I've always liked Steampunk. I think ever since the Chaos Engine on the Amiga back in the early 90s. Later it was the Planescape setting from Dungeons & Dragons which had some fantastic art and definite Steampunk influences - check out the Modrons for example.
Film's like the Labyrinth had a steampunk feel to some parts, for example the huge clockwork golem that guards the gate to the goblin city. Doc Brown's steam locomotive time machine from Back to the Future part III was also a fantastic piece of design. Later on the Bioshock games really put a fully realised Steampunk world into gamer's hands.
From a model makers point of view the genre is fantastic as it allows you to take real world items and alter them to suit your purposes. It can also incorporate a wide variety of methods and techniques. Pieces I've made so far have incorporated sculpture, scratch building, mould making, creature effects, metal work and leather work.
My first steampunk piece, an android, or 0.L.Droid kind of happened by accident. I'd had an idea for a damaged android puppet for a while. Originally it was going to be a futuristic piece with circuitry and blue lights visible within the androids damaged skull. I happened to have the interior of a broken clock and decided to put a few cogwheels into the sculpture too see what it looked like.ore the idea for the video!
That drove the piece in a completely different direction and everything fell together from that point. Quite by accident, my brother happened to be writing a steampunk album and I was able to use his music in the video.
Click on the link to the right to view.
In reciproaction one of the songs, Mechanism was written with my 0.L.Droid in mind - the character in the song slowly replaces his body parts which clockwork prosthesis.
I also created a background character using another cast of the 0.L.Droid's face. This was cobbled together from various bits and pieces. It was actually intended to be seen in the background only, but I quite liked it so I did a little bit more with it. It's got some limited movement so I did a short animated section. It's called 5.L.Droid.
I'm pleased to say that 0.L.Droid won the short film competition at Weekend at the Asylum 2010, the UK steampunk festival.
Due to my brother's interest in Steampunk, I'd been intending to make him some sort of Steampunk item for a birthday gift. It was originally going to be a 'Steampunked' computer mouse or keyboard or something like that. Again, quite by accident, I'd decided to see what useful items I could find on eBay so I decided to type in 'old' and see what cropped up.
Having bought a few sufficently ancient pieces, I began contructing a set of Steampunk goggles which tend to be one of the more common items you tend to see with Steampunk enthusiasts. The piece was accompanied by a small steam powered generator that 'powered’ the goggles. They were going to be a secret but the desire to tell people was getting too strong and, once again quite by accident, he emailed me suggesting we do a music video for one of his songs. Click on the link to the right to view.
The first section of the video was shot in Crystal Palace Park in London. The park is great for steampunk as it features a victorian dinosaur theme park (which we took full advantage of) and loads of cool victorian architecture left over where the palace once stood.
Having whetted my appetite I wanted to make another Steampunk costume so I started work on a Steampunk mask. To accompany the mask I’ve also made a skull cap. The idea is that this is either an electro shock skull cap or maybe from an electric chair. The cables dangling down are intended to be from equipment that the skull cap was previously attached to and has since been wrenched free of. Perhaps it's occupant escaped his treatment or death sentence.
Whilst not intended to be used in the video, having created it I figured I may as well put it to use, so we incorporated it as the antagonists costume.
The next project was a set for the finale of the video which rapidly became a gigeresque, steampunk inspired hell machine with a giant shadow puppet screen in the center ;o)
We filmed using the set for the second section of the Spinning the Compass video. This incorporated a shadow puppet sequence and a fight sequence for the final scene.
During editing of the video I decided we needed a final piece to tie everything together. I started building a flying galleon that would serve as the antagonists' lair that the main character stumbles into at the end.
This was a scale miniature that was shot against the open sky and green screen.
I started making some more props pretty much straight away and as luck would have it Tom recorded another album 'Ironbark'. Tom's stuff's great in that each song has a narrative so I was able to simply go through the album and pick the one I thought would be most filmable. That was something of a relative term as the one I picked was Beast of the Air which involved hunting sky kraken from an airship!
Click on the link to the right to view.
Luckily I'd recently got hold of some new effects software so that didn't seem quite as monumental a task as it may sound and we already had an airship of course. I wasn't entirely happy with the shots of the airship from Spinning the Compass so I wanted to have another go at it for this video.
We also had a few accidents whilst testing the gear.
The idea is that the tower has been ’steampunked’ itself and so it’s broken areas have been clad in brass panelling. The airship is docked at the platform that sticks out the side.
The chorus of the songs says that ‘the beast of the air wails a sing, wails a song to keep us dreaming’, so I figured that a sky kraken hunter might attract the beast by playing it’s song back at it, to summon it from the heavens, hence the rather large megaphone attached to the top. These are attached to some steampunk gizmos to generate enough power to summon the kraken!
This is a prop I made. It's partly inspired by Iron Man. I had a piece of quartz crystal which I'd been meaning to do something with for a while and had an idea for it to be secured inside a metal ring.
The piece kind of grew from the idea of having the crystal in the palm into a full gauntlet and I ended up doing a short video with it. I'd like to expand this into a longer video at some stage.......
So I spent the weekend in Lincoln for the Weekend at The Asylum which is the UK’s largest Steampunk Convention. The event takes place in and around Lincoln castle which is a fantastic venue. The event itself takes it’s name from the victorian prison which is housed in the grounds of the castle.
I’d not been before but I had a great time – there are some amazing costumes out there, some of which are pictured in the Flickr gallery below. Steampunk’s great because it has something for everyone, so while alot of people are into the costumes and dress (which I’m not so much) there are also some crazy gadgets for prop makers such as myself and well as a decent smattering of filmmakers and musicians in there.
The gauntlet went down well and I had loads of people coming up and asking about it and taking pics which was nice. It does mean I’ll have to come up with new gadgets for next year. I have an idea knocking about for a steampunk predator shoulder cannon. Might be interesting. I’m also going to be playing bass for my brother so we can do some gigs. We’ll have to see if they’ll let us play at next years event.
The event itself was a mixture of costume competitions, book launches, races (!), dances and gigs. I rather enjoyed The Men that will not be Blamed for Nothing, a steampunk band, Pocketwatch, a banjo/guitar/cello threepiece and Thomas Truax a solo performer who used his own crazy contraptions to create music which was pretty spectacular.
Here's a Flickr gallery.