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Epilogue: You Need a Console? I Make You A Console

Posted in Projects by unboundpage on May 3, 2012

Firefly: The Musical ran its inevitable course – it got shut down prematurely by Fox.

So the theater finished out the second month with the Joss Whedon Pajama Party, a variety show with sketch, musical, and improv acts inspired by the work of Mr. Whedon, as well as a collection of videos that were written and shot usually in a week or less.

One video series featured Firefly’s Wash playing with his toy dinosaurs at the bridge console when he should have been flying the ship. Simple enough, right? We had the actor from the musical, toy dinosaurs aren’t hard to come by, we just need a stationary camera and… oh yeah, the console.

Mind you, this is the week that I was getting minor surgery done on my face. I should have volunteered for lying in bed and being useless. But no.

“Yeah, I can make a console.”

Surgeries were Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, the shoot was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Monday evening was my only available work time.

Step 1: Raid the Craft Cabinet
Available materials:
poster board (assorted sizes and colors)
faded black construction paper
chalk pastels
oil pastels
air-drying clay
assorted wooden doo-dads
ribbons
felt
yarn
fabric
acrylic paints
fabric paints
water colors
one tiny can of metallic spray paint
foam sheets
pipe cleaners
assorted scraps
odds
ends
hot glue
wood glue
tacky glue
Modge Podge
white glue
spray fixative
three rolls of packing tape

Wait. That is a ridiculous collection of materials. Pare that down.

Useful Available materials:
poster board (assorted sizes and colors)
faded black construction paper
chalk pastels
oil pastels
air-drying clay
assorted wooden doo-dads
ribbons
felt
yarn
fabric
acrylic paints
fabric paints
water colors
one tiny can of metallic spray paint
foam sheets
pipe cleaners
assorted scraps
odds
ends
hot glue
wood glue
tacky glue
Modge Podge
white glue
spray fixative
three rolls of packing tape

In the interest of time, I opted for drawn-on buttons, knobs and screens, rather than some complicated collection of bits and pieces that would take too long to construct, and would be very likely to fall off in transit.

Step 2: Find Reference Photos
Folks, I challenge you to find photos with a clear view of Serenity’s bridge from the tv series. No really – Google it. More than half of the images returned are from the film, which used a much more complicated and rounded set – not ideal for a reproduction that is clearly going to be made from poster board base.

How about a shot from the show itself? Every time you see the console, there is someone between it and the camera.

Finally, finally, I collected a few decent images.

Step 3: Get Over Any Expectations of Making an Accurate Replica
Seriously. The set designers had a budget, better materials and probably a couple of weeks. A high-quality replica is not going to come out of a pile of paper products and some spray paint in 6 hours or less.

Step 4: Construct the Base
The console is basically broken into three parts, each at a different angle. Using the poster board and a truly stupid quantity of packing tape, I built fairly close approximations, then painted them with a combination of spray and acrylic paints, in shades of metallic bronze and brown.

Step 5: Make the Doo-Dads
I made the lights, switches, buttons, and screens using chalk pastels on black construction paper, then liberally applied fixatif to keep it all from rubbing off on Wash’s hands while he played with his toy dinosaurs.

The final product was not at all glamorous, and bore only a passing resemblance to the real thing, but given that the video showed only a small portion, and that wasn’t the focus anyway, it served its purpose.

Sketch – Wash has too much time on his hands, Part 1 from Peter Rogers on Vimeo.

Sketch – Wash has too much time on his hands, Part 2 from Peter Rogers on Vimeo.

Sketch – Wash has too much time on his hands, Part 3 from Peter Rogers on Vimeo.

As an added bonus, I was able to just slice through the tape along the edges and store it flat, just in case the need arises again.

—————————————–

Oh, and that “seamstress for the band” bit?

After the first Firefly show, the cast and crew hung out and sang karaoke for a few hours, and toward the end of the evening, they sang Tiny Dancer to me.

