Tag Archives: stop motion

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…

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.


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.

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