Please Knock

April 02, 2019

The assignment: animate a Rube Goldberg machine.


I wanted to go for recognizable everyday objects instead of, say, the obvious dominoes and balls, since I've always thought the appeal of a Rube Goldberg is that you're making an imperfect, hodgepodge array of items move in precise, controlled ways. So I decided on an office supply theme and modeled myself:

Some post-its, some ballpoint pens, and a dry-erase marker! (I'm particularly proud of how I got the marker to roll in a circular path due to its tapering, just like a real marker does.)

render of post-its, ballpoint pens, and a dry-erase marker

A ruler, another dry-erase marker, and some wet wipes!

render of a ruler, a dry-erase marker, and wet wipes

I did light and shade the scene, although I liked the simplicity of a shadowless render and used that for my final composite. Here's a playblast of the Rube Goldberg with some purty shading:

You'll notice this animation goes much quicker than it does in the composite - I had to slow it down to fit the amount of song I had to fill before I got to the knock on wood part.

But that's the boring animation part of this assignment (and when the animation part is the boring part, you know it's getting good). Back in my childhood I (actually!) had a Rube Goldberg phase. I grew up on FlippyCat and Joseph Herschel and the This Too Shall Pass video. So I knew this assignment had to pay tribute to this old obsession of mine - and what better way to do it than with an actual, real-life Rube Goldberg?

Many thanks to Atiya and Jack for helping me steal office supplies to build that Rube Goldberg, and for my bosses for not firing me upon finding out I did this...

This video is also dedicated to my friend Paul - during our last hackathon we fell in love with Amii Stewart's Knock on Wood. So I thought - what's the ultimate goal of this Rube Goldberg? And then I thought of Paul. And thus the Woodknocker was born.

me holding up my wood knocker, literally just a picture of a fist

I don't know what's more awkward - owning this, or having to go outside, find a suitable piece of wood, and carry a huge stick back into the library so I could film the video.

The lengths I go for my art.