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damien666
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canada
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Hey fellow Vents,
I am thinking of expanding my puppet business. I am a Special Effects artist for the Film and Television Industry by trade and use a lot of those technologies for my puppet building. Thus far, the puppets I have made have mainly been for TV. I would like to look at the possibility of expanding my business to do more for supplying top quality custom built puppets to performers... HEnce, I would appreciate your feedback:
1. What, in your opinion, are the most important qualities you would want in your 'dream puppet'?
2. DO you think 'cool factor' is important in a modern vent puppet? (animatronic movement, extra effects, etc)
3. Would you rather have a cheap puppet or a good puppet (if both weren't an option)?
4. What kind of characters do you think would be neat to have available to you as 'stock characters'? I realize that there are puppet builders out there with a lot of stock designs - but is there any type of charater that you haven't seen around that you think would be nice to have available?
5. I haven't even begun to figure out pricing on these yet - but what is the most you would be willing to spend on a custom built puppet (I realize that is a loaded question - but I am curious to hear different performers opinions on this)

Hey all - Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions and I look forward to hearing the replies!
Damien
Professor Piper
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Somewhere, out there...
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Hey Damien...

Quote:
1. What, in your opinion, are the most important qualities you would want in your 'dream puppet'?


Ease of use...That is my main gripe about puppets/vent figures...I've been a Vent. for almost all of my life (27 years) and I have had a LOT of great looking figures that were a pain in the *** to operate.

There needs to be plenty of hand room...be light weight...And some type of ventilation or air flow (I can't tell you how annoying it is to take a puppet off of your arm after an hour or more of walk-around work and your arm is stinky and wrinkled up from the heat and dehydration.


Quote:
2. DO you think 'cool factor' is important in a modern vent puppet? (animatronic movement, extra effects, etc)


While it IS true that puppets with minimal animations (as little as only a moving mouth) can convey the MOST character and 'liveliness', some animations and effects are REAL crowd pleasers...Eye movement (obviously) is a hot one...But having more than just the side-to-side available (and NOT cost a fortune) would be nice...Anytime you want crossing eyes, or eyes that can 'roll', you'd better be ready to pay for it. It would also be nice to have animations that REALLY convey life...Like a wrinkling brow, or 'crow's feet' around the eyes when the figure smiles.

Quote:
3. Would you rather have a cheap puppet or a good puppet (if both weren't an option)?


Hard question to answer...I'd LOVE a good puppet that was also affordable...I've been in this business too long to hope for this though. I DO have a couple of really GREAT figures that didn't cost me an arm and a leg, but they are limited on the 'coolness' factor...(No animation other than mouth)

Quote:
4. What kind of characters do you think would be neat to have available to you as 'stock characters'? I realize that there are puppet builders out there with a lot of stock designs - but is there any type of charater that you haven't seen around that you think would be nice to have available?


You have to have a Boy/Girl (standard sidekick)...Grand Ma/Pa...The 'Mortimer' or goofy character...

After that? I'd love to see a 'stock' monster character, stock animal(s), and maybe a stock 'fantasy' entry.


Quote:
5. I haven't even begun to figure out pricing on these yet - but what is the most you would be willing to spend on a custom built puppet (I realize that is a loaded question - but I am curious to hear different performers opinions on this)


Pricing is the touchiest of subjects....You can get a great 'loaded' hard figure from Maher studios for a little over a Grand....Selberg custom figure? They START at around $5K and they are worth every penny (Tim is a friend of mine)...

When you start talking custom, it's VERY hard to give a ballpark...Robert McRay's "Big Head" figures are awesome, absolutely incredible...But they will cost you anywhere from 3K to 10K....

It's all relative to the quality, mechanics, reliablity, and service the builder gives his/her customers....These things, when done right, will aleviate the 'hit' a performer takes when adding a new figure to the cast.

I'd love to see representations of your work Damian...I have a pretty cool project in mind and am looking (tentatively) for a builder to bring him to life.

