Posted: June 29, 2012 in costume, Team, Uncategorized

More work on the Witness suitAfter being born in the wilds of the last frontier of Alaska Kyle Willmore lived on a steady diet of fantasy and sci fi to help bring him into the world of art. Having a profound influence from Jim Henson he set forth on his travels. He learned all the wrong things in school as some have told him, but he always felt it was right.

Learning to make an excellent campfire he began collecting stories from all over the world knowing that the best place by the fire is always held for the storytellers.

He eventually went off to a warm and subtropical hellscape to pursue a training in a career for computer animation. It didn’t take as well as he had hoped. Forsaking the newfangled machine boxes that had caused this dilemma at his alma mater, the Savannah College of Art and Design, he eventually found those instructors willing to mold his skills in the arcane arts of stop motion animation and puppetry/animatronics.


Learning how to harness the power of rod puppetry, cable controlled puppets, the principles of bunraku puppetry, and radio control puppetry. Like a mad scientist that gets too attached to his creations, he looks at the monsters and machines he creates as his children and will defend them from all the square jawed heroes that come to attempt their destruction. Placing his hands in many projects he met up with the Drab Future team while running from an angry ape and noticing a sexy robotic woman beckoning him as if all his training had been leading him to this.



The scarcity of resources has driven bands of humans and robots to subsist by scrounging, and making deals. The self-replicating VonNeuman machines, robots who once performed tasks for man now guide themselves, gathering information, and controlling the world’s nearly exhausted resources. John Henry, a field mechanic/engineer, working aboard the KRAWLR in the wasteland of the Uncanny Valley, discovers a singularity within a unique fembot. He believes this Gynoid with it’s evolving AI to be the key to changing the world.
Drab Future is a sci-fi web-series. It is centered around an alternate timeline leading to dystopian society, with few alienated people left. We are working on shooting a 10min pilot to begin the production and will continue to create episodes as quickly as we can. Once the world is established and the series continues I’d love to involve more artists to add to the world; to further populate it with their characters and add to the vision.


My name is Brad Isdrab, I’ve been sculpting and exhibiting my work in galleries since 2001 in various galleries from San Francisco to San Diego, New York and Pennsylvania. I create hand-cast and painted editions of my sculptures as well as produce short films and books.

I studied sculpture at the Academy of Art University and later turned my love of form into articulated puppets which could be brought to life through stop motion animation. My graduate work, Boris and Bianca, focused on interactivity and storytelling. Since 2006 he has been working full-time as a designer, producing motion graphics animation, and working in the visual effects and feature film industry for such companies as The Orphanage, Image Movers Digital, and Industrial Lights and Magic.

I’ve been creating the parts of this for years now, and only now have enough put together to be able to share it all with you.



This is going to happen. I want to make this world. This is simply what I must do. However, with your help I can create a lot more, and you’ll be enabling me to do it better. I’ve been working in a vacuum which is slow and difficult and its time to share it.

With your support I’ll be able to increase the scope.  The models and props I’ve built have been what I can manage in my studio. The studio itself I’ve built into an interior set. The purpose of this campaign is to take this out of the workshop and bring it into the world. I’d love to be able to create larger models, bigger mechs and robots, more intricate models.

For the full pilot I’m going to need access to a need real locations, the wasteland, shipping yard, places where my actors can safely run around with prop airsoft guns without being arrested, which means I’m going to need permits and potentially insurance.

I’m planning to begin principal photography this July, which gives me only three months to finish all the models, costumes and secure the locations.



I’ve been calling upon favors from friends from the industry, and have put together a core team of dedicated people for this project. It is a labor of love for us all. No one is getting paid, we just love to see this kind of film and believe in old-school practical effects.

I’ve been very fortunate for the people who have volunteered their time and skills for this project. I’m keeping the crew to a bare minimum and not getting too bogged down with job titles, we each have particular tool sets but also share the willingness to do what needs to be done on set to get the shot.

We are shooting this on a Red Epic, and Canon 60D, to record all the detail texture of this world. And I’m going to use as much practical effects work as possible, including; scale models, radio controlled animatronics, compressed air cannons, stop motion and more. All these disparate parts will be combined to populate the world.


The way I work

The script is written and storyboarded, and planned out. A big part of this project is the spirit of experimentation and always looking for better ways to do a given challenge. I want to involve you by working transparently. I’ll be posting work in progress and tests both successful and less than. One of the robot characters, ‘the Witness‘, is currently equipped with a webcam from which I’ve been streaming live while in the workshop. so you can share in the creation process.



