Posts Tagged ‘telepresence’


Posted: December 8, 2011 in costume, prop
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.