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Animatronic Babe puppeteered by the Henson Performance Control System


Mak Wilson testing the Big1 system used for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Henson Performance Control System (also known as "Big1") is an Academy Award-winning system for controlling the performance of animatronic puppet characters developed by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. It was developed in 1989 and first used extensively in the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The system's breakthrough was that it gave a single puppeteer control over elaborate animatronic characters which had previously required entire teams of performers to control. The system itself consists of a dedicated, custom-built computer along with one or more manual input devices that allow a single puppeteer to control up to 32 individual servos and 8 motor actuators in an animatronic puppet.

The system was extended in 1990 with a program called Performance Editor, which enabled puppeteers to record, edit and playback their performances to create pre-programmed lip sync. The Performance Editor was first used to perform characters in the 1995 film Babe.

Despite its success, the Big1 system had a number of limitations. The system's dedicated, custom-built computer and lack of an operating system made updating or expanding it difficult and expensive. The system was not modular and could not take advantage of software that was readily available for other types of computer systems. It also could not be used in computer graphics, an area that the Creature Shop was rapidly expanding in to throughout the 1990s. As a result, a more advanced Linux-based character control system called the Henson Digital Performance System that can be used to control both animatronics and computer graphics was developed in 2000.