Tag Archives: animation

behind the scenes stuff

here are some more photos from the behind the scenes of my latest film. The film is completed and is currently with the music guy getting a musical score composed for it. Soon very soon it will be ready for release. Hang in there a little bit longer. Thanks for following along this past year as we put this film together. It means a lot to us and you adoring fans are the reason we make these films.

go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

a new flying rig

Well for the stopmotionmagic.com october challenge I needed to turn my puppet 180 degrees, and for that I needed a super great wonderfully terrific flying rig, so I built one. (Note: in the photos you will see a black track, ignore this because that is my track lighting, has nothing to do with this rig)

Here is how:

Start with a long piece of wood, cut a dovetail slot in it with a router bit or table saw, cut a small scrap with a dovetail to slide in the slot. So now you have a 4 foot long piece of wood with a scrap that slides in a dovetail joint along the length. This will allow your flying rig to slide across the set left and right.

Now for the main piece. I wanted three connection points to keep the puppet better balanced. Take two pieces of scrap and make a Tee.  Glue these together. Drill holes in the ends for round dowels (pencils work great). Attach string to the dowels, and attach tiny wire hooks to the ends of the string. To raise or lower the hook heights just turn the dowels. If your holes in the wood scrap tee is not exact fit for the dowels you can cut a slot, and then put a nut and bolt on it to make it a tighter fit.  I drilled holes in the pencils and put a thin diameter dowel to make turning the pencils a little easier.  The whole tee assembly gets a bolt drilled through the center and is bolted to the scrap that has the sliding dovetail cut on it. Using this system allows the tee to swivel around. A wing nut on the bottom loosens or tightens the tee against the dovetail block and makes it easier or hard to twist around.

My latest animation exercise “turn your puppet 180” uses this flying rig and no tiedowns at all.

here is the link to video.

you can see the strings in the video.  I will remove them later.  The rig works great. Hope you enjoy. Let me know if you have any questions about how to build this.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

sound bite challenge film completed

After months of working on the set, and building a flying rig, and animating and then erasing all the flying rig shots, the sound bite challenge film is done.

Brett McCoy composed a 30 second sound bite and we all animated something to match the music. Here is my entry.


All of you that have been following along with the blog entries will see the set in use that you watched being built in the below posts.

Sandra Valenca’s interview

Sandra Valenca took time away from her new film to answer our interview questions. Thanks Sandra,

1. Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming film “The Weapon”?

Well, The Weapon is an animated “short” film (aprox. 28 min.) in a science fiction setting, inspired by Czech puppet tradition and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a story about Lydia, Lorenzo and Augustine who work at Minerva, a space station in orbit around Earth. The station is the most important part of a defense system for maintaining World Peace. Everything is quite peaceful until the day they receive new orders, and a moral dilemma approaches. The central question then becomes: are we individually responsible?

Me and a friend of mine, Markus, started out this project in September 2006. Earlier on, we had done a quite crappy short film, and it was really annoying that it came out that bad – I knew we could do better. So, we simply decided that we were going to challenge ourselves and try to animate this long, far too long, script that Markus had written. We also involved my brother, Mattias, to get some help.

This far, it has gone really well, yet no major catastrophies. Hopefully, the post-production will be finished in time to have the film released at Gothenburg International Film Festival in January 2009.

2. Is it true it has 22 minutes of lip sync that you have to animate to?

Hehe, yes, well, the dialouge soundtrack is about 22 minutes, but it also includes pauses between scenes. Although the script is 28 pages (which, if you use common American script format, is supposed to be 28 minutes film), it’s a bit hard to estimate the total length of lip sync animation, but let’s say it’s about 19-20 minutes. Jeez, I must really be such an idiot…

3. What drew you to stopmotion animation?

Even though my brother and I as kids used to make stop motion with lego puppets, and also did some feeble claymation-attempts, I would say that me making my first stop motion-film was mostly a coincidence. I’ve always been drawing, and at twenty, I studied Cartoons and Sequential Art at University. When graduation approached, I wanted to do something new, and I asked Markus, who was really into film, to write something for puppet animation. Earlier on, we had done some things together, longer graphic novels and stuff. He wrote the script for “Ivan the Meek”, which was our first stop motion shortie.

4. What are some of your strongest skills in this craft?

Clearly, the model-making. That’s what I find most entertaining, even though I am often frustrated by not having the time or money get the materials I would like. But well, you’ve got to be inventive when you’re poor. They say that’s part of the charm… Strikes me sometimes though how weird this profession must seem to others. When working today, it just hit me, like “what the hell am I doing? I am sitting, drilling holes in a stick to put smaller sticks in that stick, to be able to put small lumps of clay on it, to make it look like a tree. I must really be seriously ill.” I enjoy it very much, though.

5. What is a big weakness you have in stopmotion and how you deal with it?

Funny thing is, that none of us is really interested in animation, I think that we both kind of see it as something that you have to deal with when the writing and the sets are finished… When starting out, I bought this Aardman-book, “creating 3D-animation” from which we have learned pretty much everything we know. I also had an old copy of Preston Blair’s “Animation”, a book on classic cell-animation, which was helpful when coming to understand the movements of a specific body mass. It took quite a while before understanding that a movement isn’t at it’s best when the puppet move as much in frame one as in frame to and three and so on… Now I think that we have got quite a grip on it, though I still find it hard to create complex, fast movement. And the whole “shoot-on-two”-thingy is still a mystery.

