Sep 4, 2012

Package Prototypes

I’ve been working on the packaging for Laser Lace.  I posted some photos of the prototype before, but now I’m to the laser cutting phase.  The graphics need some tweaking, but so far the results look pretty good.


These boxes are lasered from various craft papers mounted on poster board.  They’re tied with cord at the moment, but I might change it to ribbon to add a dash of color and control the shape of the bow a bit better.

I was playing around with these materials to see which I liked best; it turns out they’re all pretty great.  I have a special place in my heart for the paper in front, though.  It not only looks like leather; it feels like leather too!

Aug 27, 2012

Double Peppers Ghost

You know how sometimes you get ideas that just won’t leave your head? Well this is one of those.

For the Laser Lace Letters, I’ve been writing a lot about a magician called Caelen the Magnificent (formerly, The Great Ralpholio) and so I’ve been thinking a lot about different styles of Victorian magic.  We think of old timey magic like a play, on a big stage in front of a big audience, but when I was 15 or 16 I read an old book about a different kind of presentation that took place in a set of smaller parlors.  Guests walked from room to room, taking in each illusion, and each room was built to pull off a certain effect.

Now I’m 31, and the name of the act and the name of the book I read about it in have long since vanished from my memory.  But I love the idea of walk-through illusion attraction, and in fact a few of these sort-of exist, as the entryways and queues for big attractions at amusement parks.  For example, as you make your way through Hogwarts in the queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, you pass through a series of rooms where the characters appear and speak to you from balconies and behind barricades.  In the pre-show for the Universal Studios show “Disaster!” a facsimile of Christopher Walken terrorizes his assistant onstage for a short time.  Both of those experiences make use of a very old illusion known as Peppers Ghost.

Peppers Ghost was first formulated in the 16th century by the same guy who invented the camera obscura.  It originally included a big plate of angled glass and a set of real objects, but since then we’ve figured out how to do it with thin piece of fabric and a high resolution projector.  Which is where we get this.

That’s 500 years of stagecraft in the making right there.

It takes a lot to make a Peppers Ghost illusion look good; but if the projected image matches the lighting conditions onstage, it can look very real indeed.  Or at least, close enough that we call it a hologram.

Anyway, that’s all background.  Here’s the idea that’s trying to work its way out of my brain.  I call it the Double Peppers Ghost, and it would take advantage of high res projectors, tightly controlled staging, a well trained staff with impeccable timing, and realtime image processing a little like the kind you see in Double Fine Happy Action Theater.

The illusion works like this – an audience of 6 to 10 people is let into the parlor by twos.  For each duo, a magician performs a quick illusion.  The parlor has a stage and a seating area, and some of the illusions are parlor tricks done in the seating area, while others take place on a tall but relatively small stage.  The magician and the sets of audience members move in and out of the stage area, and the illusions involve physical objects with no particular special effects.

When it comes time for the final duo to enter the room, the magician ushers them straight onto the stage and performs an impossible feat – before the eyes of the seated spectators, their compatriots go flat – they turn into paper cutouts of themselves which then collapse to the stage floor.  The magician folds their friends up and stuffs them in his jacket, promising to restore them by the end of their journey.

Meanwhile, from the point of view of the final duo, they have been ushered onto the stage and the magician has promised an amazing feat.  He will make the audience disappear.  As the two watch, and the magician chants, their friends vanish in a puff of smoke one by one.  After the illusion, they can go down into the seating area and touch the empty seats for themselves.

What’s happening here is that we have two separate rooms with cameras, two separate Peppers Ghost illusions, and in reality, two separate magicians giving different sets of patter.  The camera is capturing the guests from each room and projecting them into the proper place in the other room – in one case, the guests are on the stage in one room, being projected onto the stage in the other room; and in the other case, the guests are in the seating area, being projected onto the seating area as viewed by the guests on the stage.

The effect can be enhanced by a video feed that allows the waiting guests to see what’s going on in the first room before they go in, giving the final duo the impression that they have walked into the correct room.  The scrim (the thin piece of fabric onto which the images are projected) is set up differently for each room, but is concealed well enough that it, allows both the magician and guests to pass through holes in the mesh – in the guests’ case, without knowing it is even there.  The previous spate of illusions give the two audience members a reason to be on stage, and also set up an element of surprise when a digital effect is used at the end of a string of practical effects.

At the end of the parlor attraction, the groups are reunited through a similarly duplicitous restoration illusion.  Then they can trade stories of their experience afterward, and perhaps figure out how it all was done.

I wish I could have Caelen the Magnificent perform this trick, but the camera and projector technology is far out of his league, even for the Clockwork Watch universe where all manner of other fictional tech thrives.

