Category Archives: Faire Play

Faire Play III

Witness Faire Play III: a fully articulated, 3d printed, Barbie-compatible battle tardigrade.

The tardigrade, hereafter to be referred to as Brenda, is roughly the size of a domestic cat when printed at 100% scale, and comprises 61 separate pieces. Brenda has five body segments, eight articulated legs, and is fully poseable.

This time around Barbie eschews the full plate from the original Faire Play in exchange for a fantasy barbarian furkini. The furkini and boots are printed in NinjaFlex TPE, and are designed to fit a Barbie Made to Move doll. They’ll probably fit other dolls of similar size, but I haven’t tested them yet.

kneeling

Brenda’s saddle includes a mounting bracket for Barbie’s yoga mat because it’s always wise to warm up with some sun salutations before sack and pillage day.

saddle cu

Also included in but not pictured are a Mongol-style recurve bow and a three-headed flail.

I’ve set this playset up as a pay-what-you-like download with a $1 minimum. Yep, you can get the tardigrade, the furkini, a full compliment of Barbie-compatible weapons and armor, a saddle, and— AND! a 3D printable yoga mat for a BUCK, people.

Feel free to donate more than $1 if you like the project and would like to see more stuff like this exist in the future. Even if you don’t have a 3D printer it never hurts to throw an indie designer a bone. I’m just sayin.

Better yet: it’s Creative Commons licensed! You’re free to remix and redistribute this work as long as you credit Jim “Zheng3” Rodda as the original designer. Credits for the giants upon whose shoulders I’ve stood to create Faire Play III are listed in the .ZIP file.

Designing and executing Faire Play III was a yuuuge endeavor and a full description of it is beyond the scope of a single blog post. Watch this space for more photos and behind-the-scenes stories of how the latest and greatest in Barbie-compatible wargear came to pass.

UPDATE: Hello, SciFri Twitter followers! Here’s an extra couple of photos just for you guys! While you’re here you might want to check out SciFri Bingo in advance of tomorrow’s show.

feeding

Tardigrades LURVE themselves some garbanzo beans. It is known.

tree pose

And as always, #staytuned, my friends. I’ve got the Next Thing bubbling in the hopper already. See pics of embryonic Plutarch on Ye Olde Instagramme.

Lao Zheng out.

11 Reasons A Heartwarming Kickstarter Failed: #2 Will Give You The Feels

Well, that certainly could have gone better.

crash

The funding period for Faire Play 2 has ended and we’ve come up short. Like, way, way, way short. You can still purchase the models for the Faire Play 2 chariot, gladiatrix armor, and Empress Makeover Kit over at The Bazaar, but the Kickstarter’s gone off and joined the choir invisible.

Before we proceed, allow me this big, red, throbbing, baboon-ass of a caveat. Nowhere is it written that one is entitled to a successful Kickstarter. You buys your ticket, and you takes your chances. Zheng Labs rolled the dice and came up with a big old nothing-burger this time. C’est la vie.

But you can’t hit if you don’t swing, right? Build it, as is told in the Book of Costner, and they will come.

And come they did, in droves. Faire Play 2 received a tremendous amount of favorable media coverage in online publications across the spectrum, from The Huffington Post to Newsmax. There are Kickstarters that would kill for that kind of exposure.

There are rumors that the potato salad guy did kill for that kind of exposure. But only rumors, mind you.

And yet, despite a truly inspiring amount of publicity and online good will, Faire Play 2 missed its goal by roughly eighty percent.

Ouch.

But as Grandma Zheng always used to say, if you’re going to fail, you might as well fail spectacularly. So there’s that.

What happened? Let’s explore some possibilities.

#1. In hindsight, launching a Kickstarter contingent on the cooperation of cats might not have been the smartest business plan.

Everybody knows there’s no way you’d ever get a cat to pull a chariot. Ever. And even if you did the cat would find a way to kill you in your sleep. The Venn diagram of people with Barbie dolls, 3D printers, and cats is also vanishingly small, which further limited the number of potential Faire Play 2 backers.

cat reveal

#2. People are used to getting amusing content for free, and converting Kickstarter video views into Kickstarter backing isn’t a viable strategy.

I had a tremendous amount of fun creating the Kickstarter video for this project. My hope was that people would watch the video and then think, “Yes! Imagine what this guy could do with greater resources. Here’s two bucks.”

