Tag Archives: tutorial

Making a fish puppet

This is what I did to form a fish puppet for my new film.

I took a square piece of K/S brass and soldered to rod with a ball end. I put this in a ball and socket joint. I glued the square brass in a piece of mdf that was shaped like a fish head.

I made a wire armature for the shrimp.

Wrap the ball and socket joint with bandage foam.

This shows the rig that fits in the square brass tube to hold the fish up.

The brass tube will sit in the fish and hold it up. I will put the threaded rod in hole in the overhead with a nut holding it up. I can turn the rod to move the fish up or down. Every turn of the rod will move the entire rig up or down in height.

The nut and washer will hold the rod from slipping through the hole above the set. Turn the rod and the rig rises or lowers.

All of the larger fish or creatures in the film will use this same square tubing set up so I can swap the puppets in and out and use the same rig. I will attach the threaded rod overhead the set in a rig that slides back and forth across  the set. It will probably just move by eye without a geared or threaded pull system. I will rely on the video assist to determine how far to move the rig.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

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.

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

Beginner’s guide to ball and socket armatures

Ok, for my new film short, I need a flying rig to hold a wooden sled in place as it comes down a hill. So, let’s head down to the shop and build one today. It will use basic ball and socket joints which you can use in your puppet construction. This is a very basic ball and socket joint with a few tools. It is not professional grade and will not be the smoothest joint you have ever seen but it works and it is what I have used for all my puppets with ball and socket construction.

First I start with a steel plate from the hardware store. This is what it looks like straight off the shelf.

I then use the drill press to drill a hole in between the two holes in a line. This hole will be the proper size to tap a 8-32 hole.

This is what the plate looks like after drilling the center hole. This hole should be as perfectly centered as your setup will allow. The more perfectly centered it is the better the hold and the smoother the joint.

I use a dremel tool with a cut off wheel to cut the plate into two. If you wish you can round off the corners but for this project I am not. Then take one plate and drill a hole large enough for a 8-32 to pass through. One plate will be tapped with screw threads, one will be large enough that the screw can slide through freely.

This is the tapping tool. It comes with the proper size drill bit. So, you drill a hole with the proper bit, then put this tapping tool in the hole and slowly turn it back and forth until it cuts threads in the hole perfectly fitted to your screw size. These tap sets are pretty cheap ($5 US) but most do not come with the handle. That is sold separately. Use lubrication when cutting threads and your bits will last longer.

This is the dremel tool setup used to cut the plates and the threaded rod. Wear eye protection because fine metal dust will be in the air. I wear a full respirator but at least wear eye protection like wrap around goggles that seal against your face.

These are the brass balls I use. They are not ideal because they are softer than the steel plates and can easily scratch but they are cheap and I can find them right off the shelf at my hardware store. They are drilled and tapped for 8-32 threads when you buy them. I pay about .50 US each for them.

This is the solder I use. It has silver in it and makes a stronger bond. I have had very few solder joints fail me.

This is the one item you may not have in a normal shop. It is micro butane torch. It is a terrific tool. I do all my soldering with it. I think it is about $50 US or so. It uses refillable butane.

This is the 8-32 threaded rod. I bought this in one foot sections for a few dollars.

Put the threaded rod in the vise, careful not to damage the threads.

Cut a slot in the rod to help solder flow better.

I always use flux. Any kind should work. It keeps the solder joint clean and helps the solder flow better once you apply the heat.

Clean off the rod and coat with flux. Screw on the brass ball.

Apply heat to the ball.

Apply your solder and wipe off excess. This is a ugly joint but you get the idea.

This is what the plates look like when completed. Put the screw through the plate with the large hole, all countersunk holes in the plates facing inwards, and thread the screw into the tapped plate.

Insert the ball into the hole and you are done.

For mine I soldered my whole rig onto a heavy brass hinge so I could clamp it to my set.

This is what it will look like in use. I will erase it in post.


Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

end

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.

A new set being constructed

Ok everyone, I started my set. The basic idea is a bunch of puppets sliding down a grassy hill side having great fun. I started by adding two pieces of granite turned so the shiny side is hidden. This is a great rough surface for some mountain side or building. Kinda expensive but I had some left over from a kitchen job.

Add some styrofoam, cut to rough shape.

Add some paper mache to cover all the styrofoam.

Mix up some earthy looking paint, brown or greenish.

Base coat the mountain

Drybrush on some brown

Drybrush on some different colors, mostly browns and greens.

Mix up some white glue and water. I dumped some of the ground texture in there too for fun.

This is the textures I used. I got them from a hobby store where they sell railroad supplies.

Mix them up in a big bag.

Brush on the glue mixture and sprinkle the texture on. Let dry, brush off the excess and reapply to fill in any holes.

It is really starting to look like a grassy hillside.

Here is a closeup of the textures.

Add a puppet.

In this shot with the flash you can see some areas on the front that need some more work. I will probably add some larger rocks or more dirt later.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.