SCARE for a CURE Blog

Monday, August 31, 2009

SCARE FX panel proposed for SXSW 2010

Ever wanted to learn more about special effects? SCARE for a CURE volunteer Anna Hanks has submitted an exciting SCARE-based panel entitled "Making Cheap and Ghoulish Horror/Vampire FX" for South by Southwest 2010 next March. The panel, led by SCARE's Edwin Wise and Robin McShaffry, will discuss ways to make high quality horror effects without a Hollywood budget.

We need your help to get this panel on the program, so please log in and vote for the panel by this Friday. It only takes two minutes to create an account so you can vote. Once you've signed up for a free account, click on the thumbs-up for this panel to register your vote. The thumbs-up icon will turn green and you're all done.

FX Update in Progress

Lots going on, lots left to do!

The vacuum former is stalled; currently needs wiring work for the electrical aspect, as well as supporting bars and/or a heat-containing lid. Also frames for holding plastic, which may be as simple as 2x2 squares in different dimensions.

The blood pump is also stalled, but ready to be mounted and powered. I have pneumatic gear, but am probably lacking limit switches to control it.

Phil and Yvonne continue to perfect their teeth work, progressing through the grinding and finishing stages, and improving their skills at molding and casting.

Robin went out to the Corner Shoppe and found a very nice, old, crufty pair of horns that I'll be modifying to fit onto Elmo. That will save me a lot of sculpt work!

I've been continuing on the Demon sculpt, Nathan's Elmo, and it's almost ready for mold-making! I'll be making the mold for it this coming weekend, ready or not. When I make this mold, I'll probably mold other random things, too.

I'll also be making a plaster (or plastic!) positive of my lifecast mold this coming week or weekend, so I can start the backup demon sculpt.

I set Phil and Debra to work preparing the rings of the vortex tunnel -- nearly a hundred holes drilled and eye-bolts prepped and inserted. Next up: welding the eyebolts into place and making the wire cable assemblies.

We also talked a bit about some radical vortex bridge designs that I need to do some design follow-up on this week.

Jean did some follow-up work on the burner, and it's beautiful! Next up, she may attack the andirons for the fireplace if I don't side-track her into making the cage circles for the vortex tunnel/bridge.

Maria, an talented and cheerful new volunteer, has been to the lab twice now (once with her sister and friend) and is sculpting skulls to be molded and formed as decorations for the fireplace, bookshelves, and other such furniture.

Speaking of the fireplace, Joe is going to (soon, I hope) fire up his nifty CNC wood router and make some decorative pieces for the face of that. Exciting!

The onsite crew also did a bunch of hefting and shifting this previous weekend, with more to come next weekend -- moving the Creepshow materials to the lodge! Things are going full-speed ahead now, with both onsite and offset crews active.

Friday, August 28, 2009

SCARE for a CURE Wants You to READ!

Don't forget that tomorrow is a special shopping day at Book People that benefits SCARE for a CURE. As mentioned in last week's post, all you need to do is download this flyer and take it with you when you shop!

Stop by and enjoy the group reading/book signing from 3 to 5 pm, featuring author and SCARE for a CURE sponsor Gabrielle Faust along with authors Patrice Sarath, author of Gordath Wood, and Les McGehee, author of Plays Well With Others. They will each read from their current work and will be available afterward to sign copies purchased.

If you forget your flyer and happen to make it by, no worries! Just let the cashier know that you forgot your SCARE for a CURE flyer, and they should have extras. My printer doesn't work, so I'm glad that this option is available.

Special thanks to David Neff of Haunted Report, who featured our special event in this entry. David is not only the founder of Haunted Report and involved with Mansion of Terror, but he is also a champion for non-profit and grassroots causes. Be sure to tell him thanks - you can find him via his Twitter account.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Updateness though a bit Lateness

Demon Mask - photo by edwinwiseone on flickr
Elmo on Nathan, work in progress

Large Fangs - photo by edwinwiseone on flickr
Monstrous fangs, top set painted and modeled

Skulls! - photo by edwinwiseone on flickr
Skulls test

Yeah, I think my blog titles are terrible, too. We'll get over it.

Looking at the calendar it seems that a LONG TIME has passed since the last blog update, but really just a weekend and a half... and the two weeks in between.

Okay, a long time.

Last weekend, I don't even remember exactly what happened, but a new FX volunteer, Matt, came out and did diligent work on the vacuum former's oven—drilled a zillion holes in a very difficult material, and tested out a couple different configurations of heater coil with me. Initial testing gave us way too high a resistance, so we went with a bunch of shorter coils in parallel—but then we found that a coil or two had lower resistances, giving us uneven heating. A good set of experiments, and tedious, but that's science for you. He then went on to help with the shifting of materials for a bit before escaping the greater oven that is the Lab.

