Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

A event log for Movie Prop Electronics Hack Chat

Movie Magic with Ben Eadie

dan-maloneyDan Maloney 04/20/2022 at 20:100 Comments

Dan Maloney11:56 AM
Hello, welcome aboard! We'll get started in a minute

Ben joined  the room.11:57 AM

Ben11:57 AM
Hello! Great to see you all here.

Dan Maloney11:58 AM
Hi Ben, welcome to the Hack Chat! Another couple of minutes and we'll kick off

Boian Mitov11:58 AM
Hello @Ben :-)

Ben12:00 PM
First and foremost I am a high collared cape and monocle away from mad scientist... I do not speach tipe spel or gramer well :)

Dan Maloney12:00 PM
Hello all, let's get started. Welcome to the Hack Chat, I'm Dan, I'll be modding today along with Dusan as we welcome Ben Eadie to talk about Movie Prop Electronics.

Hi Ben, thanks for coming on today. Can you start things off with a little about your path to entertainment industry?

Dusan Petrovic12:01 PM
Hello and welcome everyone!

Ben12:01 PM

Dan Maloney12:01 PM
Sorry, slower typist -- missed that

Nicolas Tremblay joined  the room.12:01 PM

Ben12:02 PM
I had been working as a freelance aerounatical engineer for nearly 20 years and monkeying around as a mechatronics kinda guy at a local maker space. One of the members was working on a movie here in town...

Ben12:03 PM
She introduced me to her boss in speical effects and said he needed some help with a big show. Next thign you know I am woking on StarTrek Beyond

Ben12:04 PM
it was really surreal to be honest. Ended up desinging and help fabricate two of the largest rotating sets in movie hisotry on that one. Apparently I did ok cause ever since then I have been getting calls to help on some other shows

Dan Maloney12:04 PM
I guess it's an industry where formal education matters less than being able to do the job, right?

Ben12:04 PM


Ben12:04 PM
That is the first rotating set at the time stamp

Ben12:05 PM
Totally my formal education is by far secondary to what I actually do. 12 year old me messing around making things was the training i really needed.

Dan Maloney12:06 PM
You know, and not killing anyone helps, I suppose. Which that rig totally looks like it could do

Ben12:06 PM
and no I am not joking i truly believe that the curious ADHD kid was all the training I needed

Ben12:07 PM
OH DUDE! I end up nearly vomiting with worry on some of the stuff I make. I have made good friends with stunt guys and I am constatly launching them in the air in very dangerous things. But that is part of being a team

Ben12:08 PM
I am not a island everything i do is because i am surrounded buy a talented and awesome team

Ben12:08 PM
not one thing I do can be done by just me. I am lucky to surround myself with people way smarter than me and they help me out

Ben12:10 PM
Hack a day has been instrumental in me figuring out how to do some of the stuff I need to do. Between this website, youtube, and maker spaces I dont think I could accomplish half of what I have done

Nicolas Tremblay12:11 PM
on what other movie/show did you work on?

Dan Maloney12:12 PM
It's good to hear stuff like that. Makes it worth it to troll the interwebz looking for the cool stuff when you know it helps people get stuff done.

Ben12:12 PM
I also come here just to see what others are accomplishing. Like today the crayon line following robot! Crazy easy brilliant mechanical solution to a line follower.

Ben12:13 PM
Nicolas. I have done StarTrek, MazeRunner, DeathNote, Predator... here is my imdb. I also do some freelance work

lc211895112:13 PM
does anyone know how to clone debit cards or somethin ?

Dan Maloney12:14 PM
Wrong kind of hacking, we don't do that here

Ben12:14 PM
Freelance work recently made me do the Wilson robot gag for Tom Hanks

Ben12:14 PM


Dan Maloney12:15 PM
How long did they give you to work that up?

lc2118951 left  the room.12:15 PM

Ben12:16 PM
It was the dream job and he gave me 4 months or so to do it. That is rarely the case normally I would be given a month for something like that. So we had plenty of time to really do it up right

Nicolas Tremblay12:16 PM
Thanks, that's why I remember your face, Tested videos with Adam Savage for Ghostbuster

Ben12:17 PM
Hey Nicolas! Ive seen you around on comments and such.

Ben12:17 PM
Yes I am the guy that was in charge of the Proton Packs, Traps, RTV and all the other nerdy GB gear. TRULY IT WAS A DREAM COME TRUE FOR ME

Dan Maloney12:17 PM
Radio control for Wilson, I presume? Next stop -- autonomous Wilson, self-driving Level 5

Tom Nardi12:18 PM
@Ben Sounds like my dream come true as well.

Ben12:18 PM
I am actually working on one that will hit GPS way points and self driving so ya kinda.... LOL

RichardCollins12:18 PM
Has anyone made a 3D movie yet, where the viewer can pause anywhere and look around, or look around during the action? Or move to nearby places? I see more and more 360 videos on YouTube but they are static recordings. So you can be driving down the road and look out the windows, zoom on things, stop the car. We seem to have the same movie paradigm from when I was a kid long ago. I watch some action movies at 1/4 speed and see the photographers and actors are wasted, since most of the detail gets cut, or only shown for a few frames, too fast for any practical use.