Since I’m an artist and sculptor, I have been making use of my skills to produce unique incentives. I’m putting together a book of the artwork from this world. I’m casting resin figures, hand-making dolls from the project, beginning with the basic doll of the Gynoid, which are my gift to donors, also everyone who purchases one of the dolls will have the opportunity if they choose, to customize it to be a part of a group art show.

I’m going to arrange a special screening for the cast crew and donors of the complete pilot in San Francisco. I’m also making a lot of other rewards available to donors; pez dispensers, magnets, pins, nerf guns,T-shirts, magnets…


What you can do

At this stage I really need your help. I’ll be kicking this campaign off on Indiegogo soon, and in the mean time I need all of the feedback I can get. If you haven’t already added Drab Future on Facebook, you should and spread the word on twitter and facebook. Please re-tweet and share. We need to increase awareness. The more people we can tell about this the greater it will be!

Promotional material

Posted: April 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

New promotional material for Drab Future! Thanks to @clubcardusa for the fast turn around, a shout to Brandon Van Auken for the new logo and to Grit Philm for the portrait of John Henry 🙂


Posted: March 16, 2012 in 3D, Uncategorized
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Chrome spheres.
I’ve been beginning testing Image-based lighting for use with digital stuntmen for the few things I won’t be able to do practically.
There is a full write up on the IBL process and how I’m trying out the process


Posted: March 15, 2012 in model, prop
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Texture plays a big role in the world of ‘Drab Future’. I’ve been paying special attention to making everything gritty and dirty. Weathering surfaces, so that nothing feels new and clean.

The work-in-progress power glove gauntlets for John Henry’s costume.

I wrote a long post about the process of weathering rust over on my personal blog;
via RUST.

Much of Drab future will take place on board the KRAWLR, so I knew I’d need a good interior set, so early on I started transforming my studio into it.

I looked a lot at the genre and some of the amazing production design work done and gathered reference/inspiration, as well as submarines, space ships, inspiration “set” blog

I even went on a field trip to see one of the last WW2 battleships, the USS Iowa

I knew a few things I needed a few scenes; workshop, OP room, hallway, control room… and I had to find a way to work in a limited space, part by part, and using any thing I had on hand.

The first step was to start moving unrelated items away and create the walls I had, I knew I needed textured panels and a basecoat, so after a trip to the hardware store I added peg board panels and started covering everything with a dark grey. I figured this would work well for shining a light through to create a sense of depth.


Slowly it spread to the whole room…


As the KRAWLR is a scrap collector, It makes sense that the whole thing would contain bins of parts, so I gathered a rack of milk crates and enough robot parts to fill them, along with many of my sculpting supplies and materials


The peg board also gives me a good way of storing props 🙂


I found a bunch of sheets of plastic grid from a remodeling office building, which provided a good texture for the ceiling, after I hit it with a bit of paint for weathering.


And this hanging lamp was donated by my friend Webster Colcord who’s wife worked for a lighting company

I extended some supports to add ceiling panels across the room, and hung sump tubing.

I mounted a partly disassembled fan into some packing foam on the ceiling for a vent. The best part it, it still works!

One element I kept seeing in my reference was the big metal door. Inspiration “Door” blog I even took a bunch of reference pictures on the Iowa of one;


I knew I’d have to make one.

To hang such a door I’d need to make a fake section of a wall, which made sense and I figured I would need to anyway because I’d need to be able to change the shape of the room for the different sets.

The flats for these walls started with thin plywood with a frame.

The first flat needed to be at least 7×4 to fit the door

The next I did in sections, so I could mix and match the details and move/swap them around.

I carefully cut the shape of the door into it, and a piece of insulation foam to form the door itself.

Door cut out, first coat of paint applied

Painted the flats with a grey base to match the walls.

Built the and detailed the door with some greebles, as well as a light/cage for an industrial feel.

The door from inside, you can see how I used a coat rack for the door latch and reinforced the hinge attachment with wood scraps. I also added some gutter screen ‘vents’ for more detailing and to break up the surface a bit.

A little bit of paint and weathering goes a long way towards selling the realism here.



Posted: December 8, 2011 in costume, prop
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The Witness is John’s workshop assistant, his Igor. A crude robot, made to carry tools and provide companionship to John Henry, he has a ‘hacked’ Von Neuman Operating system, allowing him to hear their network chatter, like listening to police scanners. In this way he can also communicate with the VN. He differs from them in that he is individuated, able to see the network and post to it, but not guided by it. He speaks in a computerized approximation of a human voice, his voice is auto-tuned and animated like a show host; attempting to be friendly and reassuring, but artificial.

The Witness goes by many titles and nicknames, Witness, Sudo, Helper… he was born from the necessity or working in a vacuum, the need for a second set of hands,also I wanted to create a method for live broadcasting from the set, a character which could potentially bring the audience into the world.

