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Halloween Animatronics

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Build a Talking Animatronic Skull and Pumpkin
After seeing the Animatronics Workshop exhibit at the Wired NextFest, our family was inspired to try making an animatronic display for Halloween.

For your enjoyment -- The Gashlycrumb Tinies, by Edward Gorey -- narrated by Nick & Lexi.



 
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Step 1: Materials

RC Servos are the "muscles" that make the moving parts of the animatronic do something.

A Parallax USB Servo Controller is the interface between the computer and the servo motors.

Visual Show Automation runs the show & tells the servo controller what to do.

The servo controller circuitry is powered via USB, but requires an external power supply to run the servos.

Audacity can be used to record & edit the sound track.

Step 2: Modifing the Skull Character

We found a sound activated skull that was perfect for the first figure. The existing mechanism was gutted, and replaced with a two servos. I had a couple of ball & socket joints that were perfect for the connections.

Step 3: Making the Talking Pumpkin Character

The talking pumpkin started off with a styrofoam pumpkin from a craft store.
Cut the pumpkin in half, with a zigzag in the front for the teeth.
Use a straight cut in the back so that there's no interference when the top moves.
Hollow out space for the servo & bracket.
The top is fastened to the servo horn with a piece of aluminum bent into an L shape.
Paint any visible cut surfaces of the styrofoam with a water-based paint (that won't eat away the foam)

Step 4: Creating the audio

Audacity is a open source software for recording and editing sounds.
If you're going to have more than one character talking, or add sound effects, make sure to keep the voice tracks separate -- more on this later.
In this case, we've got two voice tracks (skull & pumpkin). Export each voice track as it's own wav file, and a third file containing both tracks.
syjldz3 months ago
bgibbes1 year ago
excellent job !!!!!
zapan5 years ago
Very nice animatronic, do you think it is possible to hack a portative voice modifier to create a jaw moving big talking mask ? I have a project to make a furry mask with your method, but I don't know how to transmit the input of the voice modifier to the servos.
mdgnys zapan4 years ago
Check this out it takes sound input and puts it into servo movements!http://www.scary-terry.com/audioservo/audioservo.htm
mdgnys4 years ago
Here is a much better software (free) that works great! http://www.robokits.co.in/downloads/USB16Servo.exe
mdgnys5 years ago
The Parallax USB Servo Controller was discontinued and is out of stock. would the serial one work? also im trying to do this "on the cheap" so is there another free or cheaper software I could use? Thank you!
mik3 (author)  mdgnys5 years ago
There a reference to other controllers at the BrookShire site:
http://www.brookshiresoftware.com/rd_how_sscs_work.htm
They mention the serial controller will work, but may need additional circuitry...

If you only want to control one or two servos, you might be able to use an http://www.arduino.cc/en/Reference/Servo, but you'll have to roll your own control software.

Sorry I haven't tried any other software (yet!), but I'd be interested if you come across any.
Good luck, and let me know how things go!
rickyd!5 years ago
JUST AWESOME! +1
mg0930mg5 years ago
stevie15 years ago
bwahaha, mask of dane cook+animatronic parts= tons of laughs!!!!!

hahahahahahahahaha
dameron5 years ago
Does anybody know where to find that skull??
mik3 (author)  dameron5 years ago
Bought it at a local Home Depot before Halloween last year. Looking back, I wish I had picked up several!
gibbon6 years ago
This is great! I love the step about syncing the sound and motion.
mik3 (author)  gibbon6 years ago
Thanks! That's one of the most fun steps, 'cause that's where thing's really start to come alive.
Greetings from The Animatronics Workshop ! You have a very cool display. I'm so glad we could help inspire you. As you know, we're just some parents trying to make a difference in our schools, and we think animatronics is a great alternative to the traditional robotics programs. So now that you know how easy this was to do, go tell your local schools that they should look into it...

--- paul

P.S. One extra tip: you can make the mouth movements look even better by playing with the dialog tracks. The problem is that lower volume areas hardly cause any motion. Just normalize these up in Audacity before running WaveMotion Analysis. Remember to keep an unaltered version for your combined track that you actually listen to...
mik3 (author)  AnimatronicsWorkshop6 years ago
Thanks! We all had a lot of fun and are already looking forward to our next animatronic creation.

There's definitely some problem areas where there was little or no mouth movement. That's a great tip for improving the dialog movements -- it didn't occur to me to do more pre-processing in Audacity.

And again, thanks for all the work you guys put into The Animatronics Workshop!
Darkshot6 years ago
very cool...:)
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