Ben12:19 PM
He was programed by the guy that made the Sphero. So it was pretty damn whizzy. While driving if you hit a switch he would roll to face up every time. super cool trick

Ben12:20 PM

Ben12:20 PM
@RichardCollins Not that I know of but I like the idea

Ben12:20 PM
It would be a MONSTER of a thing to do easily 4x as much work but man I love the idea

Tom Dowad12:21 PM
Do you mostly do mechatronics?

Tom Nardi12:22 PM
@Ben The "Maker Mondays" thing on the GB YouTube channel is such a cool idea. Like part of me realizes it's an advertisement, but it's also the kind of advertisement I can get behind. Would love to see that kind of engagement become more common.

Ben12:22 PM
@Tom Dowad Yes that is what I am getting known for but I alway try and find a mechanical solution before I hit the electronics

Dan Maloney12:22 PM
Practical question: when using LEDs in props, do you have to be mindful of camera shutter speed issues? Like I'm guessing a PWM-dimmed LED might not sync with the frame rate of the cameras?

RichardCollins12:23 PM
I track all technologies on the Internet and for the last few years study YouTube closely. A lot of technologies and ideas show up there, but don't get adopted or worked on because the people are newbies, or not good documenters and communicators. But those Google Maps surface map cameras are being used in lots of places. Some on purpose 3D animated movies where they give you the full 3D environment of the movie frames and let you follow a paricular programmed camera, but now let you control where to be and where to look, the magnification.

Ben12:23 PM
@Tom Nardi and I would love to do more of that content! You need to let Sony and them know that via comments and likes as well as views to get them to hire me again for stuff like this.

Dan Maloney12:24 PM


Dan Maloney12:25 PM
TIL there's a Ghostbusters YT channel

Ben12:25 PM
@Dan Maloney Absolutely you need to be aware of camera speeds for flicker with LED's that is why I use APA102. They have clock pins and that way I can change the freq if there is flicker and get probem solved fast. Using system was the key for me

Ben12:25 PM
Honestly i am not a coder I hire others to help or bash away myself vbut after i got into the Bekonix stuff I really do not need much help it has a killer GUI

Ben12:27 PM
@RichardCollins Seriously cool stuff

Tom Nardi12:27 PM
I actually have one of the Hasbro PKE meters that I was thinking of trying to turn into a more accurate prop, so that video in particular was great.

Ben12:28 PM
Here is a link to get the bekonix

Dan Maloney12:28 PM
Interesting. I seem to recall hearing that movie soundstages used to have enormous DC power supplies for the lights, so that there wouldn't be any flickering on the film. Not sure if that's true, but if so, I'd love to see how they switched huge DC loads without arc problems

Ben12:28 PM
@Tom Nardi That was such a fun build.

Ben12:29 PM
@Dan Maloney Lighting does have a DC power supply. But enourmous can be in the eye of the beholder. Yes they are big but in the end nothing super special

Tom Nardi12:31 PM
I used the blue Hasbro afterlife pack as a basis to make a custom pack for my daughter, and planned on doing the PKE as well. In the end only had time to finish the pack, but next year she'll have both for sure.

Ben12:31 PM
They generally run AC and convert to DC at the source. They also keep things (for the most part) below 48v so it safer-ish. Regardelss there are specific people to deal with electrical and no one but them does it for the very reason you bring up. Its dangerus

Ben12:32 PM
Special effects is the ony exception as we can do things much differently. I run 72v systems for motor speed sometiems for example

Ben12:34 PM
I have been moving everythign I do to BDLC for the control you get and when doing bigger things 72v seems to be the sweet spot for power and speed

Tom Dowad12:34 PM
I'm wondering what modules you use the most when building props.

Tom Dowad12:35 PM
And do you ever use control protocols like DMX or MIDI

Ben12:35 PM
@Tom Dowad for motor controllers? Micro Controllers? RC stuff?

Tom Dowad12:35 PM
The kind of modules you buy on Sparkfun and Adafruit. Do you find yourself goign back to the same parts for various props?

Tom Dowad12:36 PM
Or do those things not apply and you use industrial grade

Ben12:36 PM
I have started working with DMX on my systems and always have a way for lighing boards to tie into things I build that makes the timing of things going on at the right time seamless. GhostBusters was done that way

Ben12:37 PM
@Tom Dowad Totally use adafruit boards. The NRF Feathers are my go to. They do work in movies quite well. I find the old school guys grumble and hack at me but in the end I get the job done and done faster so they can say all they want

Tom Dowad12:37 PM

RichardCollins12:38 PM
No familiar with lighting boards. They are all computerized now (software driven) with modular controllers? You just add your stuff as a different device?

