First a quick update. I’ve been sending out screening DVDs and filling out forms for the film festivals, focusing for now on either Animation festivals or Short Film Fests. So far I’ve applied to Annecy, SICAF, and Anima Mundi. More applications to come… I have a spreadsheet of about 50 of them, sorted by application due-dates, and I’m just sending out packages one at a time. My absolute hope is to have the film premiere at Annecy… For now it is just a dream. In a few weeks I’ll find out whether or not the film has been accepted.
The other day I met up with someone I used to work with at the very beginning of my freelance motion design career… the very talented Yoho Hang Yue, who now works at Crush here in the city. He would like to start working on a stop motion experiment, and has some really beautiful characters designed, which he would like to turn into animatable puppets. I was going to email him this info, but maybe it will be useful to other people too? So here it is.
Materials and resources I used for my puppets:
Rare earth magnets. Handy for animating, these magnets are the strongest I could find, and they come in many puppet-scale sizes. I got them in a set of various sizes at Lee Valley Tools. You can also find them at Active Surplus. They can be used instead of tie-downs in the puppets’ feet, or they can be stacked in order to animate an object fall, removing one magnet at a time under the supported object. The stack would then be painted out in post. (I used this technique in the cabbage film, when the cabbage fell from the ceiling… But did not have much success using magnets in the puppets’ feet and under the floor to keep them standing. I think my puppets had feet that were too small, and heads that were too big.)
Plumbers’ Epoxy Putty. This stuff is available at pretty much any hardware store, and some art supply stores, including Aboveground (my favourite place for general sculpture supplies, but I will get to that later.) It’s a horribly stinky and toxic stuff that I try to use sparingly, but it is also handy for quick fixes, for making solid joints or ‘bones’ in a puppet’s armature, or holding together anything that glue won’t hold. It’s a putty, so it will hold things in place while the epoxy sets (unlike glue or liquid epoxy), and cures fairly quickly… like in about 15 minutes. Like all epoxies it comes in 2 parts — it is a compound of two materials that need to be kneaded together before the hardening chemicals are activated.
Plumbers’ epoxy is the sort of inelegant version of sculptor’s epoxy putty, in that there is no time for refining, and it is quite globby to work with. So it won’t be able to be placed in any sort of specific shape. It’s a quick way to fasten objects, but not meant to be sculpted or refined too much. However, there’s a slower-setting, less stinky, and more sculptable epoxy putty that is also quite handy for different modeling needs. (And is also meant to be used to hold hard-to-glue objects together…) One make is Apoxie Sculpt, available at Sculpture Supply Canada. The other is a Welsh product called Milliput, which I found at Wheels and Wings hobby shop in the East end. I have more experience using Milliput than Apoxie… it was really easy to work with, though it does take a while (12 hrs?) to cure. The advantage is, along with the slow curing time, you can use water to refine and smooth the shape, like with clay. It hardens to a sandable, paintable, hard finish.
For my puppets’ armatures, I used an aluminum armature wire, available at Aboveground or (in larger quantities) at Sculpture Supply Canada. There is lots of info out there on wire armatures, but general rule of thumb is that it’s better to have thinner (1/8 inch or less) wires wound together in layers of 2 or 3, rather than one heavy (1/4 inch) wire.
Yoho is designing a puppet with lots of flat angles, so I suggested he check out the thin basswood plywood in the model making section at Aboveground. The image above links to that area of their website. Foamcore might be good, too, or even some of the plastics, though I have no experience working with those. The advantage to the basswood ply is that it’s thin, light, easy to work with (you can cut it with an Xacto knife), and can be put together with woodglue (as opposed to the plastics, which require some sort of weird chemical to melt them together…)
While the glue dries (I only use Weldbond, by the way) he can keep the pieces held in place with masking tape.
Alternatively, there are liquid epoxies that he can use to create a base for the puppet… Though again these are very stinky and toxic… But I have used the quicker-drying LePage epoxies, available at any hardware store, or, again, at Aboveground. I usually used the 15-minute one. They come in a tube containing the two substances, that are sort of a gel-consistency… with a plunger, that when you press it, it dispenses the two gels in (supposedly) equal quantity. Then you mix them to activate the epoxy hardeners.
Fun-tak — used to stick things together temporarily, like when a puppet is holding something in its hand that needs to move or be removed. It only comes in blue, from what I’ve found, so sometimes there can be gobs of blue stuff that you need to paint out, if you’re not careful. But when used in small, discreet pieces, it can be extremely useful. It’s available at hardware and art supply stores.
I used many other materials for my puppets, which won’t really be helpful to Yoho, but perhaps if anyone else needs to make a more traditional-looking puppet, the materials and techniques are talked about over their various stages here. I used things like liquid latex, liquid 2-part foams, plaster for moldmaking, and sculpting clay for modeling the puppets, mostly from Sculpture Supply Canada.
For LED lights and other specialty miniature-type things I went to The Little Dollhouse Store and George’s Trains. Both stores are in the same neighbourhood. All my LED light strips came from the Dollhouse place. Other tiny incandescent bulbs that were used for the practical lights came from George’s.
Oh, one last note… no matter what the project, anyone who’s in Toronto that hasn’t yet been, must go check out Active Surplus, just for the sheer thrill of it… Or at least, I find it to be a fun place 🙂
I’ll also make a links bar at the side with these stores, for reference.
Good luck, and enjoy!