Tag Archives: puppet

new armature

I have been working for the past few days on a new armature for a new puppet. I have no idea what the final puppet is going to be, I just wanted to work on my armature skills.

The final armature feels really nice, it is still not professional quality but it does feel good when you move the joints.

I used stainless steel 302 balls and rods. The plates are aluminum. Remember when working on your armature that hobbyists can not solder aluminum. Anything that needs solder has to be steel, or brass. The aluminum plates are easy to form and cut and look like the stainless steel parts to make the whole armature a silver color.

Here is a list of parts and tools I used. For cutting the aluminum, I used my bandsaw, but you can use a hacksaw or dremel tool. I shaped it with a variety of files and a few different grits of sandpaper. This is what the mostly finished armature looks like.

overall

front

This is the head. The piece sticking out is the bottom jaw. It can move up and down.

head

From this side you can see the screw that goes through the bottom jaw, through the middle spacer, then into the threaded part of the other side.

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I really wanted the head to have great movement. I put a joint near the collar bone area, then one inside the skull area. There are actually three movable points there from the neck up and into the head. I was only striving for two. I could have locked down the middle one if i wanted.

I cut the shoulders at a 45 degree angle to help give the arms more range of motion. The shoulder joint rods are held into the chest block with allen wrench set screws. The holes are tapped with 8-32 threads, and the allen screws are ground down until they fit without too much sticking out.

back

In this shot you can see the upper arms are open ball and socket as well as the lower spine. The screws are 4-40 threads and are countersunk into the plates to help reduce thickness.  The spine rod goes all the way through the chest block upto the neck joint. It is held in place with an allen screw. The upper legs are also regular open ball and socket joints. The rods are 3/32″ stainless steel 302.

chest

The lower legs have a step joint so it ends up with a ball on one end, and the open plates on the other end.  The rod is held in the plate with a set screw. i had to go back and add the extra screw to keep the plates all lined up.  In the lower leg joints the top screw holds the rod in place, the lower screw holds the three plates together.  The lowest screw puts tension on the ankle ball.  I used to put a joint in the toe, but usually it gets in the way as I animate so I put a solid foot in this armature.

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The feet are cut from a solid piece of aluminum, The rod is held in place with a screw coming in from the back of the foot. The hole is a tapped hole with 8-32 threads for the tiedown.  The aluminum is 1/4″ thick from flat stock.

feet

This hand design is my version of a hand I saw in one of Tom Brierton’s designs. It is cut from a solid single piece of aluminum. I cut a rectangle first to size, drilled all my holes and tapped the holes while it still had square flat edges. Once all the holes were done, then I filed it down to size. The two screws have the finger wires wrapped around and then tightened down to hold them in place. I could not figure out a better way to lock down the thumb wire since it has to emerge so far down close to the wrist. I will make sure it is secure before putting skin on it. I put green stuff on the finger tips to give them shape and to cover up the sharp metal edges. The slot cut down the hand from the wrist gives it enough flex that the screw can pull the plates together enough to lock down on the wrist joint ball. It is tricky to get all this to work.  This is the top of the hand.

hand

This is the palm side.

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I welcome all comments.

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.

Making a brush on build up latex skin from a mold

Ok everyone, today we are going to make a latex skin for our puppet. But we don’t just want a regular buildup latex skin, we want some detail in it that we don’t think we can manage with just brushing it on.

The first thing you do is to make an armature (in this case it was a ball and socket but any armature will do), once you are happy with your armature then add a little cushion foam to help rough out the body shape. A lot of people will tell you to make the sculpt first but I did not know what the puppet looked like yet so I started with the armature. Here is the puppet with some foam.

Next I sculpted a clay body with the details that I wanted on the skin. Make the sculpt as close to the desired body shape as possible to help it fit better later. Most people for this step will use Roma Plastilina clay. I use Prima plastilina because it has no sulfur smell because my wife gets migraines from the smell of roma clay. You can probably use about any clay you desire for the sculpt. Once you have your sculpt, make a plaster mold of it. I made a one-piece mold very simply by just sculpting the front side of the creature, leaving the back flat. I took the finished sculpture and laid it flat on a piece of plastic. I took softer water based clay and made a dam around the sculpt and then poured in plaster of paris to fill the dam. Ron Cole (AnimatorIsomer)         http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDW1NKIfgQQ

has a great set of mold making tutorials on youtube and stopmotion magic.

