Movie Clipping 1
Absolute total control
Everyone loves a control freak right?
These are joystick input controls designed and built by Greg to control complicated animatronic
characters. The device on the left Greg designed for MEG and allows one person to control a robotic
face or whole character with up to 64 individual movements at once to allow the spontaneous
generation of numerous facial expressions, and call up and mix any number of preset emotional
expressions and mix them together with any degree of nuance required. The device on the right
built for ICP and used on Starwars has 22 axies of digital proportional input. Each Individual axis
with computer controlled electronic mixing can control over 64 individual servo motors or hydraulic
One single axis of a joystick can be set up to control a vast number of motors to pull a character’s
face into a variety of expressions. Push up and the face grimaces, push down and the face frowns.
Push another joystick to the left and the mouth forms a shape to pronounce an “OOOh”, the other
way to form an “EEEE” etc.
However, even with such a sophisticated system, manually performing lip synch will never produce
results as effectively as prerecording and editing movements untill they perfectly match a
prerecorded vocal performance. This is the way computer animated characters have their lip synch
created and why it most often looks very effective.
Unfortunately, films using animatronics often have puppeteers wiggle the joysticks and shout out
half finished dialogue themselves live on set, then afterwards the film production has a voice actor
record completely different dialogue over the top. Not surprisingly the lipsynch ends up looking like
a badlydubbed hong kong action film.
The problem is not animatronics but the whole live performance and dubbing procedure. If 3D
animated characters have the actor’s voice recorded to changed dialogue after the animation is
finished, the result looks just as terrible.
By Pre-recording the dialogue and lipsynch, animatronics no longer look so “muppet like”.

A computer controlled performance editing and playback system Greg often uses is Gilderfluke.
This software and electronics system is used in hydraulic motion base control and theme parks
worldwide. It allows Multiple axies of motion to be electronically mixed and controllled by a single
or multiple inputs, and the resulting motions recorded for exact playback. Once a series of
movements are recorded, they can be graphically edited and modified untill the results are exactly
what is required.
Gilderfluke is excellent for setting up facial animation and recording and perfecting a performance.
That prerecorded performance can then be played back on set with accurate lip synch every take.
The movements can also be manually over-ridden and modified live during a take for spontaneous
interaction with actors.

It’s all Voodoo
Greg and the Robotech team pioneered the use of slave system controls for complex animtronic
characters years before the principle was adopted overseas. Greg’s innovative designs for Kangaroo
Kid from 1991 predate those glorified in Jurassic Park. The miniature electronic analogues of robot
characters work like a voodoo doll. What the performer does to the Voodoo is exactly matched by
the animatronic character. No clumsy coordination of multiple performers.

Delayed Precision
To this Greg also added the philosophy of delayed precision. Mechanical robotics and electronics
systems are usually designed so that a movement will reach its destination position in fractions of
seconds and hold that position exactly. The control signals travel down the wires at close to the
speed of light. Servo motors race to reach their destination and hold position rigidly. Mechanical
pivots are precise bearings. Not surprisingly, robotic systems look mechanical.
In Organic systems, signals travel down neurones at only the speed of sound, and pivots are oily
gristle and elastic tendons pulled by nervous, twitchy muscle. Organic limbs get to round about a
desired position quickly but may take almost a second to reach a precise position.
For instance, hold your hands behind your head then quickly try to hold your index fingers tip to tip
a match head distance apart in front of you. It may take a second or so for an organic system(you)
to achieve this. By mimicing this quality of delayed precision into a robotic animal, it appears far
more natural and oganic in its movements.
This Hydraulic Croc built for John Cox
and the Movie “Peter Pan” shows the
“voodoo” control principle at work and
Greg’s principle of “delayed precision”
to give an organic quality of
movement unlike ordinary hydraulics.
Beautiful engineering by Trevor Tighe.
Quicktime Video 23mb
A Star Wars Character “Nute Gunray”
in the process of lip synch
programming by Greg and close to
completion. Some words are
enunciated well and some still need
more work. The Gilderfluke
programming system and graphical
editing mean that you can take the
time to perfect lip synch before going
on set.
Quicktime Video 
Control Freak.jpeg