January 6th, 2009

Ann Vole

Fursuit development plan (responce to Ashenfox)

I recently heard a new (to me) term meaning a development plan...I forgot the word though. Ashenfox mentioned my fursuit ideas were "lofty goals" (love the pun) but I think they are obtainable... at least to the degree I intend. (my original post)

First goal is the skin on a bat's wings. I need to get a very large level of stretch with minimal weight. The second goal is related so I will do both together. The second goal is a lighter version of fur so I can be in the suit for hours in hot lights. They had the same problem for the Gorg monsters in Fraggle Rock (big and under hot lights and with lots of robotics which was hard to set up and remove for when the performer wanted out of the suit. They solved the problem, interestingly enough, with by using a trick from the birds... they used feathers instead of fur. They used a very loose-weave cloth as the base and added the feathers one-by-one to the fabric. Using that concept, elastic band material can be woven into a lose-weave cloth. Some very hair-like wigs made of rubber are sold in my area to let the Riders Football fans wear a head of bright green hair for the games. This leads me to the idea of using a black elastic band material for both the loose-weave and for the "hair" coming off the junction. A mechanical apparatus may even be made to create such a "fun fur" in volume. This sort of material would also not hold water and if it were coated with wax vapor, it would even bead water enough to almost be water-tight. The other thing could be the hollow shaft in the hairs like polar bears have... such a fur is very light-weight and dries off quickly when wet due to the more-round surface. Porcupines have no trouble swimming but cannot dive due to how light their hollow quills are. Bird feathers have a hollow shaft as well as can hold air in the interlocking parts of the feather. My point is that a hollow material would be preferred for the hair parts. I don't think there are too many (if any) hedgehog or porcupine fursuits.

The next problem is buoyancy when gliding. There are a lot of "birdman" suits being worn lately for gliding out of airplanes. They make multiple parts of the suit and wearer to be airfoils like the wing of a plane. They work real good but result in a very fast glide so they cannot safely land in the suits. Goal three is to learn enough about the airfoil design to make a slower forward speed and faster downward speed. Once that is made, it can be tested in swimming pools with diving boards. I am good at timing my landing so I can do fancy flips without belly-flops and with a suit, a belly flop would not be as painful. I prefer to land feet-first because I have poor eyesight without my thick glasses so learning to land in the fursuit feet-first would be natural for me. The tail will also be an integral part of the airfoil and parachute-like-drag of the suit and may incorporate mechanical aids to control the shape and angle of the tail.

Squirrels and birds have special considerations in their leg design to handle landing hard. First they have the joints always bent by design (so the animal does not accidentally land straight on) because when landing hard, the motion energy needs to be dissipated as heat in the muscles rather then suddenly placed on the bones. As a biped human, landing hard on the feet is an immediate broken leg or displaced hip. I figure a leg brace apertures with pneumatic shocks should cushion the blow. Squirrels have long feet and long toes which I am sure is also for extra shock-absorbing joint-muscle systems. I could make the leg-brace-shock system to include ankle and toe systems too. One of the tricks that stunt-men are using in shots where they have to jump from a high place is to use those spring-leg extenders that many hoofed fursuit designs are using. They can easily digitally remove the springs but removing the thick landing pads they used to use is a bit harder to fix visually.

"Long Jump" was the only sport I was really good in (competed for my school one year) with hurtles getting me to tryouts. The key to long jump is to keep your forward momentum going and to reach your feet as far forward as possible so when a foot does touch the ground, the rest of your body sails past that foot so the next thing that touches the sand is your hands about 12 feet further then your foot. I was also thrilled when I ended up looking like a galloping horse after landing. With such a landing as the goal, the leg apparatus (and flexibility exercises) will need to be able to get the legs to the point of touching my shoulders. After that is the landing on my arms so my suit will also need the same sort of braces and shock absorbers as is on my legs. If I am practicing on an Olympic sized pool (like my university just upgraded to to host some sort of world paralympic games) I should be able to achieve a bit of walking-on-water action before flipping and landing again feet first. My crazy hand-dancing on roller skates attached to my hands confirms I am crazy enough to do such tumble lands without fear or injury. My university also has a great new set of acrobatic exercise and training equipment being used by some of Canada's Olympic athletes. I would think someone should be able to give me some "freestyle" tumbling training.

