Mechanic

Spot is now ready to face the footlights. Our creature looks really good, but he can't move much. Time for the mechanics to work their magic: creating a musculature for Spot, something to hang the nice, finished skin on. Most times, the mechanics focus on the face and head because this is where the most movement and expression take place. They might put controls in the limbs (and tail, if Spot has one) so outside operators can move them, but these controls are relatively simple—back and forth, up and down—compared to creating complex facial expressions with wires and cables.

As a mechanic, you'll take a rough cast of the latex skin and build a fiberglass skull based on its dimensions. You have to take things such as eye sockets and lips into account. When you're done with Spot, it not only has to be able to do all the things required by the script, such as smile viciously or frown scornfully, but also display a host of other expressions the director might call for. During the filming of the 1988 remake of the horror film The Blob, the director asked that the Blob (whom the effects crew called Irving) look down the street "menacingly." For something that had no face and nothing to distinguish front from back, this was no easy task. But the effects crew members did their best to make it happen. Using only their hands underneath slime-covered silk, the "blob-ateers" would make harsh, jerky movements to convey anger and menace.

The mechanic is the effects industry's tinkerer, the one who wants to know how all the different gadgets and doodads work. In addition to being able to machine needed parts, the mechanic should know how to put them together. He or she needs to be able to analyze things like the differences between using hydraulics or compressed air. A good mechanic is able to take the creature designs and create from them a mechanical schematic that includes all of the hardware and connectors needed.

If Spot is going to be run by computers and electronics as well as manual operation, the mechanic also needs to work with the electronic effects people to make sure everything is compatible.

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