Aug 22, 2012

The Laser Lace Letters

If you’re been following the blog, you’ve seen the story of Sarah the airship recruit capturing that thief at the Department for the Advancement of Sciences.  You may have also visited the magician The Great Ralpholio and helped him with his branding problem.  Now it’s time to unveil the big picture – despite previous attempts by impetuous doilies and scurrilous mail to cover it up.

This is part of The Laser Lace Letters.  What is that, you ask?  Well, it started as a craft project, but now it’s much more.  It’s a steampunk accessory line!  It’s an epistolary novel! It’s an artifact extravaganza!  It’s an official spinoff of Clockwork Watch! It will light your pipe, sir, and polish your monocle!  It’s a hole in the fabric of space and time, inviting you to fall through.

There are seven cameo pins in the Laser Lace Letters line, depicting seven people, putting an exclamation point on each of seven stories.  Each figure in the Laser Lace Letters is strange – a unicorn horn here, rabbit ears there, a diving suit, an improbable Victorian mohawk. Are they revelers from some steam age masquerade ball, or is something more sinister afoot?

Each story will present itself in the form of a packet of letters that comes with your cameo.  The packet contains their own words, their possessions, and testimony from witnesses, both human and not. (The artifacts will also be collected in an Ebook, for those who are more interested in the story.)

Here are some shots of a very early prototype of the Laser Lace package.

The cameo pins themselves are laser cut (like it says on the tin) and assembled by hand, using a design and technique I invented while tinkering at the Dallas Makerspace. They are made from recycled synthetic fleece, which holds its shape beautifully.

The project will officially launch and we’ll start taking orders through a KS campaign in October (hence, the reward spreadsheet of doom), but until then I will be posting some online fiction for each character so you can get to know them, interact with them, and maybe even step into their shoes. Much of this will take place on Clockwork Watch’s site, but a good deal of it will be scattered across many different platforms. You can find each character’s online presence compiled at

If you want to follow the production of Laser Lace, I’ll be posting new developments on this blog and on the Laser Lace site. You can subscribe to only Laser Lace related posts using this RSS feed. For up to the minute updates, follow @laser_lace on Twitter. For questions, comments or condemnations, email me! I’m toemoore on a popular Google related email site.

Aug 12, 2012

Laser Lace (something)

Hi everyone. Did you perchance visit the Great Ralpholio in his Google Docs fiction enclave, or check out this daring story of air bravado? If you did, you’ve already met two of the characters from my new project. (Or is it three? Hm…)

Anyway, I’ve been doing some work getting the website for the project ready, and I think I’m ready to unveil it (now that I’ve finally moved that pesky doily). Are you ready for this?

Ladies, and gentlemen, I present – oh, who the hell left their mail on my mockup?

Seriously, people, mail your Labor Day cards at your own desk!

As you can sort of see, the site is looking pretty tasty.  Links and more details as soon as I clean up this mess.

In the meantime, if you want to hear more you can follow me, @toenolla on Twitter, or if it’s more your style, you can follow the project’s brand spanking new Twitter account, @laser_lace.

Aug 7, 2012

The Great Ralpholio wants to see you.

Yet another little tidbit for my project, the Laser (Something Something).  The Great Magician Ralpholio needs your help with something.  Hop to and help him out.

Aug 4, 2012

The beginning of something….

Today, the London Gazette in Clockwork Watch reads thusly:

Angel Falls from Sky to Thwart Department Robbery

Angel Corps recruit Sarah Bittern, 19, unmarried, leapt from a damaged airship last night in an heroic effort to capture a robber fleeing the former offices of the Department for the Advancement of Sciences.
Ms. Bittern, who was patrolling the area aboard the HMD Desiderata, continued to chase the man first via motor glider and then on foot, after the Desiderata ploughed into an unlicensed wireless tower. The ship’s captain, Ms. Hildebrandt Beam, 41, widowed, was injured in the resulting crash. According to her shipmates…

(Visit Clockwork Watch for the full story.)

Who are these new characters, you may ask –  the daring Sarah, the mad Linnaeus, the brave Hildebrandt?  Well, they’re part of a project I’m working on, and throughout the coming months you’ll see them pop up throughout Clockwork Watch to help the story along.  Yomi and I are working closely to make our story worlds intermesh (like…clockwork, one might say.)

I’m still scuttling about, getting things ready for a proper unveiling.  At this point, I can tell you that this is a tactile project – meaning you will get some tasty handmade items in the course of interacting with it – and it will feature at least a few robots.  Beyond that would be telling, but at least I can tell you the name of the project, right?  It’s called…oh, who the hell left that doily there?

Your mother doesn’t live here, people.

Anywho, it starts with “Laser” and if all goes well, it will end in delight for a great many of you.  If you want to stay informed, you can add this blog to your RSS feed here, or follow me on Twitter here.  You can also find me on Clockwork Watch here.  I’ll be bringing you more on the project as the news develops.