Once you have your plaster mold completed, pop out the clay and clean up the plaster mold. I then used an old paint brush to brush vaseline on the plaster as a mold release. Now take your mold builder latex and apply a thin coat in the mold. Let dry, add another, let dry, repeat 3 or 4 times. If you apply a little bit of powder to the latex before pulling it out of the mold it lessens the chance that it will stick to itself. Now all you have to do is peel out your new skin.  Below is a photo of the clay sculpture, the plaster mold and the skin. I tinted the latex white with acrylic paint as I applied it.

Here is the mold on the bottom and the resulting latex skin on top.

Again all three sections.

Now lay your skin on your puppet and adjust the foam until the skin fits with no wrinkles or voids. Apply tacky glue or more latex on the back of the skin and lay it on the foam muscles. I wrap mine gently with thread just to hold it in place. I will remove the thread when the skin is securely glued to the foam.

The background by the way is from my new film.

There you go, pretty simple, it just takes a few steps, a few parts, and a desire to try something new.

So go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

end

building a new set for Woolly Monster puppet

ok, everyone pull up a seat and lets begin our next set. This set is designed for the puppet that Woolly Monster (Ceri Watling) sent to me from the UK in our puppet exchange program at stopmotionanimation.com

After the set was cleaned up from our last film, I went to the library and read some books by Bob Ross the famous oil painter. I am trying to learn oil painting on the side. Well some of his techniques can be used with fast drying acrylics. So, began painting my set background with acrylic paints using some of his landscape techniques. I have no pictures in progress of that part but this is what it ended up looking like when done. Remember the set is about 3′ or 1 meter long.

Once the painting was completed in the back I started a cushion foam base for a tree in the corners to help hide the seams where the back meets the sides.

Here is photo of the background with a little less glare.

This is my pile of assorted brushes, paints, knives, and whatever else.

To hide the seam where the back meets the ground I built up a berm (a small hill made of earth) out of paper mache.

I paper mached over the tree form on the right side

The beginnings of a tree…only here to add depth and to hide the corner seam.

I also added the same tree idea in the left corner.

The berm will get grass later but for now I painted it black so none of white would show through the grass.

I added a mid/foreground tree. I twisted up electrical wire, glue it to the floor and then paper mached over it to make a trunk and branches.

Added the same type of tree on the left side. I also started laying out some silk plants I had in my prop box.

Here are some of the extra plant props being assembled.

This is the first test shot looking at different camera angles for filming and figuring out a puppet’s path. I have to be careful about that glare on the floor and have to prevent any shadows from hitting the back wall because that would ruin the illusion that it is a real 3d space.

So that is what I have so far. All of the white paper mache will be painted black and then grass glued on.  More in the next post.

So, I know what you are thinking, “wow that looks great but I can’t do that, because I am terrified that I might make a mess”….well, I can almost promise you that you will make a mess. I can also promise you that it will be fun, and almost guaranteed it won’t hurt you in any way.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

end

tear down another puppet set

ok, time to demolish the set for “sound bite challenge”….here goes….this is the set  still intact….

here is a bottle of glue just to show size of the set….

just take a sheetrock saw and cut the foam in half…no need for tears, soon we will start our next set.

the entire right side pulled up in one piece…I saved the entire piece for later…or until I run out of room…

so the right side is gone…

left side now…all just styrofoam and paper mache so it all came up pretty easily…if you are just joining us, the building of this set is below somewhere in an older post….

the back is two pieces of granite, so they go out back behind the shop also

I removed all of that and then begin scraping and sanding the set to remove any glue and old paint….and immediately begin my next set…

A very simple camera pan slide dolly setup for puppet stage

When you need to do a pan move across your set, here is an easy and cheap way to do it using very few parts. You will need some scrap wood, a threaded rod (I used a one foot section of 8-32 threaded rod), a wingnut and washer to fit the rod and a locknut or regular nut to fit the threaded rod.

First thing you do is build a simple sled that your camera can sit on, and will slide across your set or desk or table. Place a lip on the front edge so it rides against the front edge of your set. You can also just lay another piece of scrap wood down, secure it in place any angle you wish and make the sled ride on the scrap wood. Either way you need a piece of wood that your camera can rest on and a lip to follow some edge. At this point you could easily just take a picture and slide the sled a little bit and take another photo and you will get a pan shot, but it is very difficult to get a really smooth movement without the threaded rod part.

