Friday, June 1, 2012

Captured Scream Makers: Prop Mistress Terra

Something is Lurking in the Hollow

In these woods, we have some interesting critters. But something unnerving has been sighted lunging out of the undergrowth—a huge, growling, poisonous looking arachnid. No, this isn't the large, furry variety I used to curl up with at night (what? didn't you?); this one is  black, slimy, hungry, and none too friendly. I've heard tale that it scurried out from under a place called The Castle of Terra.

In this, soon to be reoccurring, topic I'll be capturing featuring scream makers—artists and entertainers of all varieties—throughout the haunt community and forcing asking them to tell me a little about themselves as well as spotlighting one or more of their creations. This week, it is my pleasure to feature You Tube celebrity and moderator, Terra and her pneumatic spider prop.

Terra took the time to feature a five-part tutorial on You Tube that covers rigging the prop and pneumatics, mixing and adding sound with AudacityVSA programming, and using the DMXoricist controller. As a bonus, you'll be treated to a walk-through of her ChromaDepth, 3D haunt. Now if all this sounds a little complicated for you then you're not alone, but be at ease in knowing that Terra breaks everything down for you in a way that is enjoyable as well as informative. I believe even beginners will be inspired to continue honing their skills in hopes of achieving these kinds of results.

The Interrogation 

First, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interrogation!
Thanks for asking me. I'm honored to be featured on your blog.
What name do you prefer to go by in the Haunt community?
Terra; I took that name from an icon character at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN). It was a fantastic year and so I wanted to model my haunt after it. Terra is close to my actual name of Tracy but sounds much more scary on the forums :) 
How did you get started in prop building and designing a home haunt? 
It’s HHN's fault. The hubby and I were celebrating our 10th anniversary of meeting each other. We had met on the Sovereign of the Seas cruise ship 10 years prior and they were still sailing. But, it was only a 3-day cruise at that point. So, we spent two extra days in Orlando and when we were purchasing our tickets at Universal Studios they asked if we wanted to also get the tickets for the special event haunt that was happening that evening. I’d never been to a haunted house and the idea scared the heck out of me. But, I was with my big protective hubby and said, “What the heck." Needless to say I was blown away and wanted to recreate some of that fun for our neighborhood.
What is the name of your home haunt and does it change year to year?
It’s called Castle of Terra and has three rotating themes: Force of Darkness, Vampyr Reign, and Zombie Apocalypse. They all have a post-apocalyptic theme so there isn’t that much set design changes but enough to keep it looking different year to year. I figure that returning a theme the third year is enough time for the ToTs to forget what it was like 3 years prior, plus–it gives me a chance to build the props that were planned that I had run out of time to do before.
What was the first prop you ever built?
We returned to HHN’s the next year after we had first discovered it and their theme was The Terra Queen. It was amazing and they had these props scattered all around the park that looked simple enough to replicate. When we returned from HHN I built "Doom" the next day:

How would you describe your experience with your first prop build?
I was shocked at how easy it was and the reactions from the kids in the neighborhood. They loved it, which just fired me up to top myself the next year.
What level of expertise would you assign to a prop like your “spider prop”? Beginner, intermediate, or advanced? 
It’s like all of the above? Heh. If you look at that video series the first part is the easiest. You just have to attach the purchased spider to the purchased pneumatic rigging. The programming is easy once you have passed through the learning curves. So, when I first started learning the programming it was very hard; now, to me, it’s very easy. That’s why I make so many tutorials. I try to help people pass through the learning curve much faster than I had to go through.
How long did it take you to complete the prop?
Building props is a start and stop process. I’m actually building several props at the same time. I use integrated haunt control and so the building and programming are done in batches. Integrated haunt control means there is one computer that runs all the props in the garage haunt. First, the props are built. Then, you write all the sound files. Next, you write the programs. Finally, you set-up all the triggering. Last year it took two weeks to complete the process because many of the props were already built the previous years. If you were to isolate the spider prop I would say–a day and a half.
What would you say is the most advanced prop you have built to date? 
It’s a tie between Terra and the Hell Hound. Terra was the first time I’d ever sculpted and, like an idiot, I picked a beautiful woman. If I was smarter I would have picked an ugly monster, that way mistakes wouldn't have been noticeable. The Hell Hound was hard because I was doing subtractive sculpting meaning that I cut away to form the sculpt. If you cut too much you are screwed, basically. LOL.  


"Hell Hound"
Would you like to tell us about your aspirations for haunting? Stay local, go bigger, or go pro?
Stay right where I am, which may be impossible. I don’t advertise the haunt and give any local interviews. I want to keep it just for our neighborhood. But, word is getting out and it’s getting a bit too much to handle. Last year we received over 400 ToTs. If we start hitting 600+ we may have to stop—which would be okay, actually… it’s a lot of work and I’m not getting any younger. But, I’ll always build props–one way or the other….
Do you have plans for a new project soon?
Yes, painting new ChromaDepth panels for the haunt. Last year was ambitious as we decided to go 100% ChromaDepth. It was a success but I need to make Vampyr Reign 100% ChromaDepth now. Not a big deal though–many of the panels from last year’s Force of Darkness will fit in nicely with the theme. I’ll be adding to it with an extended Skulls Room, Hell Growth Room, and a Graveyard.
If you could share one piece of advice with new home haunters out there, what would it be?
Don’t be in such a hurry to go big. Deciding to make a walk-through haunt is a time-sucking commitment. Only do it if you are ready. If you are just making displays for the front yard: ALWAYS PLAN FOR THE WIND!
Would you like to take a moment to promote anything specifically? 
Well, if anyone would like to take a peek at my tutorials there are two places that are good. If you like to just watch videos here’s my You Tube channel and for extended written tutorials that go along with the video check out my blog
Is there anything you would like to add before we conclude this interrogation?
No :) 

Again, I want to thank Terra for taking the time to visit us. Perhaps when I'm done "picking her brain" for prop building knowledge—I'll let her go.... 

Please drop on by and Terra's You Tube page, subscribe, and thank her for all her hard work in putting together the tutorial and doing this interview.

A big thank you to my newest followers: Dave Lowe, Halloween Spirit, Gothic Gourd Girl, Frog Queen, and Justine's Halloween.

A huge shout out goes to Brian and Darryl for featuring my blog on one of my favorite podcasts, HaunTopic radio. I can't thank them enough for supporting and promoting the blog. I hope to do a feature on HaunTopic very soon. 

All images and video in this post are © 2012 Tracy AKA Terra and used with written permission. 


  1. Great stuff! You got to Terra before I did. :-) I'm glad I got to know her just a bit more. Thanks for keeping an 'Eye' out!!

  2. Thank you Brian! Terra is extremely easy to correspond with. Without even meeting her in person you can tell she is so generous and kind. I have no doubt that one of your audio interviews would display her qualities even better than this post.


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