Ben12:39 PM
Industrial grade and consumer grade are very blurry lines lately Honestly as soon as someone starts talking to me like that I realize that they are blind to the leaps ahead that are being made and are just trying to sound like they know what they are talking about more than actually knowing. Both in the aeospace industry and moveis

Dan Maloney12:39 PM
What's the RF environment like on set? I'd imagine between wireless mics, all the switching supplies, and just everyone's cell phones, it could be a real challenge getting signals through

Vincent12:40 PM
Movie productions are known to require a good level of efficacy (with the number of people involved on live sets). I guess your ideal goal is to have nothing to fix on set, but like with the choice of the APA. Are there other tricks you'd use to be well prepared, or any anecdotal brilliant quickfixes you'll be willing to share?

Ben12:41 PM
@RichardCollins Ya you add my devices as a new line and then you can feed it signals from 0-256 If you get into it you can then pulse each of hose 0-256 and literally have 256 channels of controll. But your sound guy has to be ultra keen to get it

Ben12:43 PM
@Dan Maloney That is a great question and yes it can be a bit of a pain but in the end I try and use frequency hopping which is 50% of the battle and then find out a few things like where the sound is in relation to the mics, draw a line between them, then from camera to the focus pullers. As long as my signal does not cross those lines. Im am golden

Ben12:44 PM
@Dan Maloney also I ALWAYS have a wired connection when possible. every time as that is the way to go if its availible to you

charliex12:45 PM
i love how many people have gotten into sfx/vfx from hacker spaces! it's great

Ben12:46 PM
@Vincent Man that is so on point. I spend at least 50% of my time not building, but testing and figuring out every whay possible how things can go wrong and how to solve them FAST. that is my secret weapon. Years of breaking toys and stuff and then having to fix it before my parents found out I broke it is a superpower on set

Nicolas Tremblay12:47 PM
MY kids are giving plenty of training then

RichardCollins12:47 PM
@Ben Thanks, I thought so, but nice to hear from someone who is actually doing it. The models and movies I want to make are not possible yet. At least there are some changes and improvements. I reviewed the gaming groups online recently. When tens of millions of players are working on the same online universe at one time, that is close to the problems I work on. When a billion people watch the same Chinese video series. When a hundred million people are using certain features of online stores. That sort of thing. Most technologies work OK for one or two of something, even a few million. "superpower" - solving problems before they become problems is the best. They are lucky to have you.

Ben12:47 PM
@Vincent really its a situation where if you have ever been compared to MacGyver then you have the skills. But really every situation is unique so being a jack of all trades master of none is best

Ben12:48 PM
@Nicolas Tremblay LOVE to hear that.

Vincent12:49 PM
Hahaha! What? We had to reassemble them? That's the point I missed! 😆

Dan Maloney12:50 PM
I was more like Sid in "Toy Story" -- making monsters by sticking parts of multiple toys together

Ben12:51 PM
@Dan Maloney me too! Stuff I did scared the hell out of other kids and parents.

Bill Smith12:53 PM
Do you do auditory effects or are things mostly visual?

Ben12:54 PM
Everyone if you build stuff take this to heart "one is none" build at least two, I shoot for 4 of what ever I am doing. The first one is the one that you learn the bones of the thing from, and you beat it up relentlesly to find the problems, The last two are the ones you use and the first two are parts platforms :)

RichardCollins12:55 PM
I have to leave a bit early, Thank you, very informative. Now if they could just scan your brain and put it directly into the effects to guide them in real time. Millions of them, not just a few. Thanks.

Ben12:55 PM
Never done audio. That is always re-mixed. In fact trying to keep all my stuff quiet can be a huge pain. Audio guys hate me....

charliex12:56 PM
audio guys seem to hate everyone

Nicolas Tremblay12:56 PM
add a mic on top and tell them to cancel it out?

Tom Nardi12:56 PM
What's that saying? "One is none, and two is one" Always have backups

Ben12:56 PM
@Nicolas Tremblay yes we do that for sure

Dan Maloney12:58 PM
Left field question: what's your favorite movie prop of all time? Doesn't have to be one you built.

Ben12:58 PM
Honestly one audio guy I work with is a great friend. If you are on set and you know you will be making a persons life hard. Go say hi, appoloize and then figure out how you can make each others life easier. In the end like predicting how things will break down, this applies to the psycology of things on set too. If you are nice it will work well for you. ITs a team effort. So play as a team

Ben12:59 PM
Favorite movie prop? damn.... SO many.... Honestly I am not a horror fan but Ash's chainsaw hand is the best....

charliex1:00 PM
yeah, its stressful so its nice to work with other people who get it, like if you're setting up complex rigs and slowing down production or need a lot of testing everyones on you. so its nice to have people that understand the stress , it sucks for audio guys since pretty much everything makes noise,. its bad if you have to do a lot of in place setup and testing before shooting too,, so yeah be nice

Dan Maloney1:01 PM
For me it might be the Nostromo scuttling controls in Alien. So complex, so much texture.