Tag Archives: stopmotion

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.

new armature

I have been working for the past few days on a new armature for a new puppet. I have no idea what the final puppet is going to be, I just wanted to work on my armature skills.

The final armature feels really nice, it is still not professional quality but it does feel good when you move the joints.

I used stainless steel 302 balls and rods. The plates are aluminum. Remember when working on your armature that hobbyists can not solder aluminum. Anything that needs solder has to be steel, or brass. The aluminum plates are easy to form and cut and look like the stainless steel parts to make the whole armature a silver color.

Here is a list of parts and tools I used. For cutting the aluminum, I used my bandsaw, but you can use a hacksaw or dremel tool. I shaped it with a variety of files and a few different grits of sandpaper. This is what the mostly finished armature looks like.



This is the head. The piece sticking out is the bottom jaw. It can move up and down.


From this side you can see the screw that goes through the bottom jaw, through the middle spacer, then into the threaded part of the other side.


I really wanted the head to have great movement. I put a joint near the collar bone area, then one inside the skull area. There are actually three movable points there from the neck up and into the head. I was only striving for two. I could have locked down the middle one if i wanted.

I cut the shoulders at a 45 degree angle to help give the arms more range of motion. The shoulder joint rods are held into the chest block with allen wrench set screws. The holes are tapped with 8-32 threads, and the allen screws are ground down until they fit without too much sticking out.


In this shot you can see the upper arms are open ball and socket as well as the lower spine. The screws are 4-40 threads and are countersunk into the plates to help reduce thickness.  The spine rod goes all the way through the chest block upto the neck joint. It is held in place with an allen screw. The upper legs are also regular open ball and socket joints. The rods are 3/32″ stainless steel 302.


The lower legs have a step joint so it ends up with a ball on one end, and the open plates on the other end.  The rod is held in the plate with a set screw. i had to go back and add the extra screw to keep the plates all lined up.  In the lower leg joints the top screw holds the rod in place, the lower screw holds the three plates together.  The lowest screw puts tension on the ankle ball.  I used to put a joint in the toe, but usually it gets in the way as I animate so I put a solid foot in this armature.


The feet are cut from a solid piece of aluminum, The rod is held in place with a screw coming in from the back of the foot. The hole is a tapped hole with 8-32 threads for the tiedown.  The aluminum is 1/4″ thick from flat stock.


This hand design is my version of a hand I saw in one of Tom Brierton’s designs. It is cut from a solid single piece of aluminum. I cut a rectangle first to size, drilled all my holes and tapped the holes while it still had square flat edges. Once all the holes were done, then I filed it down to size. The two screws have the finger wires wrapped around and then tightened down to hold them in place. I could not figure out a better way to lock down the thumb wire since it has to emerge so far down close to the wrist. I will make sure it is secure before putting skin on it. I put green stuff on the finger tips to give them shape and to cover up the sharp metal edges. The slot cut down the hand from the wrist gives it enough flex that the screw can pull the plates together enough to lock down on the wrist joint ball. It is tricky to get all this to work.  This is the top of the hand.


This is the palm side.


I welcome all comments.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

new storyboard

This is a very rough draft of the story for the new co-op film. I am looking for advice from any writers out there.  The puppets are monsters, and the sets have been built so that will not be changed, but no animation has been done so the story can be changed or improved.
Long shot exterior house to set scene. Probably a combo of a real house prop and
a digital matte background

Dad enters kitchen with bags from DIY store, greets mom and son
Everyone is all excited for the new projects

Dad enters bedroom and sets bags down
Dad fetches his tools
Dad sets up ladder, lays out tools

Painting begins,
Seems to go ok for awhile, brush moves, applies paint
Runs into first problem,

Paint spills onto carpet, Dad tries to clean it up to no avail
Dad slides the rug over to cover the spot

Paints a bit more, but runs out of paint,
Covers unpainted spot with poster

Painting is done, parts put away
Now tries to put together bed
First two pieces go together
Now pieces everywhere
Gets worse, and bed looks bad

Flashes back to kitchen and mom and son are eating, playing, whatever

Dad still working,
Finally gets the bed looking almost like a bed

Dad is supposedly finished,
Room looks kinda crappy, paint drips all over
Bed pieces laying around
Signs of bad craftsmanship all over

Proud Dad brings in son and Mom to show off his work
They look but are not overly impressed
Kid burps a flaming fire ball

The whole room is charred and burnt

Maybe Mom hands Dad a “how to” book

Somehow roll credits and show a photo somewhere of all three standing in new
room and it looks great.

Making a brush on build up latex skin from a mold

Ok everyone, today we are going to make a latex skin for our puppet. But we don’t just want a regular buildup latex skin, we want some detail in it that we don’t think we can manage with just brushing it on.

The first thing you do is to make an armature (in this case it was a ball and socket but any armature will do), once you are happy with your armature then add a little cushion foam to help rough out the body shape. A lot of people will tell you to make the sculpt first but I did not know what the puppet looked like yet so I started with the armature. Here is the puppet with some foam.

Next I sculpted a clay body with the details that I wanted on the skin. Make the sculpt as close to the desired body shape as possible to help it fit better later. Most people for this step will use Roma Plastilina clay. I use Prima plastilina because it has no sulfur smell because my wife gets migraines from the smell of roma clay. You can probably use about any clay you desire for the sculpt. Once you have your sculpt, make a plaster mold of it. I made a one-piece mold very simply by just sculpting the front side of the creature, leaving the back flat. I took the finished sculpture and laid it flat on a piece of plastic. I took softer water based clay and made a dam around the sculpt and then poured in plaster of paris to fill the dam. Ron Cole (AnimatorIsomer)         http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDW1NKIfgQQ

has a great set of mold making tutorials on youtube and stopmotion magic.

Once you have your plaster mold completed, pop out the clay and clean up the plaster mold. I then used an old paint brush to brush vaseline on the plaster as a mold release. Now take your mold builder latex and apply a thin coat in the mold. Let dry, add another, let dry, repeat 3 or 4 times. If you apply a little bit of powder to the latex before pulling it out of the mold it lessens the chance that it will stick to itself. Now all you have to do is peel out your new skin.  Below is a photo of the clay sculpture, the plaster mold and the skin. I tinted the latex white with acrylic paint as I applied it.

Here is the mold on the bottom and the resulting latex skin on top.

Again all three sections.

Now lay your skin on your puppet and adjust the foam until the skin fits with no wrinkles or voids. Apply tacky glue or more latex on the back of the skin and lay it on the foam muscles. I wrap mine gently with thread just to hold it in place. I will remove the thread when the skin is securely glued to the foam.

The background by the way is from my new film.

There you go, pretty simple, it just takes a few steps, a few parts, and a desire to try something new.

So go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.


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.

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…

sound bite challenge film completed

After months of working on the set, and building a flying rig, and animating and then erasing all the flying rig shots, the sound bite challenge film is done.

Brett McCoy composed a 30 second sound bite and we all animated something to match the music. Here is my entry.


All of you that have been following along with the blog entries will see the set in use that you watched being built in the below posts.