in Final Project, My Work, Process, Research

3D(II) proj2: The Rain Man


I was stumped at this project for quite awhile, not quite sure where to start due to a diversity of things we can do. As instructed by Cheryl, I decided to take a look at the structure of our ear to kick start the entire project.


The ear mostly works by vibrations, which is the medium that the sound energy travels through. I decided then to think about what kind of material produces similar vibrations, pushing myself beyond using strings or a drum-like instrument to do so.

Then an idea came up me – why not use an aluminium sheet? I remembered liking the wobbly sound it produces as a kid. Then I looked through Youtube for some inspiration:

The man in the video used the aluminium sheet like a drum, using a variety of materials to hit to create different sounds. I quite like the rubber balls, which is super eerie and extremely unique. I also realised that Foley Artists use aluminium foil to imitate thunder.

These two videos is my main form of inspiration. I observe that the different length of strings create a different pitch. I like how the Marilyn Donadt used the aluminium  foil in place of the water that is used in the Aquaharp apparatus.

Then I decided to plan onto what to do. I know that the main function of the wobbly effect is something I want to capture in my model. So the next step is to think of what kind of mechanism would actually allow a large piece of aluminium foil to wobble?


Firstly, I understood that moving the aluminium sheet up and down creates the sound that I had in mind. Similar to handmade prototypes of the aquaharp that I studied, and Marilyn Donadt’s instrument, a hallow pole is needed for the sound of go through. I also incorporated the sticks as I would like my instrument to have a different layers of sound to make it more interesting. This idea – though simple, works! And it also sounds like thunder.

I decided to make a small and very rough prototype to test it out because aluminium sheets are super expensive!!!!!! No budget for screw ups here.

Probably due to the small size of the sheet, the sounds created by the sticks were not so prominent. I was also not satisfied as with the idea was too simple, and the thin metal stripes was similar to my inspiration. Wanting to push myself, I continued to brainstorm on how to make the concept more interesting. The answer that I thought about was springs!



The main change from my second to final product was incorporating more elements like the cotton balls, lights and the box with beans, enabling to recreate the full effect of rain. I am really satisfied with the final product 🙂

Final product: The Rain Man

PDF is here!

The Rain Man


How it sounds like –


Having some fun with Fernwhere!

Raincoat to fit the rain theme

Oops… dropping Yuli’s model HAHAHAH

How it looks like with lights!

Areas of improvements:

– Lengthen the ropes with is meant to be the grip

– Really find and purchase flickering LED lights, which will be more realistic as the frequency of lightening won’t be as periodic

– Make the top of the box look nicer

– Perhaps add in metal balls with the cotton balls, creating a wider texture of sounds. I personally feel that bells will really suit this model as well, it would be like a rain call before the thunderstorm


This project was super enjoyable for me. The research I have done showed me that sound can be recreated in so many ways, and to be restricted by basic instruments like piano, cello etc is really boxing one’s creativity! It has also pushed me in the sense where I had to use a wider variety of materials and equipment to help me get my final product, such as a drill.

P.s: I am just imagining my church using these kinds of apparatuses for worship instead of normal instruments haha

The end, thanks for reading this far 🙂

  1. Creative & resourceful adaptation of your research material on the various steel sheet soundscapes. I think the aquaharp is a conceptual idea though. It would not be able to play melodies if it just relied on fish accidentally plucking the strings! Clear & concise process documentation of your Rainman. An Outstanding job! 🙂

    However I would have preferred you showed up for the studio movement exercise yesterday instead of working on the OSS upload. You missed out on experiencing a  kinaesthetic opportunity with Bridgel to better understand the symbiotic relationship between your 2 creatures as well as the 2D & 3D movement analysis paper sculpture which is graded in the final assignment. 🙁