Yesterday I normalized the coil resistances, but that's about it on the oven so far.

Phil and Yvonne have continued their explorations in dentistry, and are getting better and going deeper into new territory every visit, I'm quite pleased. Brad (right? Darn these names) and Kyle also got to see the results of their previous tooth casting, and do a bit more in the sculpting department.

I've spent a couple of weekday sessions working on Nathan's Elmo, and have pics online now (link at the bottom). He'll be ready to mold and cast soon, which is good, because time is short! One catch is, the horns need to be roto-molded, and we haven't built the roto-molder yet. Also, I need to hook Crystal in and talk about costuming and the horn-hat (otherwise, it's a gimmee-cap with the bill cut off, and nobody really wants that).

Last weekend I spun up the remaining ring sections for the vortex and today I drilled and assembled these into rings for the vortex tunnel's outer layer. Last weekend Debra (not Deborah, as it turns out) helped with that some (if I recall correctly). Events kept her away today, but I suspect we'll see her tomorrow again and I'll put her to work drilling holes for the eye-bolts for the guy wires (unless she reads this and sensibly decides to hide).

Robert and Henry have been continuing in their Blood Pump work and I believe it's ready for mounting and powering now—though I need to buy another package of my ad-hoc O-Ring material to seal them. The original stuff has apparently been sequestered away by mice, or goblins, or something.

I'm hoping Jean brings the new burner to the Lab soon—she sent pictures, and the work in progress is lovely—so I can cook up some water and begin the color work for our custom blood formulation.

While I was waiting for Tall Matt to wrap up his work at the Lab today, so I could carpool him home, I threw together some concept skulls just to see if I could—I guess I can, so I'll be making a variety of skulls to decorate furniture and fireplaces. I'm thinking vacuum molding forms, so I can make a bunch of 'em cheap.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something or someone... I'll fill in on the next post if I remember!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shop for SCARE at Book People on Aug. 29

On August 29, book fans have a great opportunity to stock up on their favorite reading material and support SCARE for a CURE at the same time. For each shopper who presents a special SCARE flyer that day, BookPeople will donate a percentage of the purchase price to SCARE for a CURE.

While shopping to benefit SCARE, you might also enjoy the group reading/book signing from 3 to 5pm. It will feature author and SCARE for a CURE sponsor Gabrielle Faust along with authors Patrice Sarath, author of Gordath Wood, and Les McGehee, author of Plays Well With Others. They will each read from their current work and will be available afterward to sign copies purchased. Remember, you must present the flyer at the time of purchase to have your purchase credited to SCARE. Purchases made without the flyer will not benefit the organization.

Please support your local bookstore and SCARE for a CURE by downloading the flyer, printing it out, and using it at BookPeople on August 29. Don't forget to email the flyer to all your friends, too! BookPeople is located at 603 North Lamar, and is open from 9-11 daily.

Monday, August 17, 2009

SCARE for a CURE and Blood Center Team Up for Bat Fest

In a fitting new partnership for 2009, volunteers from SCARE for a CURE will team up with The Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas on Saturday, August 22, to help process willing "victims" during the 5th annual Bat Fest on the Congress Avenue bridge.

Bat Fest 2009 features arts and crafts by local vendors, music from over 30 bands on two stages, food, bat watching, children's activities and educational displays, all to help the bats. The event runs from 1 p.m. until midnight, and the "blood bus" will be on hand from 1-4 p.m.

The SCARE crew will put its talents to good use "scaring up" blood donors from among Bat Fest attendees and assisting donors in completing their donation paperwork. The crew will also pass out flyers and answer questions about SCARE for a CURE and its 2009 interactive haunted house, "SCARE for a CURE presents BLOOD RITUAL." Blood donors will receive a discount coupon for BLOOD RITUAL in October, and will be entered into a drawing to win free tickets to the event.

For information about BLOOD RITUAL, visit our Haunt page.

For information about Bat Fest 2009, visit

For information about The Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas, visit

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Author Gabrielle Faust joins the SCARE team

Eternal Vigilance cover
SCARE for a CURE is excited to announce that author, illustrator and entertainment critic Gabrielle S. Faust has joined forces with us as a sponsor for 2009. She is generously assisting the organization with fundraising, marketing and promotion for this year's interactive haunted house.