Alas, in a world where hilarious dashcam vids of road-raging mascots are free for the taking, asking people to selflessly contribute to one’s artistic endeavors is hoplessly naïve.

thumbs down

Still, STILL! Many people did contribute to the project for precisely that reason! I’m thoroughly grateful to the hundred or so idealists who supported Faire Play 2. You folks are the best, and the world would be better off with more people like you.

Also, apparently 3d printed lithopanes are a terrible idea for a backer reward. Who knew?

#3. Nobody plays with dolls anymore.

It hasn’t been a great year for Mattel. Barbie sales crashed 21% in Q3 of 2014 and have been sinking for three years straight, and Mattel’s CEO left for greener pastures.

I’m doing what I can to revitalize Barbie’s image, but I can’t imagine a kid born after 2010 picking up a doll when there’s an iPad nearby. The market for aftermarket Barbie accessories, already quite nichey, gets smaller every day.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but model this Barbie-compatible tire iron. In this house, Barbie changes her own tires.

tire iron

It’s free! Download it here. You’ll have to heat-deform it after printing to get that nice bend in the shaft.

My guess is that at this point in the article some folks are wondering why there aren’t 8 more reasons the Kickstarter didn’t succeed. It’s because the 11 in the title of this post is in base-2.

So, what’s next?

Oh, man, I am so excited for the Next Thing.

(I’m always chasing the Next Thing. Character flaw. Greatest strength, greatest weakness, and all that.)

I’ve been working on the Next Thing for the last couple of weeks and hope to announce it soon. Here’s a wee teaser image for you.

teaser

#staytuned and #watchthisspace, my friends. This temporary setback has got me generating all kinds of new ideas. The ride’s only going to get more fun from here on out.

And big, big, BIG thanks to everyone who supported the project. I’s got good peeps.

Faltering Kickstarter Offers Steak Knives In Obvious Bid For Relevance

It’s not quite the eleventh hour, but we can see the trembling minute hand from here. A fortnight to go and we’ve just crested 18% funding. Faire Play 2 could be doing much better, and Coco haz a sad.

Everyone who hasn’t backed so far has made a little kitten cry.

You monsters.

tears

But! all is not lost. All is never lost, not so long as one dwarf in Moria still draws breath. Creativity reigns here at Zheng Labs, and WE WILL FIND A WAY.

So I reach down into the Bag of Holding, rummage around, and pull out a Hail Mary backer reward that will surely save this Kickstarter from the ash heap of crowdfunding history. I call forth…

STEAK KNIVES?

steak knife

Whatever, I’ll run with it.

IF YOU BACK NOW, you will receive, absolutely FREE, this fine set of digital steak knives, suitable for printing on any 3D printer.

sparky knife

Forged from the finest free-range polygons! Once printed, these serrated knives are sharp enough to slice the toughest of warm lards and are absolutely guaranteed to warp in any household dishwasher.

And that’s not all! They’re not food-safe, either!

But! Amazing as these digital steak knives may be, they are only available to people who have backed Faire Play 2 at any level. Robots are standing by to take your contribution. Help kittens now.

pledge now

Yes, I used Comic Sans. Desperate times, desperate measures.

Building Rome in a Day for a Kickstarter video

There’s a Kickstarter statistic that says you’re something like 50% more likely to get funded if you’ve got a movie attached to your project. Currently we’re at about 14% funding for Faire Play 2 in less that a week, which is a nice start.

Here’s our movie, and after you’ve watched it head down below the embed to see a little behind the scenes movie magic.

If you haven’t backed, pop over to Kickstarter and drop a couple bucks on the project. Let’s see if we can’t get to 20% by the end of the day. Share the following link with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter, too! That helps a lot. http://kck.st/1FQ7FZf

Thanks. And now onto the show.

Fun, right? Here’s how Emperor Sparky’s world is done IRL. The title of the post is a little misleading– it takes days— plural– to make a video like this. Weeks, really.

We’re not even talking audio editing, which be a whole ‘nother can o’ worms.

The short answer to “how’d he do that” is Photoshop. Lots and lots of Photoshop. Zheng Labs kicks it old-school with Photoshop CS2, the last version of Photoshop that runs on our 32-bit Mac Pro tower. (hence the Kickstarter– more operating capital==better equipment and software to crank out fun projects like this more quickly.) I’m shooting almost everything with a battered old Canon G11, except for a few quickies I take with an iPhone here and there.

And cardboard. Lots of cardboard and a matte knife. No laser cutting here, not yet anyway.

The first step is to make and paint the most important part of the set, Sparky’s balcony. I’d been saving paper towel tubes for use as columns for months.