Above you can see the whole setup. The camera and tripod rest on the sled. Now for the threaded rod. Drill a hole in your sled large enough for the threaded rod to slide through. Insert one end and put a washer and a nut on it. This is free to turn in the hole you drilled in the sled.

The other end of the threaded rod does all of the work. Take another scrap of wood and build something you can clamp or screw to the set. Drill another hole in this end for the threaded rod. Insert the rod and put a washer and a wingnut on it. Now when you turn the wingnut it pulls the rod and the sled towards this end.

This gives an incredible amount of control to your pan shots. You turn the wingnut a few turns, take a photo, then turn the wingnut again. With every turn of the wingnut the sled moves a tiny bit. If you also use the ease in/ease out principles you get a great pan shot. For instance on my shot I started with one turn of the wingnut for the first 4 shots, then two turns for 4 shots, then three turns, then four, then five. For the rest of the pan I stayed with five turns until the end and then I did the whole sequence in reverse.

My sled has a few extras on it that you can also add if you wish but are not necessary. The first thing is it is a box to give me enough room to slide my hand into. My tripod has a wire on it attached to a screw. I slid this screw down through the top of the sled box and put a wingnut on it. When I tighten the wingnut it pulls the wire tight and holds the tripod in place. If you don’t use a tripod on your sled you can just sit the camera on a flat board and glue some scraps around it so the camera doesn’t move around.

The other thing I did is screw a scrap on both sides of the sled with a hole in both so I can reverse my sled so it also pulls the other direction. See the small blocks of wood in the above photo, one on the left and one on the right? They both have a hole in them that the threaded rod will fit in.

Looking at the photo above I see that I also put a nut on this side and the other side of the threaded rod when it went through the support just to keep it in place. Remember the threaded rod can be locked in place on the sled so it doesn’t turn when you turn the wingnut on the clamped piece.

You can use this principle in many different ways. Below is another setup I did basically the same to pull a water snake across the mud in “third necessity”. Same idea though, threaded rod, and a wingnut that you turn to pull the rod towards you which pulls the puppet, prop, or camera sled in a slow controlled measured amount. You could even hook it up so it pulls your soda and your chocolate to you while you animate but you will end up pretty thirsty and hungry before it ever arrives.

So there you go, cheap (I think the threaded rod is a couple dollars, a dollar or two for nuts, and some scrap wood) easy, and gives great results. All of my pan shots have been done with some form of this setup.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

a few puppet photos

here are some of the puppets I have created. This dragon was first used in “a piece of mime”. Once the film was completed the puppet was put away to rest. The latex cracked after awhile and became chalky. So for its appearance in my new film I needed to repair some of the latex and repaint it. The latex is NOT foam latex. It is brush on latex called “mold builder” that you can buy in almost any craft store. For this puppet, I created a ball and socket armature and then glued seat cushion foam to the armature. I clipped it with scissors to shape the muscles. Once I had the basic shape, I took some clay and sculpted the body. From the clay I made a plaster mold. When the plaster was dry I brushed in latex mold builder tinted with red paint until it was thick enough. It took several layers, with each layer drying before the next one was added. This took several days to complete. The latex skin was then glued onto the foam muscles, and any holes or defects patched with brush on latex.

The wings were sculpted in a thin clay layer laying flat on the workbench, like a tiny shallow lake. A wire armature was laid in place and I then brushed in latex layer by layer until it was thick enough and then attached it to the dragon. I had wires sticking out of the body waiting for the attachment. Here is the basic armature without front legs yet or wing wires. It is standing up on its own with no other supports.

This is the body sculpted in clay

this is my messy work area

this is the clay sculpture laying in a clay bed and plaster poured around it to make a mold of one side.

This photo shows the plaster mold finished. It is for one side only of the dragon. I filled the tiny air bubble holes and then brushed in mold builder latex.

This is what the skin looks like when I pulled it out. The black arrow shows bumps caused by air bubbles in the mold but for this skin it looks great.

This is the skin laying loosely on the armature just for show. I have to cover the armature in foam first to build up the muscles.

Here is the finished dragon in a new puppet set.

In this collage you can see:

the witch girl from “a puppet’s life”

the goblin puppet maker, mother and son, and furry creature from “free with purchase”

the ogre, the purple creature, and the forest wizard from “the third necessity”

the dragon and the mime from “a piece of mime”

the goblins from “a public safety announcement”

the guy on the right with white hair is new and has not been seen before.

Most of the puppets have a wire armature with brush on latex skins. A few of those above have ball and socket armatures and some have hand sewn clothes.