Best known for her acclaimed dark fantasy vampire series ETERNAL VIGILANCE, Faust is a contributing journalist for the websites SciFi Wire, Examiner and Fear Zone. A professional member of the Horror Writers Association, Faust will be appointed Chair of the Texas Chapter of the HWA at the end of 2009. She was Guest of Honor at the Anne Rice Vampire Ball in 2008, was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Vampire Film Festival in 2009, and will return this year as a Special Guest of the Tru Blood & Gold vampire ball and the Endless Night Festival in New Orleans. More information about Gabrielle S. Faust can be found on her website:

To find out how you can get involved with the fiendishly talented SCARE for a CURE team as a volunteer, donor, or sponsor, check out our Support SCARE section!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

FX Update: goblins, pumps, teeth, and tunnels

I've ramped up my SCARE efforts a notch, spending more time on weekends and more time during the week working at the Lab.

I assembled the high-power mGoblin's power supply and plugged it in... got a spark, some light smoke; very disappointing. I want either dramatic failure or a working device -- and got neither. Now I need to build it up piecewise and figure out what dumb thing I did to this perfectly good vendor circuit to make it not work.

I got parts and the new PCBs last week, so I also built up the new version of the sumGoblin (sigmaGoblin) and was able to program it, so that's good! I've got most of the code framework assembled for that, so I hope to be able to monitor the Goblin Net from it soon.

I also took the blinking code test and the communication code test and put them together into the final form for the uGoblin (microGoblin) device and I'll build up the large-chip version of that soon for testing.

A lot of code changes all at once means hard, painful testing... but oh well. I wonder if there are any software engineers in our volunteer pool? It would be great to put together a GUI for the Goblin Net, turning the ASCII updates out of the UART into pretty pictures...

I spackled and sanded on Stone Cold Nathan and then added two coats of Alcote release agent -- which I hope works as well as advertised. I used it a little bit on teeth, but without success (I did it wrong; just one coat), and I've been putting it on all the new tooth models... so we'll see how I like later.

I didn't start the Demon sculpt on Nathan yet, nor did I pull a positive from my mold, but that's okay; the Lab was too busy this weekend to really be able to settle down for the creative work of sculpting. I'll do the rough sculpt this week after work and have a first-pass kibitz session this weekend on it.

I cast all four of the tooth sets that have been waiting, and popped them from their plaster positives -- they all came off perfectly, except for Marla's, so I had to make another set of plaster teeth for her for future work.

I also made the mold and a casting on my Humongous Fangs of Doom -- pictures linked at the bottom. They need cleaning up and painting, since the gums are tooth colored and they are all ragged around the edges, but you get the idea. They turned out FAR better than I could have hoped, and I can even (mostly) talk in them. The challenge is in not drooling too much.

Phil and Yvonne did more tooth molding and I got them up to speed on the plaster techniques for making positive copies, so that's good. While they were doing that, Kyle and Bill also made some alginate molds, and then Phil did the plaster for them. Skills are drifting out into the group, which is very exciting.

Saturday, Robert and Henry (I think; Robert had a boy in tow) came to the lab and I set them to work on making the second piston/valve assembly for the blood pump; their work is progressing nicely and I look forward to seeing them again next weekend. The big question for the blood pump will be how we want to power it; my current plan is via pneumatic cylinder, I just need to get limit switches set up to make it cycle.

Saturday afternoon, Matt, Paul and I chatted about stilts. As a result of this conversation I got a bug up my nose and went back to the lab later that night to whip up a prototype stilt. I taped that monstrosity to my body Sunday morning (when I was fresh and less likely to damage myself) and got some good feedback on the forces involved.

There's a BIG force in only one location (the anchor point for the long toe), and that can be resolved in several ways, and it can be reduced in several other ways. I have hope! We have several plans for the stilts -- I'm poking Plan A right now, which may evolve into Plan B (which is Eric's stilt style), and could even go into Plan C (e.g. painter's stilts and a far clunkier shape for the demon).

Today I got to the Lab early and put the arc segments for two Vortex Tunnel circles into shape -- finalizing their curvature, cutting the flat ends off, making the fittings that hold them together, and marking all the drill points.

Deborah showed up in time to help drill holes and file them clean, and then she helped me assemble the test section of the vortex tunnel (one of three sections, with two of ultimately four rings).

We then used ratcheting cargo straps to tension the section and the result was better than I could have hoped. The tunnel, with no rigid connections, no screws, no bolts, nothing more than some holes and ratchet straps and tubes-inside-tubes, was strong and amazingly rigid.

