Tag Archives: stop motion animation

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 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.

Neil Hughes (Neilbunyip) interview

Hello all

I thought I would answer the “10 questions”

1 What hand tools and power tools do you have access to?

A: The usual stuff in my shed, saws, hand drills etc, however my Dad is a retired fitter and turner and he has a full workshop with lathes, milling machines etc. For my next film my dad will be making most of the armatures, special rigs etc.

2 Where do you buy your supplies locally?

A: I’m from Melbourne Australia. I get supplies from local art shops e.g. Riot Art also latex etc from Onestop plastics or Barnes. And of course the mecca for all hardware stuff Bunnings!

3 Have you ever bought any supplies online and what?

A: I mainly buy books online all on animation, storyboard etc.

4 What is your favorite/standard puppet construction?
A: I find clay extremely frustrating but i love the look. I am also obsessed with light puppets so my construction techniques revolve around getting a clay look without the weight and the mess, so lots of silicone,sculpey, resin etc.

5 What camera and software setup do you use?

A: I have always used stopmotion pro from very early on. The Stopmotion Pro people are from Melbourne so they came and saw what we were doing at doghouse films and when I was at the Victorian College of the Arts film school to get feedback. I have shot on 16mm film with video camera for video assist. My next film will be shot on a digital still camera.

6 What is one of your biggest weaknesses in animating or studio setup? How do you deal with this?

A: In this day and age we are competing against CG with all its glorious camera moves and infinite sets. My biggest gripe with a lot stop motion is that it looks like it was shot on a kitchen table (which it probably was in a lot of cases) So I want to put more effort into getting the camera moving and giving the illusion of space in my films. I’m thinking of trying digital set extensions too.

7 What is one of your biggest strengths or assets, and how do you utilize this?

A: I have a very strong sense of story and character. My head is full of story ideas. This can be a blessing and a curse as I sometimes lose focus on one idea and start on another. I now have a real producer to work with and keep me on track.

8 What about this process do you enjoy the most?

A: Hitting the play button when I have been working on a shot and seeing the inanimate come to life. It still gives me a buzz seeing that.

9 Name some goals you have in this field.

A: Make more films and If I can get paid to do it all the better.

10 Write and answer your own final question.

A: Okay,

10: What were your main influences and inspiration.

A: I grew up watching a lot of TV animation etc. I loved Morph, and the muppets, fraggle rock , Astro Boy, Star Blazers, Dr Who. The most important inspiration moments for me were:

The Skeleton scene from Jason & the Argonauts (Still excellent after all this time)

Star Wars

The Dark Crystal

The Nightmare before Christmas.

The Wrong Trousers. I saw this after finishing college and it was the film that gave me the final kick up the bum to start animating.


Neil Hughes

Sven Bonnichsen (Chestnut) interview

Thank you so much for the interview questions, John!!

1. You have so many artistic endeavors. What draws you to stopmotion?

I’ve got stopmo fever. It’s like lust: all-consuming. I’ve tried to figure out what it is about stopmo that makes it worth such an investment of time, energy, and money… But what I come up with is that I must have fallen in love so early in childhood that the attraction is beyond rationalization. I can’t talk myself out of it — so I guess I just have to accept my fate. (Makes me happy — so not a bad thing!)

On an intellectual level, one of the things that’s appealing about stopmo is that it makes use of just about every other artform: painting, sculpting, photography, filmmaking, writing, music, acting, dance… It feels like the Uber-artform: a topic so rich, I can study for decades without getting bored.

I also like how stopmo is so linear. You shoot a frame of film, for better or worse, and then you move on. I love how this means I can’t get overly fussy — and I love the sense of progress as I rack up frame-count.

2. You have made brass armatures, and steel armatures. Can you describe how they feel compared to each other?

To me, brass feels buttery when it slides against itself. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc… Think of the smoothness of the edge of a copper penny. When the joint moves, it’s sort of like that.

Steel feels solid. When I really tighten the joints down, they’re going to STAY… And I’m not worried about the sandwich plates buckling — whereas that’s always in the back of my mind with brass. A tight steel joint feels like it might almost squeak when I turn it (it doesn’t, though).

3. What kind of tips can you give us future metal workers as far as armature construction and machining?

Oy… That’s a big question, so forgive me for breaking my answer into parts.

I. BASIC METALWORK: Three years ago I’d never done any metalworking at all — the whole idea was really intimidating. It was a matter of overcoming one hurdle at a time. Tackle them in this order, and you’ll be well on your way:

A. Put a piece of aluminum from the hardware store in a clamp-to-the-table vise and cut it with a hacksaw.
B. Drill a hole in a strip of brass K&S, and tap it (make it threaded for screws).
C. Get a soldering iron and solder a brass nut to a brass strip.
D. Do some more soldering work, but using a butane micro-torch.

Fire was really scary to me. My first micro-torch actually came with a creme brulee set I got for Christmas — kinda funny, but it made learning fire work a lot easier!

II. HANDTOOLS VS. BENCHTOOLS: Mentally, I think there’s a big leap from using handtools up to using benchtools. If you want to make a steel armature, like in LIOs tutorial, then you absolutely need a drillpress. You’re also going to have to order parts online…

I wanted to come up with an armature design that’s a stepping stone for people who aren’t ready to dedicate a table to benchtools… And using raw materials that can easily be found locally. My brass armatures were made using an handheld electric drill, a Dremel, brass beads from a beadstore, and K&S from the hardware store. I wrote an an in-depth tutorial here: how to make a brass ball-jointed armature

III. MILLING MACHINES: Want to take the next step beyond open-hole joints? Then buy Tom Brierton’s book, Stop-Motion Armature Machining: A Construction Manual. Yes, it’s $50 — but it’s the ONLY book on the subject.

Step-block joints, hinge joints, swivel joints… You’re going to need a milling machine to make them. You’ve basically got two choices: a mini mill, which weighs 100+ pounds — or a micro-mill, which weights about 35. I opted for the Sherline micro-mill. It’s less powerful than the minis — but we’re doing small work anyway, so that’s not much of a constraint.

Sherline also has some great package deals, so you can buy your accessories all at once. I found that well worth the money — how can I learn the basics of machining if I don’t have the tools in front of me? I decided that for the cost of a class on machining, I could buy the machines and teach myself. Three of my machining books (including Tom’s) use the Sherline in all their photos, which is also nice.

Most folks feel you should have both a mill and a lathe… I’d actually recommend just getting the mill to start with. (What attachments to buy — that’s another topic we could discuss.)

IV. WIRE VS. B&S: Know when to use wire armatures and when to use ball&socket armatures. Roughly speaking, a brass armature takes 20 hours to make — and a steel armature takes 40-60 hours to make. If your puppet’s going to be onscreen for less than 5 minutes, use wire. Even stopmo TV shows use mostly wire; it’s only the feature films that can afford B&S for most of their characters.

Also, I recommend not putting your first armatures into puppets. Me, I’m treating learning armature-making as one thread, and general puppet-making as another. When I feel comfortable enough with armature-making that it’s no longer a huge challenge, then I’ll feel like I’m ready to put B&S inside puppets. Until then, I’ve found it really valuable to keep my armatures for display, studying them to figure out how to improve the next version.

4. You are working on a computer animation called “Let Sleeping Gods Lie”. Can you tell us about it?

LSGL is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s novella “At The Mountains Of Madness.”

In the original story, antarctic explorers discover an ancient city at the South Pole that pre-dates the human species. It’s revealed that aliens, the “Elder Things,” created all life on Earth — but they were overthrown by their own slave-race of protoplasmic blobs, the Shoggoths. The great emotional revelation of the story is that the Elder Things were not simply mindless, malicious monsters; they were sentient “men” like us.

My main inspiration for the project is the annual H.P. Lovecraft FilmFest, which happens here in Portland, OR. No one’s done a film version of ATMOM before — I want to beat out Guillermo Del Toro and be the first! No one’s put these amazing five-legged space aliens on the screen before… I want to see a mad stampede of them galloping.

I’ve been working on this project for five years now — and it’s probably going to be just a bit over five minutes long. (At a cost of about three hours labor per one second of screen time. ) The fact that working on LSGL prevents me from doing stopmo right now just kills me… But, Cthulhu as my witness, I WILL finish this monstrosity!

5. What aspects from your art training and experiences do you bring to your stopmotion?

Anatomy. I’m still studying, but what what I’ve learned so far is very useful. I recall Harryhausen once pointing out how most amateurs’ dinosaurs have sausage legs… The more you can build plausible (if not “realistic”) musculature and bone structure into your sculpts, the better they’ll look on screen.

Music. I play piano, and have a musical sensibility about how I want sound and motion to mesh together… Taking a tip from LIO, I’ve found it extremely useful to figure out timing using a metronome. I’ve tried using a stopwatch, but it feels really counter-intuitive to me. Listening to an audible click that’s 1/2, 1/3, or 1/4 of a second makes estimating how long an action should take much, much easier.

6. What is your animation goal?

I want to produce top-notch, professional-quality puppetfilms — either working independently, or with a hand-selected team of other indy artists.

I’d like to become so comfortable with the materials and processes of stopmo that I can go from idea to film relatively painlessly. I like the idea of using stopmo as a 4-dimensional sketchbook: not just paintings — not just sculptures — sculptures that move in the dimension of time.

I want to make films that get chosen to go on compilation DVDs. Especially the annual “The Animation Show” collection or AWN’s “The Animation Show of Shows” series… I’d like to get seen on the Channel Frederator “original cartoon podcast,” too.

7. What area of this craft do you consider your weakest? Short posts Maybe?


Right now I feel like my weakest area is Content. I’m putting a lot of effort into learning craft skills, but I’m not so clear about what kinds of stories/images I want to produce.

Props and sets are also weak points. Some people delight in creating miniature worlds… I find I’m most oriented toward puppet fab.

8. What off-topic things that you have studied or learned have you discovered that you find useful in stopmotion?

Oddly enough, the outside skills that have most helped me with stopmo have to do with personal organization and time-management…

I’m a compulsive note-taker. Whenever I’m working, I always have a clipboard with a legal pad on it so I can jot down thoughts. I highly recommend it: translating what’s in your head into written words will help you learn faster and more thoroughly.

I also keep a magnetic, digital kitchen timer attached to my clipboard, so I can better keep track of time. Over and over again I set it for a 1-hour countdown. It means that I know very precisely how much time I’ve put into a particular project… Which in turn gives me more realistic expectations about how long future projects are going to take. It also helps me really focus my mind during the work time I’ve committed to.

9. What things do you foresee for stopmotion?

Well, digital technology has made stopmo immensely more accessible. I know I wouldn’t be doing it if I had to buy film stock and work with a Bolex… Combine this with the landmark year when both Wallace & Gromit AND Corpse Bride were in the theaters, and you get an unprecedented influx of new wannabe stopmoes.

I think that framegrabbers are creating a new species of animator. Harryhausen and the like had to be human framegrabbers — going into a sort of hypnosis, where they could see the puppet’s last pose floating in mid-air. People learning stopmo now may get a little of that experience, but I don’t think anyone now will develop the skill to the extent that the old masters did.

Pay attention to Laika studios. They’re the ones working on “Coraline,” and they’ve got plans for more feature-length stopmo films to come. With the exception of Aardman, none of the big animation houses have been doing stopmo on a regular basis… I think when they see that Laika has claimed U.S. stopmo for itself, the big boys (like Disney) are going to scramble to put together some stopmo films of their own, just to stay competitive.

10. write and answer your own last question.

Q: Apparently you’ve written a bunch of tutorials and essays. Is there any way to easily find all that stuff?

A: No — not yet. When I write tutorials, they go up on the Scarlet Letters blog first… And then if they seem worth sharing, I repost them on SMA. Unfortunately, this means that all my best stuff gets buried as new posts go up.

So, to solve the problem, I’m in the process of putting together a stand-alone webpage that collects all my stopmo work in one place. I’ll post an announcement at SMA when it goes online.

Sven Bonnichsen
Scarlet Star Studios

Leevi Lehtinen (Leevi) interview

1 What hand tools and power tools do you have access to?
Dremel kit, power drills + unnumerous handtools

2 Where do you shop locally for your parts?
Mostly from hardware and art supplies shops.

3 Have you ever bought any supplies online and what?
Anything that I’m able to get cheaper than from local shops. Cameras,
clays etc. Also items that are only available overseas, i.e.

4 What is your favorite/standard puppet construction?
I buy ball and socket joints. Then build the armature myself. Stuff
the puppet with light material, can be clay or foam. Finally sew
clothes and sculpt super sculpey heads and hands. I use replaceable
faces and hands.

5 What camera and software setup do you use?
Nikon D70 + spycam. I’ve used numerous softwares. Depending of
availability. For my next project Adobe Suite and Stopmotion Maker
hdmi. I might change to Canon 40D.

6 What is something you know that you think others here may not?
I maybe have more knowledge of photography than average animator, as I worked as a photographer for several years before changing into

7 What is one of your biggest strengths or assets, and how do you utilize this?
Probably the photographic skills. I do my own light and photography set up.

8 What about this process do you enjoy the most?
The feedback after film premiere.

9 What would be a great compliment on your work?
Entry acceptance to a film festival.

10 Why do I animate on two’s?
I don’t aim for a perfect flow of movement, but personal expression
and character developement. I’ve found out that I’m able to express
the feelings of the puppets better, with fast workflow of shooting on
two’s. When I shoot on one’s I need to concentrate more on the
movement and less to the mind of the puppets. I don’t say that
animating on two’s is better than on one’s, but it works for me.

thanks Leevi.

Seamus (Nofby) interview

I may as well answer some Q’s!

1 What hand tools and power tools do you have access to?

A: My neighbour owns a relatively large work-shop with all the essential tools like drill-presses, band saw and dremel tools etc. I do alot of set-building there. ( He’s retired, and ‘the young man’ next door is allowed to work in there,hehe…)

2 Where do you buy your supplies locally?
A: A large art store specialising in crafts. Has a specific craft department where I have access to lots of sculpting items and other essential supplies.

3 Have you ever bought any supplies online and what?
A: Alot from Tiranti.com ( sculpting supplies and tools) also wood and plaster ( like balsa, plywood and MDF). I find most things in the local art store but for those speciality items, it’s online.

4 What is your favorite/standard puppet construction?
A: Foam build-up. Simply because it gives me the best results for my puppets. A alumminium wire armature with foam for body mass . I hand-sew the clothes and I think it gives my puppets their own special personality. I normally sculpt my puppets heads in sculpey, or built up liquid latex. For a recent puppet I cast its head in solid latex to widen my puppet building experties by using molds. For non-speaking puppets- sculpey. For speaking puppets with more expression ( normally the main characters in a film) latex over the head armature, then I can incorporate eyebrow wires and jaw mechanisms etc.

5 What camera and software setup do you use?
A:Stopmotion Pro v6 with a live streamed DV camera. ( Will be upgrading camera for The Child Snatcher filming)

6 What is one of your biggest weaknesses in animating or studio setup? How do you deal with this?
A: My biggest weakness is dealing with the lights I have scattered around. I have to get the right lighting setup without making the shot turn out like its in the middle a Star Wars battle. I’m researching a bit and I’ve got some books and refrences about lighting, so I’m gradually understanding and learning how to create a good atmosphere for my film.

7 What is one of your biggest strengths or assets, and how do you utilize this?
A: My best strength is coming up with a look for my film and incorporating that into my puppets, sets and props. So taking it from the paper to 3D is a very enjoyable process for me.

8 What about this process do you enjoy the most?
A: Seeing your ideas and sketches brought to actual existance realy pays off and theres nothing better than having the world and its characters you have produced conmee to life in 3D form and in the final film.

9 Name some goals you have in this field.
A: 1. Work hard and don’t let any dreams or aspirations fly away. Grab em’ when you can!
2.Enjoy what I’m doing and improve everytime I step out of that studio.
3. Have a career in this field whatever it takes.
10 Write and answer your own final question.

What is your favourite refrence?

A: All my books,this board and all the friendly helpfull people who visit here and most will stop at nothing to help and give you sound advice.


Seamus. J


Youtube space:

Sam Roe (Purehilarity) interview

Here is the next installment in the interview series., Purehilarity.

1. I see that you are attending Delaware College of Art and Design. What kind of stuff does a school of art teach someone about animation?

You get a sort of mixed teaching in art school. Some teachers are more focused on the business side of art while others are interested in art as a form of an expression. In terms of animation you get to learn about tons of different animators out there, you learn techniques such as overlapping action and squash and stretch, and you get to play around with different mediums such as clay, puppet, traditional, etc.

2. What kind of goals do you have for your films?

Just to create something beautiful.

3. What do you think your strengths are in this craft?

I think I am okay all around, not particularly strong in anything specifically.

4. What have you found to be the hardest about stopmotion?

Armatures probably. Theres so much to them and they are so important to the whole thing. If you don’t take your time on them and rush to the next step you’ll create a lot of stress later on.

5. With all those video games and Ipods out there, what draws you to stopmo?

I just love the fact that it’s everything. You’re every kind of artist rolled into one and you have to do so much. When I get bored of one aspect of it theres tons of others to think about.

6. What kind of camera and software do you use?

For my latest one I’ve been using both a Sony digital video camera and an older Fujifilm digital camera, Stop Motion Pro, Adobe After Effects, a little bit of Photoshop, Adobe Premiere,

7. What kind of tools do you have access to for your stopmotion?

I got a power drill this year and thats been AMAZING. I never thought I’d be so excited about a drill but I’ve gotten so much use out of it. At school I have access to a band saw, a belt sander, and a drill press, so those are very helpful as well.

8. Any animation you have seen lately that you really liked?

Darkness Lightness Darkness by Jan Svankmajer.

9. What do you tell your peers about stopmotion?

I tell them that it’s a lot of work and that it’s not playing with dolls

10. Where do you get most of your knowledge of puppet animation?


Thanks Sam.