Tag Archives: set design

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.

installing the next set

If you have been following along you know the set is almost all built. The next set is the garden scene with the rocky cliff faces. I don’t even have a story yet, but I have the first set built and ready to be brought in. I brought the entire set in, and put it on my table. Here are some shots of it. I spent several hours tonight working on a storyline. I know its a little backwards but what can you do.

tearing down the Poetree set

this is the set with just the puppet removed

Here is my super fancy way expensive light diffuser set up. It is a track light fixture with a plastic pickle jar over it so it would not produce such sharp shadows.

This is what it looked like with the light on.

So the puppet finds a spot overlooking the puppet workstation.

Here are the stack of xsheets I had to use and my little tool trays on the side of my stage. I have thread, super glue, c clamps, sculpting tools, scissors, brushes etc over there.

The plants come up. I scrape the glued down parts a bit and clean up the set.

I then take the entire stage outside to make room for the next stage.

The next stage is already built and is outside. This is why I keep two stages in use. I can shoot on one, while in the shop building the next one.

Glad you all enjoyed the Poetree film. Time to make some more mess and begin the next film.

more of the garden set

remember this set is basically “a castle gardener has a secret spot that he takes the leftover plants from the formal castle grounds and has created his own little oasis”

ok…back to building…the styrofoam work is done, and all of that is covered is plaster of paris and thinset mortar…now to paint it all flat black to help tie it all together…any part is not covered up later will just show up as a black shadow, that is why we start with a black base…

This is the pool area with a rock wall on the front. The brown is sawdust I threw by the handfulls into the wet paint for a bit of texture.

Below is the first drybrushing with a dark gray over the black. Use a very dry brush for this and lightly brush across the surface, leaving some dark areas untouched.

This photo shows the work after 2 or 3 coats of progressively lighter shades of gray drybrushed on.

This is the close up texture. It really starts to look like real rock now.

Apply some grass/landscape mixture by applying some glue/water/detergent mix onto the flat surfaces and sprinkling the grass on, or by sprinkling the grass and then dribbling drops of glue on top of it. You can also put your glue mixture in a spray bottle and spray it on.  Again the glue mixture is 25% white glue, 75% water, and a couple of drops of dish detergent. The detergent breaks down the surface tension on the water so it soaks in and doesn’t run all over the place.

This closeup shows the rock face with some grass and gravel on it.

Try to put some glue/grass on all surfaces that it would really grow in nature.

Glue some tiny pieces of silk flowers from the hobby store/Walmart/fish store etc to match your style or desired look.

This is the pool area. I used two part casting resin and some blue paint (which did not mix well at all into the resin, I should have used an oil based paint maybe or a dye)….And in all of my excitement of making the pool, I didn’t notice it had some old tiedown holes in the bottom so half of my pool dripped out onto my table saw top while I wasn’t looking. Oooooppppsss.

The water fall looking thing is a “water effects” from the train hobby store, it will dry a lot clearer. It just spreads on like a thick cream and then dries to look like water.  My resin might have worked even better.

Keep adding bits of plants, and work out your path ways.

To reach the second level of the garden I built a set of wooden stairs. It is scrap pieces of wood, some dowel, and some hot melt glue. It goes up three steps and then forms a landing, and then goes up the last two steps. I actually built another one first but it was too narrow for my puppet. These photos show it unpainted. I have to distress it and age it before glueing into the set. These photos are taken inside on my other puppet set where Iam animating the woolly monster. It was already dark outside when I started painting them so I took them inside.

So, go ahead, make a mess (just watch where your resin lands), and 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…

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