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Rube Goldberg Process

By definition a Rube Goldberg machine is a machine that performs a very simple task in a very complicated and over-engineered manner. A chain reaction occurs where one element triggers the next element and so on, ultimately triggering the final element - the task of the machine. This final element typically dictates the purpose and theme of the machine, so we often begin by asking "what is the simple task that the Rube Goldberg machine will perform?".

Once this task is determined we begin to customize and shape a rough blueprint for the machine; we brainstorm and formulate the different elements that comprise the machine. At this stage the elements are unique pieces in the machine, meaning that they are not linked to a previous or following action. They are standalone actions that can be incorporated into the machine at any time. Developing the elements in this fashion gives us versatility and a large bank of possible elements. During this process sketches and descriptions of the elements are sent to the client for input and feedback.

Invariably, many elements are eliminated from our initial brainstorming sessions. Perhaps the duration of the element would be too long or too short, or the element may be too costly or disrupt the theme of the machine - there are a multitude of reasons why an element may be eliminated. To compensate for this inevitability we typically design many more elements than could ever be incorporated into the Rube Goldberg machine. Once the proposed elements are approved we commence construction.

The construction phase is similar to the design phase, in the sense that we construct the elements individually, as unique pieces, before embedding them into the machine. This ensures that the each element is repeatable and can withstand the wear and tear that it must withstand. After various elements are fabricated they are placed in position and we begin to connect them to one another - creating a chain reaction.

As soon as all of the elements are placed and connected we begin a testing phase of the machine. We progress through the elements from the start, step-by-step, and verify that all connections are stable and dependable. However, despite vast and tedious testing, the inherent character of all Rube Goldberg machines is to malfunction. They are without question unpredictable. Achieving a successful run of the machine from start to finish will often require many attempts. With this in mind we recommend a liberal time-frame for filming.

  A major factor in the success of a machine is the number of elements and connections, and the total run time of the machine. As both of these factors increase, the number of attempts and resets will increase. Our longest video came in at 3 minutes and 56 seconds. This machine required six days of shooting and 99 takes for completion. In contrast our shortest machine came in at 10 seconds and was built and filmed in a single afternoon. Simplicity in the design of the Rube Goldberg machine aids the consistency and the filming of the machine, but takes away from the "over-engineered" aspect. It is a fine line to tread.

Despite all of this, every Rube Goldberg machine is very different and ultimately each machine requires a custom approach. Costs associated with these projects vary as widely as the projects themselves. We encourage any curious-minded individuals to contact us for a custom quote as no possible rate-card could be prepared for something as fantastically amazing as a Rube Goldberg machine.