Concepts - 'Garage / Mad Science Machine' Prop

Mad Science Machine Prop

The brief here was to produce a machine for a scene in someone’s backyard workshop or garage that appeared to be scientific similar to what you would see in a film like “Back to the Future” or “Honey I shrunk the Kids”. It had to look rough and ready, crudely put together and appear to be doing or to be used for something science wise.

The budget was to be very low ideally construction out of items from a dump or recyclers, plus some MDF. In terms of the project there was to be 4 stages:

Stage 1

Research similar machines from films such as Back to the Future.

Stage 2

Look around for components such as hubcaps, door handles, vacuum cleaner tubes, grills, bin lids plus more and I found an old dishwasher to act as a centre piece. What was a problem however is that dumps and recycling centres won’t allow you to rummage or take items any more.

Stage 3

Sketch ideas to show to the client. First some varied shapes and concepts far more in line with what had been seen in various film workshop and lab scenes of something that had been roughly put together and appeared to be doing something  science like, this was difficult as there had been no indication from the client as to what the machine had been supposed to do. This results in myself and the client envisioning totally different concepts as no common form follows function. It’s was only after I had spent over 26 hours of work that he decided what he wants was a form of large glass cabinet such as a fume hood, very different to what he had originally asked for.

The project did not continue to completion with no more budget from the client and for myself there would be nowhere to put it not being sold so this stayed an example of sketch ideation and problem solving. Tooling and equipment would also be a likely problem with little in the way of workshop equipment.

Thus no stage 4 build but the sketches indicate what could have been made and out of what sort of readily available items.


Inspiration came from movies such as Project Almanac, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Back to the Future, Despicable Me, the Hadron Collider and various artwork. Walking around industrial estates also proves useful in seeing how machinery could be interconnected and shaped looking like processing plants and how structures would stand and connect.

It also came from everyday items which I envisioned could be used as components such as wheelie bin lids for hatches, metal phone cords or shower tube casing, air vents, car hub caps, door knobs, acetate over lightboxes, a dishwasher, tubes from vacuum cleaners grills etc.

Share by: