“Ray” (Raisin’ the Dead)

For a while now, we’ve had this idea of a grim reaper-esque figure, standing over the graveyard, and being the thing responsible for the zombies and skeletons coming to life in the graveyard.

We’ve made a few attempts to create a version of Ray with enough grandeur and movement to pull it off.

Admitedly, we cheated a little, taking advantage of the Home Depot Reaper as a start for the prop.

But as you have probably figured out by now, I can’t leave well-enough alone

I wanted Ray to rise from the ground, with some accompanying lighting. That meant that he needed a rig that could lift him off the ground, without impeding the animation of the prop.

Ray’s rig is a testament to tinkertoy builds— steel, pivots, counter-balances, and pneumatics!

The design took shape based on the lengths of perforated steel tubing I could find. Oh, and also, the 30inch cylinder I’ve been trying to find a use for. At first, I imagined lifting Ray from his base. Then I decided the Home Depot stands are not known for being sturdy. I had to shift things around a bit, and decided to lift Ray from his waist instead.

The rig needed to be spraypainted flat black.

Becky decided she didn’t like his eyes … 3 LEDs in each eye lense, just looked weird. We adapted some ping-pong eyeballs as covers. Finally, it was time to take him outside for testing…

Once mounted outside, we were able to remove the bottom of Ray’s stand, but that meant the scythe would be unsupported. We corrected that with a little outrigger that could go up and down with him.

The controls for Ray were pretty cool. An Arduino nano drove the show.

  1. A motion sensor sets everything in motion
  2. A spotlight turns on, drawing attention to the figure.
  3. The test-mode animation of the prop is triggered. Ray starts talking…
  4. …and a few seconds later, the rig begins lifting Ray in the air.
  5. At the top of the ascent, the first audio program/animation ends…
  6. …then we trigger the second audio track…
  7. …and Ray descends back to earth.
  8. The second audio track ends, and the spotlight turns off.

(We also had a fog machine frequently backfilling the space with fog to hide the rig)