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The Foxee Animatronic Robot Project Blog

Archives for: December 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Fox, The Mad Scientist, and The Robot

Posted by: The Mad Scientist

I just got back from seeing The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for the second time in a week, and I have to say that I absolutely love that movie! I rarely go to see movies in the theaters at all anymore, so the fact that I saw this movie twice really means something! Honest to God I just can't stop thinking about it! Why am I so in love with this particular movie you ask? Well for starters, its opening scene with the Luftwaffe Heinkel He-111 bombers attacking London in the middle of the night with flak, tracers, and search light beams filling the screen was enough to make this movie catch my attention all by itself! I am a huge military history buff, and the special effects and cinematography of that scene was just awesome! It was much better than the similar shot of Junkers Ju-87B Stukkas shown attacking London in the beginning of the Disney animated feature film Return to Neverland, which was in that aspect anyway a Narnia knock off.

As great as the opening scene of this movie is, it still is't what has gotten me all excited about this film. What has gotten me on cloud nine is the CG animated animal characters in this movie, especially the talking fox that was voiced by actor Rupert Everett. Considering the fact that I have only been trying to build my very own realistic talking fox in the form of my Foxee animatronic robot project, actually seeing one that looked extremely realistic on the big screen was practically a mind blowing experience for me! The words just escape me about how cool the fox was! And if having a talking fox wasn't great enough for this film, I also have a huge soft spot for cheetahs, and there were plenty of CG cheetahs in this film as well! One thing that I especially enjoyed in this film was how the humans, animals, and mythical creatures work, fight, and live together side by side and treat each other as equals. Now if only the humans on planet Earth could get along so well with one another.... To say that I found this film to be inspiring for my own animatronics and animation work is an understatement! In fact, I am sure that I will both be talking all of my friends' ears off about this movie and be having Narnian talking foxes in my dreams for many months to come!

So that you can see what I am talking about, here are two screen captures of the CG animated talking fox from the film:

The fox from Narnia talking to the children and the beavers about the mission given to him by Azland around a fire.

The talking fox from Narnia bidding his friends farewell.

The pictures above show the absolutely amazing CG-animated talking fox from the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. In this scene the fox is telling his friends about the special mission that Azland the lion has sent him on. I found this incredible talking fox to be very inspiring for my animatronic Foxee robot project!

I apologize for how small these film captures are, but this was the best that I could do. The CG animated fox character is unfortunately in none of the promotional pictures for the movie, so I had to use Paint Shop Pro to take some screen captures of the fox while he was being shown in a behing the scenes online mini-documentary movie at the official Narnia website. These small pictures don't do this incredible fox any justice at all-- you have just got to see this fox in motion on the big screen! Now I just need to work on finding a way to get my Foxee animatronic robot to end up looking this good when she's finished!

Another ecperience that I had recently that I also found to be very informative and inspiring was my visit to Robert King's house last Saturday. Robert King is the person responsible for founding the Midwest Furfest furry convention back in 2000, and he has a lot of friends in the furry fandom. With the Further Confusion furry convention in San Jose, California rapidly approaching, many of Robert's fursuiting friends had a lot of last minute construction to do on their new fursuit costumes for the convention, so Robert hosted a huge social gathering for them all to get together and pool their resources to get their costumes finished over at his house. I am not a fursuiter yet with no current plans on becoming one, but my animatronics mentor Kitt Foxx was going to be there working on his latest animatronic creation at Robert's house as well. Because of this, Robert was kind enough to invite me over to his house as well so that I could watch Kitt Foxx work on his new animatronic fursuit with the hope that I could pick up a few pointers from him.

I have to say that Kitt Foxx's brand new animatronic fursuit that he is going to be debuting at Further Confusion is absolutely awesome, and that she will be an awe-inspiring sight for sure when she makes her premier at Further Confusion! I wish I could go into great detail describing every great amazing thing that this incredible new animatronic fursuit can do, but I swore to secrecy so I am limited to telling you only the information that he released previously during the Midwest Furfest Head Construction Panel.

This new fursuit of his is definitely a step up from his Georgia Belle vixen animatronic fursuit that he wore at Midwest Furfest back in 2004! While the Georgia Belle animtronic fursuit could only do pre-recorded audio and servo motor actions that were from a program disk much like a more technilogically adbvanced Teddy Ruxpin doll, Kitt Foxx's new female raccoon suit uses a model airplane type radio remote control to control the fursuit's animatronic actions. A second person (known as the "handler") standing nearby the fursuit performer controls the suit's facial expressions with this radio controller, allowing the person wearing the fursuit to concentrate on his body acting and allowing the fursuit's animatronic facial actions to respond spontaniously and interact with people around the suit! It truly is an amazing setup, and I am sure that it is going to delight and amaze the attendees of the Further Confusion convention! Boy do I wish that I could be there to see it! I had an absolutely wonderful time with Robert, Kitt Foxx, Aeto, and all of the other wonderful costumers that I spent the day with and learned a ton of useful information from them, and hopefully the next time that I see them I will have enough of Foxee completed so that I can amaze them as well! As always, any comments that you may have are greatly appreciated and encouraged!

