have to figure out
what to do with the arms alright I’m about to do the what I think is one of
the final dress tests of no-face before I call it done but I wanted to walk you
through some of the problem-solving that I’ve been doing some of the early tests
I was doing with the mechanism were with this a four-way stretch lycra spandex
that’s black and really nice and one of the problems I had with it was it was
actually too smooth it showed the seams and I felt like I could see too much of
the structure of the of the draping so I asked my shop assistants for a
compendium of some Velvets from local fabric stores and we got this wonderful
thing this is what ended up becoming the velvet of the inside of the mouth there
yeah and then I asked to look at the black Velvets and I was looking at them
and looked at this one and I really liked its brownness there’s a way in
which there’s a way in which black super super black is cold it doesn’t feel
quite natural I mean unless it’s like a raven or something but this brown felt
like a seal Pelt or something so we bought 10 yards of
round crushed-velvet and that is now what no face is clad in I’ve got my
right arm covered because that will be my active arm and the left arm is just
vestigial I’m just going to sit there I’m going to try and eat a fish let’s
just see how this goes this is a test of the mechanism and a test of how this
looks and depending on how it looks to me on the camera
we’re almost there I think I have to kind of crawl into the environment that
is no face so left side belt on right side belt on oh I can see my armhole
from here so I’m gonna try and feed out of it there we go alright so now I have
a fake arm and a real arm fake arm real arm and no face is ready to animate and
m8 where is some food I’m hungry ah is it possible to grab the fisherman
here let’s see did that work kinda okay I think no-face the monster is
ready for prime time this build has kicked my ass I thought it would be like
three days maybe in and out and it’s been more like eight yeah it’s well more
than twice as much time and energy as I thought it would but I’m really pleased
with the result what’s that I am really pleased with the result
yeah the mouth is it feels great it actually reminds me weirdly of the
Muppets sweetums the big monster I realized that sweetums has a secondary
lip motion and I’m like doing a muppet callback with this but like I’ve added
all the final details the little epiglottis they’re the Bugs Bunny the
heck of the throat lines on the roof of no faceless mouth these are clearly
visible in the animation and my my reference photos and then I’ve also
added a little bit of yellow to the Delrin teeth to just make them a little
grosser and I’ve mostly hidden the mechanics although you can still hear
them that’s just part of the cost of business at any rate because no face
when he is in this monster face wants to eat everything because he thinks that
eating will bring him comfort don’t we all a problem arose of what
should no face eat so I bought some fake peaches that he could enjoy and then I
could literally grab from the back and take down a Jen and Mel have been
working on some very cartoon specific items for no-face to eat and I have not
yet glimpsed them and I’m very excited about what no faces meal is gonna look
like oh my gosh oh one of the little chicken people you see from spirited
away oh my god this is amazing you guys you know the vision coy and skeleton
fishermen this actually delicious birthday cake
and just for some vegetable my god you guys had fun this is great I want to
build everything in phone now here you had not played with Matt the so describe
the technique by which you built these things well we we started with blocks of
furniture foam and sort of carved away at them roughly with foam knife and the
bandsaw and then sanded down all the shapes and then did a lot of paint
dealing detailing went to paint airbrush spray paint spray paint you did a lot of
other detail yeah like worked with craft foam
actually a lot and should I just add little detailing on top and then and the
human oh yes human growth factor that’s brilliant this is the mattress foam that
the mattress place just gave us yeah they had it in their recycling pile yep
this was just a trash mattress film oh my gosh
these are so beautiful Wow yeah we get a lot of fun with like templates and
stencils to do the airbrushing and right right right I saw some of the sample
pieces of foam you guys were doing airbrush tests on it’s just so like oh
it’s so much more elaborate than I would have gotten which is amazing like that’s
thrilling to me you know the goal when you when you work with the goal in
collaboration is better than the sum of its parts that I would not have come up
with anything like this I love the brick that was like a paint drip that dried
there was a whole bunch of paint that dried up on the cardboard and I was like
I’ll just cut it out and drizzle some more hot glue on it and that’s what the
icing is on the top oh it is huh and wire these are little snippets of Oh
Jimmy’s our wires yeah I was looking around for anything I could find in here
that would be theatrical and food like okay I want to do a test so I want to
put them on and just see what it’s like for me to gather one of these into
myself and just try it and hopefully maybe we’ll give some people at Comic
Con some stuff to feed me what is is that craft foam as well craft foam
with acrylic paint on it that’s awesome this this is I’m so thrilled but the
single I human this is nightmare fuel yeah yeah I mean why not demon fish I
know I just touched his palate that’s yummy fish and I can cry but there we go I’m hungry
give me something to eat I love carrots more MORE nom nom how does it look you
guys is it is it kind of working it’s so grotesque when it’s chewing really oh
yeah you can see him chomping on it oh that’s so cool bottom with a still
working and not failing I’m very happy about that
I can also see pretty well all right I think it’s time to go to Comic Con

11 thoughts on “Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: No-Face Animatronic Mouth!”

  1. Watch Adam Savage's Adam Incognito as No-Face at New York Comic Con here:

  2. I am looking for super glue acceleration spray that I could spray on my part that I glued so it could dry and I am not holding until it drys. What do all you craft people recommend I just need a spray I have glue I will even buy different glue if I need to plz help me I can not find anything

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *