Tag Archives: set building

Beginning of the underwater film

So, the throne room film is complete and is now on my youtube channel. It is called “Shear Fear”.

So, now it is time to begin a new film. This one takes place underwater on a tiny little reef. The main characters will be seahorses, hermit crabs, fish and shrimp.

This is how I began to form the reef set. I took some styrofoam and began to add some shape to the set. I cut some small pieces of foam on the bandsaw and glued together around a semi-circle to form this red coral.

I brushed several layers of paint on until I was happy with the color.

Add some more foam for the reef walls.

Fill the gaps in with some foam insulation.

Wrap some wires together and make some branches.

Wrap the branches with some thin foam.

Keep wrapping to form the coral branches.

I used thread to hold the foam in place until it could be covered later. I also hot melt glued some edges down.

This is bandage wrap. Athletes use it under their boxing gloves.

Almost finished wrapped.

Dap liquid latex (Mold Builder Latex) that has been tinted green on to the foam wrap.

Apply many coats until you reach the desired finish. Two corals done, maybe 15 more to do.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

Exterior set for throne room film

I have begun building the exterior set for the throne room film. Creatures have to fly in and attack a castle. The set will be about 5 feet square and will be too big to bring inside. I will place the set on the ground when ready to film and film it at night to reduce the flicker.

I took an old door and placed styrofoam pieces to form the basis of the mountain. Paper mache was placed over the styrofoam and then painted.

The bridge and a tower.

Instead of plaster of paris I used tile mortar, it is super strong and cheap, you just need to wear gloves since the mortar can burn your skin. Just mix it up kinda runny, and dip your newspaper in it just like regular paper mache.

The castle is mostly foam with paper cutouts for windows and a plastic screen cut for the top railing.

I have added another section on this side of the existing foam to extend the landscape more on this side. Photos of that later.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

king’s throne room film

ok, everyone, I have begun my new film.

I wanted to make a great hall or king’s throne room so worked around this as a starting point and wrote a short story that could be shot in the throne room.

Here are some behind the scenes shots of the building the set.

I started by building a new set out of 3/4″ mdf since my last stage was still tied up with the co op film. ¬†Once it was complete and in place I marked off a grid with 1″ squares on the floor. I drilled tiedown holes in every corner.

Corner holes are drilled, then I marked the diagonals

Started drawing a design between the dots in between drilling

Finally all 900 holes are done

I put some black house paint and some white house paint in a tray and stirred just a little, then painted the floor and the walls.

Thinking maybe the walls would be a stone finish.

I cut a shape out to make a stamp. I drew the desired shape on 1/8″ thick plywood, cut it out on the scroll saw, glued the cutout on a plexiglass handle, then stamped the whole floor with paint.

Here is the stamp. The plexiglass allows you to see where you are placing the stamp in between the holes.

When the stamping was done, I traced the outlines with a sharpie pen.

As you can see the tiedown holes are way less noticeable now and look like part of the floor. The floor will get several more paints and touch ups before the finished product.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

more set building

Here are some of the photos of the grass landscape going in. Start out with white glue and make a up a mixture of 75% water and 25% glue.

The secret to this whole thing is to add just a couple drops of dishwashing liquid to the mix. This breaks down the surface tension of the water and allows it to flow into the base and the grass mixture without just beading up and making little water droplets all over your set.

Mix up your grass basing mixture in a bag or container. My mixture is 5 or 6 different turf and grass products from the hobby store.

Spread some watery glue on your set where you want the sandy grass mixture to end up.

I mix the glue in an old glue bottle and it makes really easy to squirt it where I need it.

Once the glue is on shake your bag over the area. Cover all the glue. There will some extra grass mixture but when the glue dries you can brush it off and collect it.

Here is the bag mixture.

Here is what it looks like on the set.

When it has dried, brush off the grass from your other props like my flower below.

This boulder is styrofoam cut with a foam cutter or hand saw, painted black, then drybrushed with some shades of gray. Add a little glue and dust it with some grass on the flat areas.

The glue bottle on the set to help you see the scale of it all.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun…

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.


More puppet set building tutorial

Here are more pictures of the in progress set building. I already have the first several coats of grass and sand glued on. Then I added some different colored textures from the same company as the other. It is like colored chunks of cushion foam. I dabbed some glue then sprinkled on the foliage.

I put on plenty but only some of it will stick to the glue. I will have to brush off the excess and refill any holes I find.

Try to remember where real grass would grow and real rock would fall.

Some small pebbles glued on to look like debris that has fallen down. This debris is called “talus” I think.

I had a tree frame from a craft store laying around so I glued some green clumps on the branch tips. It is just started in this photo. I had to let it dry a bit before adding more green to it. This tree frame is just wires twisted together at the trunk and then spread out for the branches. The trunk is wrapped with paper and then painted. Easy enough to make.

The tree on the right is a little bonsai tree that had died on me so I removed all the dead branches and just kept the trunk. I then glued green clumps on the tips and glued the whole thing to the set. Any stick or branch would work for this.

This is a big crack in the paper mache I have to fix and/or hide.

This photo below was taken with a flash. The unflattering flat forward light from the flash will show all the defects and help you see what needs work.

This is what it looks like with the studio lights. You can see the hotspot on the right. I will fix that before shooting.

My puppets will start on the right side as you are looking at it, and will slide down the mountain to the left mostly out of control.

Below you can see some reflection from the paint. It is always better to use flat paint for landscapes but I didn’t have any. I will have to do something to fix that.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

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.