Audio Files and Photos from my Midwest Furfest Speaking Panels!

Posted by: The Mad Scientist

Ahoy to all of you Foxee fans out there! While I am a few weeks late with getting this information up onto my blog, I have finally sifted through the many hours of audio that I recorded during the Midwest Furfest furry convention, and I have separated and MP3-encoded some sound clips of my best speaking parts during the panels that I was a panelist on for you to listen to! In case you don't remember, last November at the Midwest Furfest furry convention in Schaumburg, Illinois I was a panelist on three speaking panels that had to do with both animatronics and fursuit (animal mascot) costume construction. I was asked to be on the panels to answer questions about animatronics and electronics and their uses in fursuit costumes. While I have never built a fursuit personally, my Foxee animatronic robot project involves many of the same building skills and techniques that an animatronic fursuit does, so I was still very useful as a panelist despite my relative inexperience with the panels' topics.!

I spoke on three panels at the convention, the Fursuit Mega Construction Panels 1 and 2, and the Fursuit Head Construction Panel. For the two Fursuit Mega Construction Panels I was teamed up with Michael "Aeto" Sawyer who has been speaking on this panel for the last 5 years and did most of the talking, and Jason "Ocicat" Williams, a commercial artist and a fursuiter for the last 5 years. On the Fursuit Head Construction Panel both Aeto and Ocicat returned as panelists and this time were joined by Kitt Foxx, a former Disney Animator and Hollywood Special Effects Technician. Kitt Foxx is the extremely talented person who designed the animatronic Georgia Belle fursuit that utterly amazed me at last year's Midwest Furfest convention and inspired me to do my own animatronics project. He has been a fantastic help to me with getting my own project off of the ground to the point of being my mentor, and I was very honored to be speaking on a panel with him!

Since my experience on these topics paled in comparison to that of the other panelists, my plan for my speaking part of the panel was to give the audience a very basic introduction to what servo motors were and how they worked, how to build some basic servo driver boards using a variable width pulse modulator to control them, and what information was available for beginners on the Internet to help you get started. I brought is several props for my presentation, including a working servo driver board hooked up to a Futaba servo motor and a nickel cadmium battery, a homebrew servo tester board that could hook up a servo motor to a Commodore 64 microcomputer to test its range of motion, and several books on robotics, animatronics, and microcontrollers.

I also brought in some photographs of what the output signal of a servo driver board looked like displayed on an oscilloscope so that people could see first-hand what the signals that controlled servo motors looked like. Some of the topics covered by the other panelists on these panels included using fiberglass to construct fursuit heads, how to choose the right fur for your costume and sew it together, how to airbrush patterns onto fur using leather dyes, how to use foam for sculpting fursuit body parts, how to use electric fans in fursuit heads, how to choose the right fursuit eyes and teeth, how to make fursuit tails that keep their shape using a Delrin rod for support, how to give a convincing performance while wearing a fursuit, and much much more!

The Audio Files

I originally wanted to post my audio recordings of the three fursuit construction panels in their entirety to my animatronics blog because of how interesting and informative they were, but unfortunately that was against the Midwest Furfest audio and video recording policies and I was unable to get permission from the convention staff to do so. So the very best that I can do is post some short audio clips of some of the better things that I talked about and explained during the three panels.

Please judge my speaking performances kindly if you decide to listen to my audio clips from my Midwest Furfest panels. As the sole representative of my company, Project Destiny Studios, at the convention, I found myself spending long hours working on setting up and tearing down my artwork at the art show and auction, staying out late selling artwork as a dealer in the "Artists' Alley," and pulling near all-nighters to prepare my panel presentations for the next day. I far overstretched myself and pushed myself past my limits by trying to do so much on my own at the convention, and ended up only getting 2 hours of sleep before my Saturday 10:00AM panel and only 45-minutes of sleep before my Sunday 9:00AM panel because of it. So if I sound like I am half out of my mind while I am giving my presentations in these recordings, thatis because I probably am! Luckily, since I am a mad scientist, I am supposed to sound half out of my mind most of the time, so it all worked out!

Me Introducing Myself to the Audience During Saturday's Fursuit Construction Mega Panel 1

This short audio clip features me introducing myself as "Hoagiebot" to the panel's audience. At furry conventions it is standard practice to have a nickname on your convention badge, and that is what everyone addresses you by. For most furry convention attendees their nickname is the name of their furry "fursona" that they enjoy dressing up as at the convention, much like how someone who enjoys dressing up as a Klingon at a Science Fiction convention would have a Klingon name on their convention badge. In my case, Hoagiebot is just my user name on several online auction sites and Internet services and has no real significance after that. At the same time however it is the nickname that most people in the furry community would recognize me by, which is why I used it at the convention. I also tell about myself and my Foxee animatronic robot project during this introduction, and crack a few sleep-deprivation inspired jokes while I'm at it!

