Caveman Cam - Embedded.com

Caveman Cam

Well, things have been progressing nicely with regard to my Caveman Diorama project since my previous columns on this topic (see also 10,000 BM (Before Max) and What Would You Say To Cavemen 10,000 BM (Before Max)?).

Just to set the scene (no pun intended), let me remind you that — several years ago now — I picked up an old television cabinet. This was pretty battered when I first acquired it, but it's since been refurbished and now looks rather tasty (note that the image below shows the glass screen and associated bezel removed for ease of access).

The next step was to create an “inner cabinet” out of 3/16″ plywood. There are two main reasons for doing this, the first being that the ability to slip the inner cabinet out of the TV and plonk in on a table makes it a lot easier to create the diorama. Also, this leaves me free to create additional dioramas in the future, if I so-desire.

I started off by creating the underlying structure for the backside of the cave's entrance. I'm constructing the structure using cardboard. Also, I'm building it in sections so that I can swap parts in and out if I decide to make changes.

I'm planning on having a ledge on the left-hand side of the cave. I also want to have a waterfall coming out of a tunnel and I want to give the impression someone in the cave could crawl down the tunnel if they wanted — who knows what they might find? The following image shows the start of the tunnel.

Below the waterfall I plan on having a pool with a small stream exiting the pool and heading toward the TV screen. The following image shows the start of the pool.

When we put the pool together with the ledge and the tunnel, it really starts to look as though we're getting somewhere.

I'm going to be working at 1:32 scale, which means a 6' tall man would be 2ΒΌ” tall in the cave. The following image includes two cardboard figures to provide a sense of scale — one on the ledge and one in the middle of the cave.

With regard to the final figures, I've been lucky enough to meet up with Leonardo Torricini via his Phersu Miniatures website. Leonardo is an expert at creating this type of character, and he has a particular interest in the stone age (we've read many of the same books), so he's going to be creating the figures for my diorama. We are currently discussing exactly how many we will need and their ages, sexes, poses, clothes, etc.

In addition to a number of cavemen sitting around the fire, there will also be a representation of yours truly in a Hawaiian shirt. Somewhere in the cave will be an H.G. Wells-esque time machine to explain my presence. I've been wondering about making this a two-seater, and then having a model of my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) hanging out with the cavewomen, possibly showing them some of her tricks for burning preparing food.

In the case of the ledge, my original idea was to have two cavemen skulking around up there spying on the scene below. More recently, I've started to think about changing these characters into Morlocks. Perhaps they sneaked in via the tunnel/waterfall. Yes, of course I know my diorama is set 10,000 BM (Before Max) and that Morlocks come from the distant future. Hello! Have you forgotten that there's a time machine involved?

The thing is that I've never actually created a diorama before, so a lot of this is a learning experience. One of the things I've been pondering is how to create the waterfall and the pool so that they look realistic. Take a look at the photograph of the waterfall below — I want my water to look as real as this.

Impossible, you say? Well, would it surprise you to hear that the above image is not of a real waterfall — it's a model! I ran across this amazing video on YouTube showing an incredible creation by a guy from Woodland Scenics.

I tell you, this really blew me away. It's also gotten my creative juices flowing. I've ordered all of the items mentioned in the video from Amazon. They should arrive tomorrow/Friday, and then my chum Mike and myself will start experimenting with them on Saturday.

In my previous column, I noted that there will be a flat screen display at the back of the TV set, and that I will be rendering a 3D mountain scene in real-time that matches the time of day and the passing of the seasons. When it's summer in the real world, it will be summer in my diorama; when it's winter here, the mountains will be covered in snow there; when there's a thunderstorm taking place outside my office window, there will be a mega-storm inside my dioramic world; when there's a full moon or a meteor shower or a solar eclipse or a lunar eclipse in the real world, something equivalent (but way more spectacular) will be going on in my diorama.

I also mentioned that I was going to use a WAV Trigger card to add sound effects, and I asked for suggestions. Here's what we have so far:

  • The sound of the waterfall.
  • Background chatter of the cavemen.
  • Background chatter of the cavewomen.
  • Occasional comment from yours truly like “My, this mammoth burger is scrumptious; perhaps next time we could try cooking it.”
  • More animated and celebratory-type chatter on pagan festivals such as the summer and winter solstices. Also mega-party sounds with kazoos and suchlike on the occasion of my birthday.
  • Wolves howling at night; sabretooth tigers growling in the day; cries of the pterodactyls flying in the sky (artistic license); and so forth.
  • Sounds of wind and thunder (to match lightning) on a stormy day.
  • Rumbling sounds to accompany the distant volcano when it explodes, and you'd better believe that it's going to explode on a regular basis.
  • Occasional bouts of belching and farting sounds a la Blazing Saddles .

If you can think of additional “happenings” and sound effects I should use, then now would be a real good time to mention them.

Last, but certainly not least, for the moment, I'm thinking of embedding some tiny video cameras around the cave — Caveman Cam, if you will. I'm thinking of mounting a flat-screen display on the wall above and behind the television/diorama, and using this to present images as I cycle through the various cameras in the diorama. As part of this, I was thinking about having one camera looking directly out of the screen, in which case visitors to my office would be surprised to see a live video feed of themselves looking into the diorama.

Maybe I'll include sensors so that when someone approaches the diorama and looks in, the conversation in the diorama changes and the characters start making “Ooh, look at that great big head” type noises. Come on. You have to admit that this is pretty clever. And I have to admit that I have a great big smile plastered all over my face just thinking about it. Of course, now I have to start worrying about what cameras to use. I need something really tiny and unobtrusive — any suggestions?

6 thoughts on “Caveman Cam

  1. “Hi Max, Looks like you've made a good start and the water effects look very interesting. At first sight of the images I thought they were of a real waterfall, a nice touch for your diorama.nnNot sure if anyone has suggested this or if you have it in mid

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  2. “I think the Diorama is off to a great start! When You ask about a tiny camera, I take it that you're planning to use that to detect that someone has walked close to the display. If that's what you're after, you might want to consider a passive IR sensor

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  3. “Hi Steve — Mike and I were here in the office for 4 hours this past Saturday experimenting with the water effects — it has to be said that ours don't look as tasty as the ones in the video — but that's what practice is for. Watch this space :-)”

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  4. “Re the mountains — I'm thinking 100% computer generated — plus having the volcano and the moon and meteors and stuff. As to how this will be achieved … ask me after we've got the waterfall done LOL”

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  5. “Hi Rick — I would use a PIR or ultrasonics to detect someone's presence — I want the tiny cameras to embed in the diorama so I can show images from the diorama on a big screen on the wall behind the TV.”

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  6. “I think someone did suggest varying the light to focus on whoever is talking or the current area of interest in the scene — I might look into that when I'm further along — this would look really good if I could get to animate the figures — even if it w

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