I really wanted to start with an antique dental unit; sink/stand.

Unfortunately the price to ship one to me has been prohibitive.

I needed a place to start, something I could relate to. The most important detail needed to be right since it’d be what we most associate with the character, his face. I used a cast metal (aluminum) skull. I actually worked out of wax and had the opportunity to pour the metal for this part. I began arranging parts, a mannequin torso, netbook, webcam, worklamps. mini sink.

Everything should be functional with purpose. I’d sketched him with wheels, a work stand, and lights on arms, tools. He was to be a helper robot that lived in the studio, with a computer built in as well as sink, running water, drills, heat and glue guns… The first stand came from an industrial oven,

Tilting the screen of the net-book I started picturing an animated mouth, and a means for him to communicate.I especially liked the look of the light reflecting in/projecting on the visor.

I also realized that a certain amount of the costume would need to be wearable by an actor if the character was to leave the KRAWLR.

I tested many different options with motorcycle helmet, and dryer vent ducting for the arms, in classic robot style,

Needed a method to secure the arms and something to mount the netbook to…

Testing it for wearability;


placed the Witness on a wheel chair, his ‘wheeled mobility unit’

added two workstands to the Mobility unit, old CRT monitor stands. These things are burly and made of steel.

Welding the work-stands to the arms of the wheel chair at Fonco.

I moved the Witness out of the chair’s seat to a box on the back,

I’ve tried a lot of parts for the neck joint, I knew it needed to be articulate as well as detailed, here I’m testing a puller and part of a golf bag. and stretching wires, conduit and hoses to his head.

The neck more tied together, golf bag support in place, stump capped with PVC, It was obvious he needed more articulation, a great idea from Kyle; the ball and socket from a shower-head!

I could think about detailing the mask. Since he is an observer, I liked the idea of using this movable turret of lenses from an 8mm camera;

Another option for the wearable Outdoor mask was this Transformers mask with integrated (awesome) voice changer, but it needed to be taken out of context and repainted it with chrome.

Tilting the mask back to join the armor/hood.

Kyle test fits the Witness rig.

He needed a mouth, and more details, so we began a lower jaw from plumber’s putty and an old microphone.


Here we’ve constructed hips from PVC and are started some folding/retractable legs, using desk lamps for the base.

I wanted the legs to seem human and functional, but also seem changeable for the Witness’ modes.
Bulking out the legs with wire, insulation and conduit, and plastic parts.

The hood got the lens rig attached at it’s crest, and can be detached from the body to be worn as a helmet.

Once again Kyle tries it on.

Swapped out the neck, used the old neck for the hood/helmet and added the head of a tripod for his new neck, and mounted the webcam;

Now his neck is locking, and poseable as well as extend able.

The Witness in front of the blue screen.

Real time Blue-screen extraction done on my iphone.

(Print available at Unethical Productions)
The Gynoid was the first part of this world I envisioned. Inspired by the opening sequences of ‘Hardware’ and ‘Battle angel’. I knew this would be the story of a salvaged fembot, found in the wasteland, and repaired.

I knew she had to have a sense of beauty, of sex appeal, but not seem quite human.I looked all around at reference, at Japanese Ball-joint dolls, like super Dollfie and handmade ones, I looked to surrealist Hans Bellmer, to anime style and 80s horror, fashion and fetish. I even trolled through the forums of RealDoll owners, looking to the way they store and even fabricate their own versions.

South of Market, Apr 7, 2009

I began her construction with a PVC armature. Planned out all the joints with 90 degree angles and i strung it together with elastic string like tent poles. This gave me a rigid body but was still able to hinge via the rotation along the angle joints.

South of Market, Apr 20, 2009

Then I blocked it out; attached pink insulation foam blocks to the armature.

Van Ness, May 31, 2009

I applied cans of ‘Great stuff’ spray foam to fill gaps. I really love this stuff, its tricky and drippy, but once you get the hang of it it can be like 3D spraypaint.

Carved the blocks and spray foam once it cured;
Novato, May 30, 2009

repeated that process until the shape felt close;
South of Market, Jun 15, 2009

I’d also shape the foam by hand a bit as it cured by layering it with foil to prevent it from sticking to my skin. I also considered making her body chrome.

South of Market, Jun 1, 2009

South of Market, Jun 15, 2009

The last stage was using a high density two part liquid foam to fill any remaining gaps and get a really uniform surface.

