Our next few weeks will be busy with photo & video shoots for a variety of projects, one being our 8th mega illusion.
I have finished the technical design for the main apparatus and staging for the mega illusion. As I mentioned before, it combines several different illusion prinicples and methods but we have never used all of them in a single illusion before.
From a illusion design point of view, the challenge is always taking a concept or idea and translating it into a set of blueprint plans so that the actual physical apparatus can be fabricated. Below are some of my sketches before going into the computer.
Typically, it takes me about a week or two to churn out an illusion design, assuming I have developed a method for the illusion. The process will involve dozens of sketches, visualizations and even model building.
If it is not a rush job, I can afford to put the design aside for a while and just not think about it. Days or even weeks later, I reapproach my original designs with a fresh mind and make adjustments. Once, I’m satisfied with the design, I start with working out actual dimensions, materials list and construction methods. (This is really the most difficult part of the design process)
Construction methods refer to how the prop will be built and physically come together. I have to determine if parts are to be welded, bolted, hinged, latched or screwed together.
Many people can come up with a conceptual idea with their imagination. A good number can come up with a plausible method. The difficulty is coming up with a workable method that can be built and subsequently getting the actual illusion fabricated and performance ready. This is what makes a professional designer worth his/ her weight in salt.
In the case of Mega Illusion #8, I actually designed the first version of the illusion in early 2009 so had worked out the method and conceptual design of the staging and illusion equipment needed. It was only mid this year that the opportunity to do this particular mega illusion arose so I revisited it.
The technical design went through two more revisions before I started working on dimensions and materials. The two biggest factors when choosing materials for an illusion are weight and cost. It is no point building a prop for cheap if it takes a crane and 8 men to lift. And, if you build a prop out of special alloys that are lightweight yet strong, it will cost a lot of $. So balance, compromise, carefully planning and good design are what will help a designer decide what materials are best suited for the project.
As for the mega illusion, we have already chosen materials, thickness, right down to the size, make and style of the bolts. We should begin building next month and have it ready in a few weeks.