I then went through the entire set of straps and made them the correct length, and the tunnel section snapped to square, all clean and tidy.

All in all, a weekend full of successes.

Lifecasting pics:

Monster Fang pics:

Progress and Sawdust

photo by Matt Pinsonneault

It was a good weekend full of sawdust at the Lab. On Saturday Paul and I built a big lumber rack and moved a bunch of 2x4's and sheets of plywood and OSB onto it. We have a lot more in storage that needs to be moved in.

Today I got the fireplace for the parlor roughed out. It is ready for our crack art department to dress it up and make it look more like an antique Victorian fireplace and less like a thing made from OSB and 2x4's. The plan is to clad the inside with faux soot-stained brick and do some kind of gothic-style facing. Once that's all done I'll make a fancy wooden mantle to match the overall art design of the surround.

While I was doing that, Edwin was doing a prototype for this year's vortex tunnel. Looks promising.

Here's Edwin and my wife Susan, trapped in the vortex:

photo by Matt PinsonneaultMATT PINSONNEAULT

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This week's FX update

I finally did the inventory of acrylic materials that I received from Dr. Carpenter, and it's a good haul! I need to actually TEST the materials to ensure they are still functional, but I think acrylic is pretty robust. Also I need to test a theory on how to ensure the darned stuff gets poured all the way into the tips of the teeth -- even poured very thin, it tends to not get into the tips. In some cases, I suspect capillary action, but I've also taken steps to avoid it (by waiting for it to stiffen before closing the mold). Vibration doesn't seem to be the cure either, since I've also tried that.

Maybe when I review the three books he lent me, I'll find more tips and tricks. Those orthodontists cheat; they start with pre-cast teeth and just do the gums and plate!

Another Wednesday was consumed in meetings, this time a general SCARE meeting, plus board of directors meeting. We are making great progress! Also, we have an amazing video now:

Progress on the Goblin Systems timing and control modules is moving apace; this programming and electronics stuff is time consuming. Rushing through some of the development, and working with infinite distractions, has cost me a prototype PCB cycle (oops, bad chip definition!). However, the new PCBs are coming tomorrow and I also have an upgraded MCU set (added a dollar to double the RAM/ROM) in a box at home waiting for it.

Today's big news on the Goblin front is that I'm sending and receiving complex commands between timing modules now. It's not the final program structure, but getting there.

Last Saturday I got a lifecast done of my lovely self, with the help of Marla, Matt, Matt's Susan, the other Susan, and Nathan. They did a GREAT job, and the mold is now sitting on a table waiting for me to pour plaster into it.

Sunday I poured plaster into Nathan's mold. Actually, I laid up a shell of burlap and ultracal 30 along the mold, then filled it with giant chunks of foam, and THEN poured plaster into it. Trying to alleviate the weight; I only used 75lbs of plaster, instead of 150lbs. That sucker is still heavy. And it looks at me funny, too.

The shell phase of the casting process made a pretty poor outer skin; lots of large voids. These are on non-critical areas (I cast the face solid), and I will fix them tonight... but still, it lacks perfection.

After doing Nathan up stone solid, I ran over to the Lodge for our Kickoff and Casting event -- good turnout, and I got some great names of people who can do work in the FX area. I'm excited to have new help!

Last night I spent a few hours at the Lab, under my new extended Lab time model, and made the molds for four sets of teeth plus did the first-pass cleanup work on my monster test-fangs of doomishness.

Tasks in process include the vacuum table (Paul's taken the lead on that), the vortex tunnel (parts are there waiting for some structural tests, and I may have a new helper to work on it), the propane burner, and the Demon's stilts (plus we have a new, experienced, player in that game, Eric Peterson, to help me and Paul). Exciting!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Thank You, New Volunteers!

Special effects - photo by Yvonne Dailey
More photos are in the Vault!

The SCARE for a CURE volunteer kick-off party was yesterday and it was a big success! It was a good combination of orientation session, haunted house career fair, and casting call. We had a large turnout of new volunteers and got lots of people signed up to work on construction, special effects, costuming, makeup, fund-raising, and countless other specialties that are critical to put on an event as ambitious as Blood Ritual. We also had a lot of people auditioning for acting roles, and the casting committee sure had things down to a science—it was a joy to watch. People would come in, get photographed and interviewed, read some lines for us, then get sent over to our costuming people to get their measurements taken. It was almost like we knew what we were doing!

Many thanks to all of our new volunteers, and also to all the old hands who helped to make this event a big success. We have a challenging build this year, so the more people who are willing to help us turn our vision into reality the better things will be.