Tag Archives: stopmotion animation

behind the scenes stuff

here are some more photos from the behind the scenes of my latest film. The film is completed and is currently with the music guy getting a musical score composed for it. Soon very soon it will be ready for release. Hang in there a little bit longer. Thanks for following along this past year as we put this film together. It means a lot to us and you adoring fans are the reason we make these films.

go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

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.

end

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.

Set completion and prop beginning

Ok, most of the set is done now, and it is time to begin the props for this film. Remember this short is only going to be 30 seconds long, set to music by idragosani from the stopmotionanimation.com forum. My challenge to everyone was to have him compose a 30 second music clip and we all animate to it. The deadline is August. I added some coarse turf and some field grass and some flowering foliage. All are available at a hobby store.

Below is some grass stuck in a puddle of glue to dry.

Some more drybrushing with a good and dirty palette. This is not the place for a nice neat palette.

This is kinda what it looks like now. Getting really close now.

Now we begin making our first prop. It is going to be an old wooden sled. I have a full wood shop outside I could use but I want to show you that you can make a great prop with some readily available materials and some simple ideas. I start with a cut piece of cardboard. I bent it up some for the sled front.

I cut two pieces of white paper and glued them one at a time to the bent cardboard. This is called lamination. It will keep the bend in the sled as the glue dries.

This is the first lamination. See how it holds the curve.

I used a paint bottle to help shape the front end.

A clamp with light pressure holds it until dry.

Now I add two pieces of wood on the back

Some more clamps.

Two pieces of styrofoam help the curved shape.

Brush on a sloppy coat of paint that is two or three browns kinda mixed together. And you have a great looking old fashioned wooden sled.

This is what it looks like on the set.

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.

Ethan Bartholomae

1 What hand tools and power tools do you have access to?
Um anything I can find and afford really, although I mainly use the simple hacksaw, hot glue gun, X-Acto knife.

2 Where do you buy your supplies locally?
There is a hardware store about 15 minutes away from the studio that I buy most of my hardware and lighting and such. Also right next-door is a shipping supplies store that will just give me free recycled StyroFoam.

3 Have you ever bought any supplies online and what?
Yes, a few surface gages.

4 What is your favorite/standard puppet construction?
Wire armature and clay, simplest stuff, although I have tried DragonSkin before which I like and might start using more often.

5 What camera and software setup do you use?
A Panasonic SDR-S10, with Digital Flip-book and many other programs for different steps.

6 What is one of your biggest weaknesses in animating or studio setup? How do you deal with this?
Space, I never have enough room. To overcome this problem I would take the studio on the road and find building that would allow us to work in.

7 What sort of goals have you set for yourself?
Completing the three films I’m working on. Hoping for at least StreetCop to be a huge success.
And getting my girlfriend to find her true self, hopefully bringing her out of this gloomy trance she is currently in.

8 What about this process do you enjoy the most?
Everything but re-shoots. I especially enjoy seeing the final cut, then thinking back to how it was originally a lump of clay and wire, then seeing it as close to life-like as possible.

9 What would be a great compliment on your work?
An Emmy, simply that.

10 Write and answer your own final question.

10: What is your favorite quote of all time? And why?

“Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know whatcha gonna get.”
-Forest Gump
Because it seems inspirational, like with this morning for example, I never thought I was going to have two warblers crash into my window.

–B&B Studios–
Ethan Bartholomae

B&B Studios;
http://bandstudios.web.officelive.com/

Brickfilms-R-us;
http://brickfilms-r-us.webs.com/

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.

Cheers

Neil Hughes