This piece of the set is mostly made from spray paint, old Amazon Prime boxes, masking tape, and crayons. One can accomplish a lot with these simple tools if one drinks a lot of cheap coffee and mainlines Science Friday podcasts in the basement at 4:30 AM on Saturday before anybody else in the house is awake to bother you.

001

It’s all set up on my workbench down in the basement. Sparky’s stuck into the scene for reference purposes only– he doesn’t show up in the final shot.

Next, I start duplicating pieces of the background arches to hide the basement in the background. Sparky disappears behind a piece of background created straight-on in another shot and deformed to match the perspective of the arch behind him. Apparently I wasn’t happy with that blue pennon on the right sticking out, because I replaced it with a duplicate of the pennon on the left.

003

Continue to fill in background pieces here and there, making sure there aren’t any gaps and the perspective and lighting more or less match.

004

My basement is slowly disappearing as I copy and paste pieces of virtual cardboard into the background. All throughout this process I’m making little tweaks with Photoshop’s cloning and healing brushes too. Also dodging and burning as appropriate and redrawing crayon lines where needed in an attempt to keep the artwork as organic as I can.

Faking shadows is really important, too. Lots of fake shadows with a bit of Gaussian blur on them help pieces of the set pop visually.

005

Here we’re finished adding background and a blue sky, which definitely doesn’t exist in my basement. Adjust the final lighting and paste in the LEGO gladiator. He’s a foreground element so he’s shot in a lightbox, isolated with Photoshop’s extraction tools, and then pasted in.

006

Aesthetics are far more important than reality in a venture like this, so darkening the archways was an important step towards achieving a pleasing image. As a final flourish, hand-draw the laurels on the red pennon with one of Photoshop’s custom brushes to simulate crayon.

So that’s basically how the inside of the cardboard Colosseum was made; repeat that basic process for about 47 more shots and you’ve got yourself a video, buster.

The establishing wide shot of the Colosseum is another matter entirely. It’s not so much Photoshop as Autodesk Maya. First, a background plate so I can get the perspective close enough.

standin

I’m using the Lincoln Logs can as a stand-in for the final Colosseum.

Photoshop’s warping and lighting tools leave something to be desired, so for this shot I created a rough 3D model in Maya and then mapped the cardboard textures onto it.

wireframe

The 3D model is just a little too perfect (and stable-looking) when it’s rendered out, so the Maya image gets pulled into Photoshop again for tweaking, slicing, and dicing. I blow out the saturation and move some background and foreground elements around, too. Note the addition of a d20 in the foreground. I loves me some gratuitous icosohedrons.

That electrical outlet isn’t there in real life, either; I added it to improve the final composition and set the scale of the scene in the viewer’s mind.

opening

Thanks for reading this far! If you haven’t already done so, please back the Faire Play 2 Kickstarter. With your help, I’ll be able to take the budget for the next Kickstarter video well into double digits.

D’Oh! Almost forgot to mention! Those capitals and plinths on the paper towel tubes that turn them into Ionic columns? They’re available for free download right here. They’re printed in Filabot’s Carbon Fiber ABS, which makes them nigh indestructible and probably overkill for an application like this, but then again I’m a belt-and-suspenders sort of hominid.

Also, Coco says hi.

column

Meow!

Series 1 Endurance Test

I’d been printing pieces of the Faire Play armor one at a time on my Replicator 1. A helmet here, a cuisse there, a few tassets there, all the while taking care to keep the bed level between prints. Start, stop, wait, reheat, repeat. I can usually manage printing a suit over the course of three or four days, with breaks for sleeping, eating, and doing enough paid work to keep the lights on. The suit’s got about 40 pieces give or take a few chain links, so it’s been a tedious process.

As promised in the last post, I threw the entire armor set at the new Series 1 to see what would happen. All the pieces of the armor, all in one go. I wasn’t expecting it to actually work.

Here, you’re looking at the results of a 36-hour print.

faireplay

Let that sink in for a bit. 36 HOURS. This printer ran for 36 hours, nonstop, in a residential setting and was quiet enough that everyone slept through the night. That’s huge right there.

I haven’t dialed in the print settings for this model yet– I’m still in the let’s-see-what-this-puppy-can-do-and-don’t-sweat-the-small-stuff stage of evaluating the printer.

So I’m seeing some stringing and a bit of crumblyness to this print, and the success wasn’t unqualified; one of the tassets did fall over and cause a cascading failure in one of the greaves.

These problems, though? Small beer. Tweaks.