Listen to the Audio Clip

(File Format: MP3, Running Time: 1:49, File Size: 216KB )

Me Giving my Presentation on Using Servo Motors for Beginners during Sunday's Fursuit Head Construction Panel

In this audio clip I start off by reflecting on my own experiences while trying to learn how to build animatronics on my own during the dark days before I had met Kitt Foxx and had only myself to rely on to figure things out. I explain how you can use general purpose "Battlebots" style robotics books to learn how to create animatronics because the same methods used to make hexapod walking battlebot robots move are also employed in making animatronic robots move their various parts.

I then go on to talk about two websites that I found to be extremely helpful when I first started out learning about servo motors and how that worked. Two websites provided schematics for different simple variable width pulse modulator servo motor driver boards, and I ended up constructing both designs for comparison. The first website that gives a good overview on servo motors and there use in fursuits is the Fursuit FAQ at www.fursuit.org. You can find their schematic for a servo motor driver board here:

http://www.fursuit.org/faq/28elect.htm

The second website mentioned in my presentation is Fox's Electronics, which has a better servo driver board schematic and photos of what the finished driver board looks like. The servo driver board that I demonstrate during the presentation is modified version of his design. You can see the Fox's Electronics website here: http://soli.inav.net/~fox/fursuit/electronics.html

The pulse output of a 555 Timer IC based Servo Motor Driver Board shown on an Oscilloscope.
This photo shows the pulsed output of a 555 Timer IC based Servo Motor Driver Board shown on my Hewlett Packard Model 130BR Oscilloscope. Most servo motors respond to pulsed signals that are between 1KHz and 2KHz. As the oscilloscope shows, this servo driver board is currently sending out a pulse at 2.050KHz, which is causing the Futaba servo motor that is hooked up to it to turn all the way to the right and hold there. You can find the schematics for this servo driver board at Fox's Electronics.

Here is a triangle wave signal from a function generator that is being outputted on an oscilloscope for comparison.
This photo shows a triangle wave signal at 4.005KHz that is being output from my Exact Electronics Type 240 Function Generator into my Hewlett Packard Model 130BR Oscilloscope. This photo is shown as a general comparison to the servo driver signal. (Hey, I know that this is not the greatest of comparisons, but I had to have some excuse to try out my new function generator!)

Listen to the Audio Clip

(File Format: MP3, Running Time: 2:44, File Size: 323KB )

Me Answering an Audience Member's Question About Powering Battery-Powered Fans During Sunday's Fursuit Head Construction Panel

This audio clip starts out with an audience member asking about how he can find a more reliable power source than a 9-Volt battery to power the battery powered fans that ventilate his fursuit costume's headpiece. The question is started to be answered by Aeto who recommends using a RC battery to power the fans, but cautions about the overheating dangers caused by this. Having solved this kind of problem before, I then add in that you can readily build a simple regulated power supply out of a 78XX series voltage regulator IC and 3 capacitors that can be used to step down the voltage from the battery to the fan and prevent the fan from overheating. The "XX" in the voltage regulator IC's model number is the desired voltage that you want to regulate the battery's voltage at. For example, if you want to take the current from a 12-Volt battery and regulate it down to 9-Volts, you would use a 7809 voltage regulator IC. You can find the schematics to build such a regulated power supply at this website here: http://www.epanorama.net/circuits/psu_5v.html.

Kitt Foxx then talks about the advantages of using 12-Volt personal computer case fans in fursuit heads and then either running them at voltage with a 12-volt battery pack or running them under voltage with a typical 9.2-Volt RC battery pack. 9.2-Volt RC battery packs are advantageous because they are extremely common and can be found at nearly any local hobby shop or Radio Shack store. Since it is then discussed that battery voltages can drop over time, I once again add in that you can use a simple regulated power supply board to keep the voltage level going to your fans constant.

Listen to the Audio Clip

(File Format: MP3, Running Time: 4:21, File Size: 512KB )

While I did do a lot more speaking on the panels than just the three audio clips presented here, these were the things that I said that are the most interesting on their own and out of the context of the panel presentations in their entirety. Being a rookie panelist among several experts in the field that had each done several of these kinds of panels before, I wasn't able to contribute quite as much to the presentations as I originally thought I would be, but then again I was brought on as an extra knowledgeable person to support the others and not to be a primary presenter at the panels. Because of this, I feel that I fulfilled my role on the panels with flying colors, especially when I was able to help answer that one audience member's question about powering fans by explaining how he could easily build a regulated power supply from parts that can be bought for a few bucks at any neighborhood Radio Shack store.

I am sure that eventually down the road once I finally get my little animatronic arctic blue fox completed and performing shows that will eventually get an animatronics panel of my own at conventions, and then I will be able to show people how much fun it can be to be able to create your own robotic creations. These Midwest Furfest panels were just getting my feet wet for a bigger and brighter things to come, and I was more than happy to be a part of them!

In any case, I very much hope that you enjoyed all of these audio clips that I recorded and encoded for you, and that you found them to be helpful and informative! As always, comments are welcomed and encouraged and I would absolutely love to hear what you think!


Visitors have been rocked by Foxee the Animatronic Blue Fox!!!

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All text and original multimedia is © 2001-2006 Daniel S. Keller. All World Rights Reserved. Foxee™ is a registered trademark in the state of Illinois. All other information is copyrighted by their respective owners.