6. How do you think films from the U.S. or other parts of the world differ from the films you would produce or watch in your country?

There aren’t that many Swedish puppet animators, most of the Swedish animation is 3D-generated, which I, because of the looks, don’t really appreciate that much. Mostly, I watch Czech puppet animation from the sixties. Actually, there isn’t really much of (interesting) Swedish animation at all, because of this subsidy system of the Swedish film industry. It’s rather complex, but let’s just say it works this way: you pitch your project to a film counselor, and if she or he likes it, you get a certain amount of money to produce your film. Of course, everybody want this money, and to get it you “have to” (it isn’t outspoken, but quite obvious) write a certain type of script to get it approved. This leads to most films ending up conforming and boring.

7. If we set up a large studio to make a film, what job title would you like to have if we hire you?

Hey, that’s a dream situation! Do you think there would actually be something called payment involved? I will take the “Scenograph and Puppet Designer” title, please.

8. What advice would you give to a person just starting out in stopmotion animation?

FIX THE CAMERA. Any unwanted movement of the camera will be outstandingly annoying when watching the film. It will probably make the audience nauseous and they will leave. Fixing the camera isn’t really that hard, I use a simple, but quite heavy, tripod, you could use pretty much anything that doesn’t move, for example putting the camera on a table – and avoid the table. Re-do rather than say “okay” to a bad take. Have patience (which is a funny advice since I really lack that myself). But ok, just force yourself to re-do it, animation isn’t fun, it’s having patience…

9. After showing your work to a group of people, what compliment would you enjoy hearing?

“You are such a brilliant puppet designer. Tim Burton? Who is that?”

10. What do you dream of right now?

I am exhausted, so I would just like to get this thing finished, and then I would just lie down and watch the entire X-Files over and over and over again. After that, I would probably start another kamikaze project…

Ok, Sandra back to filming. I will post some of your photos here too of your project

Replacement mouth parts

A new set being constructed

Ok everyone, I started my set. The basic idea is a bunch of puppets sliding down a grassy hill side having great fun. I started by adding two pieces of granite turned so the shiny side is hidden. This is a great rough surface for some mountain side or building. Kinda expensive but I had some left over from a kitchen job.

Add some styrofoam, cut to rough shape.

Add some paper mache to cover all the styrofoam.

Mix up some earthy looking paint, brown or greenish.

Base coat the mountain

Drybrush on some brown

Drybrush on some different colors, mostly browns and greens.

Mix up some white glue and water. I dumped some of the ground texture in there too for fun.

This is the textures I used. I got them from a hobby store where they sell railroad supplies.

Mix them up in a big bag.

Brush on the glue mixture and sprinkle the texture on. Let dry, brush off the excess and reapply to fill in any holes.

It is really starting to look like a grassy hillside.

Here is a closeup of the textures.

Add a puppet.

In this shot with the flash you can see some areas on the front that need some more work. I will probably add some larger rocks or more dirt later.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

A failed puppet

Well, I tried to make a new puppet and failed. The challenge was to sculpt something in clay, then make a plaster mold of it the clay, then cast it in brush on latex to make a skin for the puppet.

Everything started out great. I found some professional plastilina oil based clay and some softer water based clay and completed my sculpt. Here is the side of the clay sculpt. It stands about 5″ tall.

Now you can see the head and arm and leg sculpted in plastilina clay.

white clay is soft water based clay, grey is plastilina

The plaster mold process went great and all the molds were completed. I used two part molds for the body, arms, and legs, and a one part mold for the head. Once the plaster was dry, and the clay removed, I brushed in vaseline for a mold release.

I pulled the skins out and tried to attach them to my wire armature. This is where the problems started. I didn’t have enough foam on the body to fill everything out.

The seams on the back spines and the front chest looked really bad.

And the details seemed all mushed together. The brown belt though that you can see is another experiment using rubber cement, thinner, and paint all mixed together to make a paint medium that will stick to the latex and still flex. It seems to really have worked well.

Above is a close up of the detail. Below is the head. I may leave this part.

I am removing the red skin from the puppet and starting over but the head seems ok. Below is a wrinkle in the side of the puppet.

I removed all the red skin and bulked up the body mass with more foam and will see what happens from there.

A new sculpt in clay I want to mold

Ok, I sculpted a clay creature and now plan to make a plaster mold for it. The plan is to make a clay sculpt, then make a two part plaster mold of it. Once the mold is made, I will clean out the clay (destroying the sculpt in the process) and put the two halves back together. I then plan to pour some latex (mold builder) in the mold, swish it around, then pour out the excess. I will let that dry, then repeat a few times until the latex skin is thick enough.

Then I plan to pop open the mold, and have a great latex skin of my sculpt. I will cut maybe between the legs so I can slide a metal armature inside, and then fill it out with some cushion foam (like from a seat cushion) to form the muscles.

I will post more as it progresses. These pictures are the torso only. I will sculpt the limbs and head separately. The sculpt right now is about 5″ high. I started with a lump of clay around a pencil which is held upright with a hole in a piece of scrap wood. The creature is a big scaly creature with leather straps holding on a quiver of arrows.