Perhaps my insight here has aided you enough for reduced rate?? LOL

Kidding. (Sorta)

Prof. Piper
:juggle:
"Nemo has been found! He was on an Admiral's Platter at Red Lobster!"
Lou Hilario
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I would like to have animatronics in my puppet so I could leave him in his stand sitting alone and suddenly he would move his eyes left and right, move his neck and suddenly talk to the audience by himself without me. It would be great if the controls were similar to the Axtell Magic Drawing Board. That would be a great service if you could do that.
Magic, Illusions, Juggling, Puppet & Parrot Show ^0^
http://www.louhilario.net
damien666
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canada
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Thank you for your replies! I appreciate the feedback. Right now, my FX work for film is keeping me very busy, but I will be looking more into starting this business when that starts to slow down. By the sounds of it, the thing you are looking for is a reliable, light weight, good quality yet affordable pricing. I also see that there may be a need for services like doing custom work for certain existing aspects of their shows (adding animatronics to an existing puppet, etc)
Thanks again guys!
Damien
sluggo
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Mike B.
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It would be interesting to see the 'mark up' on the figures from the makers. It gets pretty ridiculous when you look at prices on many of the vent pieces.
I realize there's cost of materials and the 'time' factor involved, but some can't be what they are asking for with these figures.
Dad, magic, ventriloquism, facepainter & balloons.
A weakness for coffee (caffeine)
damien666
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canada
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THe rule for retail is usually at least 5 - 10 times the cost of materials and labor; sometimes much higher (like businesses that use sweat shops). Building puppets is a specialized field - so that is why many builders charge so much. Also, it depends on the specific builders set-up. Do they have a warehouse and full time staff. Their are all sorts of overheads. My eventual goal is to be a very small 1 man operation that offers quality puppets made of quality materials. I would also be curious as to what different performers consider expensive...
Professor Piper
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I paid $2700 for a Selberg "Living Puppet" (Not wood, but a cast of 'Lik-Wood' from an orginal carved head Mold by Tim....

My figure had: Side to Side, Self-Centering Eyes; Closing Eyelids (Two Controls); Raising and Lowering Eyelids; and the Crying effect...

Included in that price is also one of his ATA Cases.

I felt like I got every penny's worth from Tim and his creation.

It's a subjective thing, pricing....Also next to impossible to give an accurate opinion without speicifics...Mulitple animations take room and time to install...and are difficult. Style of puppet, materials, control device, etc.

With more details I could give a better opinion, but with a nicely loaded quality figure I would say anything less than $3k is a good deal.

Prof. Piper
:juggle: Smile
"Nemo has been found! He was on an Admiral's Platter at Red Lobster!"
Mike Ching
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Honolulu, Hawaii
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Some Thoughts;

I did VENT as a kid and later took classes from KERMIT LOVE of Jim hensons staff. I suspect these particular animations (if made affordable) could instantly add to the lifelike factor of many figures:

1. RANDOM BLINKING
The average human blinks, I hear about 16 times per minute. Animals also do this to coat the eyes with fluid. It screams "Naturalness". I suspect most future figures will have this extra on batteries as a
"given" in the next generation. This would run automatically with some other control to hyper-raise the lids (SUPRISE), or RAPID-BLINK (For DISBELIEF).

2. ACTUAL BROW RAISING
Not just eyebrows, but Brow RIDGES which convey a lot by themselves.

3. NATURAL EYE-FOLLOW
I think HENSON people have employed this for about 15 years now, a motion sensor in one eye with a motivator that allows for realistic 2-eye following of a nearby moving object or character. The eye would rever to center when the object moved out of field of "vision". (I Believe This was created specifically so characters would seem to be relating to each other on the TV series "DINOSAURS".)

Just my 2cts. Very interested in seeing what you come up with.

-Mike
Mike Ching
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Honolulu, Hawaii
192 Posts

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Hey just curious prof Piper, any relation to Leonard Piper of Piper productions?
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