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Posted by MormonMacMan, on 2006-03-13 21:45:19

Desert Island set

Hello everyone, first post here. I'm in a stop motion class and we're starting work on our final project for the year. Our team is going to be doing a little 3 minute or so short centered on a desert island. We'll be making the island out of stryofoam mounted to either an aluminum plate or a piece of plywood and shape the styrofoam in the shape of a shallow dome and then use spray glue and sand to make the island. The only problem that I can see is keeping the armatures (there will be one of a pirate and one of a monkey) anchored so they don't move while we move them. Any ideas for anchoring in this type of set? I think we might just add some more armature wire to the legs of the puppets and just shove them into the styrofoam if we have to, but that'll leave quite a bit of holes. Any ideas on how we could easily (and cheaply, I don't think our entire budget for this thing will be more than $100) keep the puppets from moving to create the smoothest look on a sloping surface? -Michael

Posted by Strider, on 2006-03-13 23:52:40

Sticking wires in would work if your puppets are lightweight enough, but could give you trouble. One thing you could do is make your dome shape from chicken wire and cover it with fiberglass cloth and plaster in a sort of paper mache approach. The fiberglass cloth makes it really strong, and once dry it's strong enough to drill tie-down holes through. Or so says some guy named Hilligoss anyway.

Posted by MormonMacMan, on 2006-03-15 06:19:56

Okay guys, thanks for the super ideas. I've got a little more info now and have thought about this a little bit more (plus actually learned about tie downs). We'll only have probably a total of $40 to buy the materials that actually comprise the set (maybe $50), like MDF, foam, wood, glue, screws, etc. etc. So here is my deliema: is the fiberglass stuff cheap and easy to use? If not how does this sound: Make the island out of styrofoam (not polystrene or whatever it is, unless it's cheaper and easy to find) and cut out entire sections where the main action would be and then fill in by making some sort of wooden box or balsa wood box to fit into those cavities. Once those are built put a little more foam on top of the wooden box things so that the island will look the same, yet I'd be able to tiedown to hard wood with a 1/4" or so of styrofoam in the way. Does that all make sense? Let me know if I need to clarify. And also, would that work fairly well? I've been doing drawings of this set for the past day or two and things seem to be falling into place, I'm just looking for advice from the experts. Oh, and one more thing that I suppose isn't related to set-building but just flows with all this. If our model maker hasn't made the puppets with tie down feet like it shows to do at stopmofilms.com (or whatever the site is, I don't remember and I'm about to go to bed) how would you guys suggest doing the tiedowns? removing the clay and other stuff away from the wire armature foot thing and then soldering or epoxying a steel plate to the wire? something else? Thanks guys so much for all of your help and suggestions, its nice to finally have a place to turn to for some answers. Have a great day! -Michael

Posted by Antony, on 2006-03-14 07:19:00

Straight foam would be a real headache. However you only need the strong support where the characters are standing/acting. Where the characters are not the foam would be fine. You could build a platform structure where the characters will need to be out of wood and secured into place well. Then around this build the rest of the island out of foam because it easy to shape. Make sure you leave rear access to the wooden platform so you can get at the tie-downs. Antony

Posted by DaveHettmer, on 2006-03-14 14:48:59

I dealt with something like that on Lunatics: A Love Story when animating spiders crawling around on a brain. The rubber guys sculpted the brain, molded in stone, made a slush latex cast, and while the rubber was still in the mold they laid in a fiberglass under-brain. It worked pretty well.

Posted by Strider, on 2006-03-15 06:51:17

I like your idea for cutting out the areas where puppets will be walking and using wood there, but I'm not so sure about having styrofoam (which is also sometimes called polystyrene) on top of it. When you tighten down the screw, there's a lot of pressure exerted between the foot and the set floor, and styrofoam would most likely just squish down to nothing. I think you'd be better off to build over the wood with something stronger, like plaster or sometrhing (but I wouldn't go more than an inch or so thick, less if possible). I'm not sure offhand how much fiberglass cloth costs. I haven't tried that method yet myself, but I've read several posts by Nick Hilligoss about how he does it. It's probably not very expensive just for the cloth (and you want to get fiberglass [i][b]cloth[/b][/i], not batting or mat, which are much less flexible and nastier). I'm sure you could find some online to get an idea of the cost. Don't try to solder anything onto wire.... it will make the wire extremely brittle and it will just break off with the slightest pressure. Tie-downs need to be very solidly embedded into the foot. I think it would be possible to build them on after the fact, but it depends largely on how the feet were made. If you place a nut in the foot then you want it to be on top of a loop of the wire, so when the screw gets tightened down it traps the wire in between the foot and the tabletop, leaving it nowhere to go. If you don't do this, then there's a good chance the puppet will sort of flop around on top of the nut no matter how tight it is down to the table. It might be necessary to cut the legs off the puppets at the hip block and rebuild them, solidly attaching the new legs to the hip and building the hip block around them with epoxy putty. But this would be a last ditch effort... i wouldn't do it unless you can't find a way to just make tie-downs in the feet. I think what I'd try to do is strp away any material from the foot wires (being extremely careful not to cut or nick the wires themselves) and fit some machine screw nuts in there. This is how i do feet sometimes (leaving the wire loop underneath the nut as i mentioned earlier), and then you build the foot shape over it all with epoxy putty or whatever you're using. I've also made wooden feet, as shown in my tutorial for [u][b][a href="http://www.stopmoshorts.com/tutorials/puppet_fab/puppet_fab.html"]simple puppet fabrication[/a][/b][/u].

Posted by Nick H, on 2006-03-20 22:48:07

Actually, I don't use fibreglass cloth, I use the chopped strand matting. It mixes better into the plaster and costs less. You can also reinforce the plaster with strips of hessian (Burlap in the US) fabric if you hate glassfibre. For a low hill or desert island, you could make a mound of water based clay, then make it out of re-inforced plaster (maybe $12 per bag, cheaper than fiberglass resin) over that. Then remove the clay, and cut a hole under your set floor so you can reach under with the tiedowns. Or you make the shape out of chickenwire and build over that. I haven't made an island, but this is done in a similar way: http://pic5.picturetrail.com/VOL65/42706/7268968/94629460.jpg It looks better after it's painted (in the Stopmoshorts album at my picturetrail site). I've use some styrene foam, but not where the puppets are walking. I have done rocks and hills where the puppets walked over the plaster shell, but can't find any pics of it. I've just shown lots of kids aged 11 to 16 how to fix a hex nut into the puppet foot with epoxy putty and use a machine screw and wingnut as a tiedown, and they all managed to do it. So you don't have to do the more elaborate T and Slot type tiedowns or cut and drill blocks of metal for the feet. Two screws, hex nuts, and wing nuts for each puppet won't cost much. Allow $6 to $10 for the epoxy putty. Overall your budget is pretty low, but not impossible.