Blue jean baby
L.A. lady
…seamstress for the band

🙂

Quick and Dirty Saffron Shawl, or How I Became Seamstress for the Band (part 3)

Posted in Projects by unboundpage on May 2, 2012

One final costume project from Firefly: The Musical

Saffron, one of the lead characters, was supposed to have a lovely red shawl, something that looked like it was hand-knit either by herself or one of her “sisteren” in the backwater maiden house from which she came.

Our Saffron had a really lovely, not-at-all-handcrafted crimson wrap.

It didn’t kill the backwater farm peasant costume, but it didn’t really help. The shawl is also one of those memorable costume pieces that a lot of fans would just expect to see. So in my last act as impromptu costume mistress, I took on the task of making a proper shawl.

Now, the shawl from the original show is pretty clearly knit, and it’s a fairly intricate lace pattern, making an accurate replica well out of my reach because (a) I never learned to knit lace, and (b) I didn’t have the time to learn just then. So I took the most obvious course of action: I faked it.

Using Caron’s Simply Soft in Garnet, and a size N hook, I crocheted a pretty slick shawl.

The pattern is pretty simple:
Ch 3
DC 4 in first ch
Then repeat this pattern for as long as you can stand:
Three rows of spaced Treble Crochet:
Ch 4, TC 1 in last st of previous row, skip 1 ch 1 to the middle stitch of the previous row, TC 1 ch 1 TC 1 ch 1 TC 1 in middle stitch, skip 1 ch 1 to the last stitch of previous row, TC 2
One row of solid Double Crochet:
Ch 3, DC 1 in last st of previous row, DC 1 in each st to the middle stitch of the previous row, DC 5 in the middle stitch, DC 1 in each st to the last stitch of the previous row, DC 2
End with a spaced Treble row.
Add fringe to your heart’s content.

I completed the shawl in time for the third show, and our Saffron gleefully tied it over her shoulders, and fiddled with the long fringe when she got nervous on stage, and enjoyed having her arms free for the action scenes.

(For more adventurous knitters, this is far and away the best-looking pattern I was able to find before giving up my search.)

Shepherd Greys, or How I Became Seamstress for the Band (part 2)

Posted in Projects by unboundpage on May 1, 2012

Back on set with Firefly: The Musical.

While I was pondering the bonnet, I discovered that another other costume was incomplete.

Shepherd Book, the ship’s resident preacher-man, had a very distinctive grey shirt on the original show. It looked like a standard dress shirt, but with a plain strip of cloth where the buttons should be, and a flat collar that evokes the typical look of modern-day clergy, with a stiff white liner peeking out the top all the way around the neck, instead of showing an inch or two in the middle of the throat. (This may, in fact, be a style some real-world priests wear, but I haven’t seen it.)

Our Shepherd was wearing a lovely grey dress shirt backwards.

This worked for the photo shoot, but the moment the rehearsal started, I spotted a problem. He had more than one scene where he spent a majority of the time with his back at least partially to the audience – buttons, backward collar and all. He looked ridiculous.

I stole his shirt at the end of the rehearsal and promised to have something better by the final run-through on Sunday.

I miraculously found a cheap grey that was a perfect match for the Shepherd’s shirt. I cut two strips about 4 inches by 2 feet, folded them long-ways, and stitched together the edges and one end. I turned them inside-out, pressed both along the seams and fold, and then started pinning.

With the shirt’s original collar tucked safely inside-out (outside-in?), I stuffed the stitched end of one of the strips into the top of the shirt, then safety-pinned it down the side of the placket so that the button holes were still accessible. The second strip was pinned around the collar so that the stitched-up end could overlap about four inches on one side, and the unfinished end was again unceremoniously stuffed into the top of the shirt.

The final product looked a royal mess on the hanger, with loose ends hanging out and safety pins everywhere, but our Shepherd could get the shirt on and off with minimal fuss, and with the shirt tucked in and the collar fully pinned up, it looked remarkably like the original.

It wouldn’t have won any fashion awards, but it looked pretty great for a $5 thrift-store-and-scraps costume. And as an added bonus, the alterations could all be easily undone, leaving the actor with a nice, normal grey dress shirt.