Finally, once a suit is built and trained for in a swimming pool, lots of farmers still have abandoned ski resorts from back in the day when driving or flying to the mountains was a major undertaking. I could get the lift running and cover the landing area with used mattresses and test the suit without water or the expense of an airplane. Lots of farmers in the area have also acquired planes and flying licenses in the hopes of spraying their own crops (but usually hire someone else anyways due to how dangerous crop spraying is) so I am sure I can get cheap low-level flights over pastures as the crop sprayer fills the plane with water and chemical.

On Youtube, they showed a guy who claimed to be the first to land in a "squirrel suit" (or birdman suit) without the use of a parachute. He used a landing strip of emergency cushions (used for rescue in burning building scenarios) and seemed to be within a reasonable speed for the tumble-landing I am thinking of. I should be able to slow down much more with my design and not be stopped suddenly by the cushions like he was.

Final consideration is using the tail as a landing cushion and spring-board to put me back on my feet after the flip so I can run to a stop like I have done a lot of for getting off moving vehicles (picking up bales or rocks in fields or rounding up cattle).
Ann Vole

You've got to move it move it

The Madagascar movies have little plot ( New York zoo animals get stuck on Madagascar, then try to fly home and only get to Africa for the second movie) but they are entertaining because the characters are always moving from one level of understanding to another, from one level of relationship to another. "Emotional roller coaster" movies can also be entertaining with no real plot...as long as there is movement in some other fashion. Documentaries are the same, they can be boring streams of information or they can be exciting journeys of exploration and discovery...the difference being the movement of the audience or of the characters in that documentary. I can come up with great plots but single-joke strips are harder for me. I think the key is to create one or more levels of "movement" in the strip. I will have to analyze a few successful single-strip gag type comic strips to see if I can identify this sort of movement. Editing is really a way to create movement visually that does not exist or is not obvious in the original uncut scenes. it is this movement and timing of changes that marks a great editor or marks a great animation director (because animation is edited mostly before it is made). Most of my favorite pieces of written literature are scenes where nothing physical is actually happening but rather the character is going on an intellectual, spiritual, or emotional journey. One example is when Mole in Wind in the Willows smells his house after staying with Ratty... nothing happens except Moley crying but the two pages of what was going through his mind will always bring me to tears all the way through that journey in the mind of love, loss, loneliness of his previous life, the decision to leave his rat friend for his house friend... lots of different movements with nothing physical but sobs and a comforting Ratty. Far Side single-image comics worked because they were not just a snap-shot of the present but they were also evidence of what happened in the past and a clear prediction of what is about to happen in the future.

There is a difference between video games called "sandbox" and the others with a quest of some sort. "Sandbox" refers to places where you can build things and test out your tools or weapons. Some games are now coming out that lack a quest altogether and are just you playing around with the virtual space and the tools. These still need to have a start, middle and end though to make it satisfying and challenging. I found (years ago at post secondary) a version of Tetris with unlimited levels of speed. I was getting blindingly fast where I would be moving and positioning the blocks before they even appeared on the screen by using the image of the next block coming. It was fun and challenging until I reached the limit of how fast I could tap the keyboard keys. After that, there was no more movement... a limit was reached and the lack of movement ended my interest in the game. Spore is supposed to be the ultimate "sandbox" game but it still guides you to keep going beyond each level...movement is expected. Action movies have been popular lately because foreign language versions did not need much dialog to have the audience understand the movement... and most of that movement is physical movement (fights, car chases, explosions, a journey). The only way to get movement without words or action is to have an emotional journey as seen in the facial expressions and body language of the characters. Such an emotional journey is the sort of thing I dream of doing. Getting emotions on animal faces is a bit more of a challenge but I am sure it is possible after watching some things like Greg the Bunny show where Greg, a sock puppet with button eyes, can show a great amount of emotional turmoil with subtle body language alone.