Brian Szeredy and Brian Scanlon, also known as The Brian’s, have been building show choir props for about six years. In 2019, they decided to create automated concert wings for the Shepherd Hill Regional High School’s show choir group, ILLUSION, to perform during the 35th Central Massachusetts Show Choir Festival.
After hours and hours of research, Brian’s created a prototype of a very simple scissor-like assembly with pieces of metal connected with bolts. The idea was to push this assembly at one point to create the “opening” of the wings like a bird that is about to take flight.
Automated wings prototype
To create a dozen wings, they used the following materials:
Each item mentioned in the above materials list placed a critical part in the creation of these automated wings. The aluminum tubing and metal pieces were used as the mechanical structure of the wings, illustrated in the picture above. These pieces were bolted to each other like a horizontal scissor-lift structure to achieve the wing-like construction. The PVC boards were used to create the backplates for the performers, helping them to carry the automated wings around while they performed. A foam material was attached to these backplates as padding for cushioning during the concert, making the contraption more comfortable to wear. Backpack straps and waistbands were sewn on to these backplates for extra support while moving around the stage, ensuring the wings remained on the performer’s back.
To complete this set-up, The Brian’s used Progressive Automations’ PA-14 Mini Linear Actuator as the main point in the assembly. The wings did not need too much push or pull force, so the design was able to incorporate the PA-14 actuator with a force rating of 35 lbs. A stroke with 6 inches was also chosen as it was sufficient to fully open and close the wings as desired. (Model SKU: PA-14-6-35)
With the push of a button located on the performer’s waistband, the wings were able to open themselves mechanically, and be as authentic and life-like as possible.
Finished product of automated wings
A big thanks to The Brian’s, Shepherd Regional High School, and ILLUSION for the support of our products. If you would like to watch ILLUSION’s performance and how the wings worked out for their show, watch below (go to 7:11:11 to go straight to the wings in operation!):