South of Market, Jun 15, 2009

South of Market, Jun 18, 2009

I chopped up some Furby eye mechanisms and rigged them together
Twin Peaks, Jun 22, 2009

Cut the eyes out of the foam
Twin Peaks, Jun 22, 2009

Twin Peaks, Jun 19, 2009

Twin Peaks, Jun 19, 2009

I created a geared mechanism from lego parts to move the jaw.
Twin Peaks, Jun 22, 2009

I was able to find a pair of wooden artist model hands, which found their way to her at this point.
The next step was to cover over the body with fiberglass, an extremely difficult and time consuming process.
South of Market, Jun 25, 2009

Each part had to be wrapped individually with woven fiberglass cloth, and sealed with resin.
Twin Peaks, Jun 25, 2009

once the parts had been sealed there were the occasional wrinkle, it was too hard to get the cloth completely smooth,
Twin Peaks, Jun 29, 2009

I spent a lot of time sanding the parts smooth again
South of Market, Jun 29, 2009

Until she fit back together
Twin Peaks, Jul 2, 2009

She needed some mechanical detailing, so I added tubing, some brass fittings and the top of a can to be her feul tank
Twin Peaks, Jul 8, 2009

It was tricky but I found a proper wig for her and started dressing her up in real clothing;
Uploaded - 7\129-34

Some black wash of paint, to ‘dirty her up.’ Using thin ink/acryllic like this seeps into the texture and cracks to give her the old porcylin texture I was looking for.;
Uploaded - 8\259-1



Gynoid WIP gallery on Flickr

Moderator Power armor

Posted: November 15, 2011 in costume, prop
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I’ve always wanted my own power armor. There is far too much inspiration here for me to list it all out.

Here is a gallery of inspiration and goodness

I’ve been thinking of these guys as “Mods”, short for moderators. They are the Enforcers; remotely motivated Drones. This is the large Encounter suit, fitted with sensor arrays and used by VN units to extend their capacity with communication, recording and defensive capabilities.

I found the tactical helmet at an army surplus, the face-mask is a 3m respirator, placed on a hairstyle dummy head. I like the way they fit together, and it gave me a starting point.

I started assembling the suit on a mannequin torso, using a low temp thermo-form plastic mesh, to create a lightweight body shell to attach the armor plates to.

I managed to get ahold of some motorcycle parts and found myself thinking back to Robotech; the Cyclone bikes, which transformed into armor, yes please.

I used long bolts through the existing holes in the motorcycle body to space the plate away from the torso and position it, then used my heat gun to reform the plastic mesh to the plate as well as slightly warping the plate itself to conform to the torso.


I debated using them for awhile but I had these arm-pods I vacuum-formed while I was working at M-5, which fit in with the manufactured look of this suit;



With the mesh on the inside the chest plate was wearable,



Started painting and weathering the arm-pods to match the rest of the armor. I also added airsoft gloves, and chose the base for his side-arm The belt-fed nerf Vulcan;



A black jumpsuit and some tool belts to tie the ensemble together.



The suit still wasn’t feeling substantial enough. I wanted this to be really hulking. I ended up with the dashboard from a touring bike, like a Honda Goldwing. Really, a part like this has a ton of potential, so it took awhile to figure out exactly how it fit, but I kept coming back to shoulders and cowl.


The circles that help the gauges perfectly fit battery-operated LED tap lights. I secured it with some suspender straps and cut sections out to allow some arm movement while it rested on the shoulder.



The Chest plate was a tight fit so a bit more heat forming was needed;


At this point it was wearable, though not the most comfortable. But that is exactly the point of test-fits, to see how it needs adjustment to be wearable. I wanted to see how it’d look on a location. So we went out to the Hunter’s point Naval shipyard. This was the only shot I was able to get before the cops asked us to leave;

Watching this showed me a lot of places that needed work; the mid-torso, upper shoulder for comfort, the openings in the chest plate and shoulder rig, the legs…

The shoulders’ compartments looked too empty, such a large platform would definitely carry more equipment, sensor arrays, communications, I liked the way these Nerf guns fit, and their shape seemed to compliment the lines already ther;


I chopped the handles of the Shoulder pods so they would fit back into the compartment a bit more, and used I heat-form plastic to hold them in place. I also added rubber kneepads with foam inserts to the inside of the shoulder to make it more comfortable.

To better handle the mid-torso I picked up an airsoft Molle-style body armor, which adds a much better texture than the jumpsuit alone.



I started filling the chest openings with fans, lenses, and other parts to show more of it’s function as an I/O device.



My concerns now; armor for the legs since he looks a bit top heavy, the chest plate and shoulder should interlock for more stability, the gun needs more work, fill out the spaces in the chest plate, and generally make more function visible in the suit.

He still has a way to go before I’d consider him done, but this is a good document for his start.