Stop Motion Animation Forum Archive











Posted by pawlabee, on 2006-09-20 22:46:50

Book suggestions

I've looked around the internet for a beginners book about basic miniature set design, to no avail... So i thought i'd join in here and ask you guys. This is my first attempt, and I would love some sort of a guide to follow. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! thanks! P.

Posted by Strider, on 2006-09-21 02:07:07

Wow, I wish there was a book like that! I'd buy it in a heartbeat! You just have to cobble together bits and pieces of information from a lot of related disciplines, like dollhouse building, miniature railroad landscaping, wargaming, that kind of stuff. There's some info in the Handbook about it: and I'm sure there are books available on some of these subjects too. Also be sure to go through this forum and just read a lot of the threads... loads of info buried there just waiting to be unearthed.

Posted by LEWIMATIONS, on 2006-09-21 04:41:53

The Handbook is an invaluable source of info. When I was first starting out in animation I read as much as I could on this forum, I read (and still do) posts from months and months ago just to gather as much knowledge about animation as I could, that's what I'd say to quite a few people who are new to this site, before asking questions look back on the previous posts, and a lot of the time you'll find what you're looking for. Strider and LIO can get veeeerrrry angry }( A great book on animation and set building is Mark Spess'e-book 'Secrets Revealed' $15 from

Posted by pawlabee, on 2006-09-21 08:16:37

see, the thing is, i'm not so much interested in the animation part, but rather, the construction of the set... (Scaling, where to buy supplies, how to build mini lamps, furniture) Since Iím here, I might as well tell you about my project. I'm making a music video, with sock puppets. I'm sewing the puppets to look like the band members, and turning them into belligerent drunken rock stars. They're going to do lines of coke, trash a hotel room (which is what needs building/and eventually destroying), and rock out with mini instruments on the Brooklyn Bridge. It's funny - cause the real band is so tame and nerdy. I'm not a techie, but I'd definitely like to do this myself, sounds like (consuming) and fun project. I assumed this message board had a myriad of buried information, which is why I thought i'd take the easy way out with a book. But I'll take your advice and thoroughly browse it to glean all the info I need. Thanks! P.

Posted by Strider, on 2006-09-21 08:50:50

Well that helps, knowing what kind of set you want to make. You didn't specify a hotel room before, it could have been a desert, a forest, a mountaintop, a quarry, a suburban neighborhood.... etc. Actually there's not a lot of info around here about doing interiors. There is some, but I wouldn't know where to find it. So I'll try to paraphrase what I can think of. A good and quick(ish) way to make an interior room set is to get some thyin plywood (like 1/4") sheets to use for walls. A glue gun is essential for setbuilding. You can hotglue pieces of aluminum angle stock (or just lengths of square wood stock) along the edges of the boards that need to be attached to each other or to the set floor. Then you have nice flat surfaces that can be hotglued together. Or use screws.... not nearly as fast but more secure. Then you can paste up some printed fabric as wallpaper, or apply plaster or whatever surface treatment you want.

Posted by Boy Oyng, on 2006-09-21 11:59:51

I don't know this book personally, but it might aim you in a helpful direction: I'd also look into puppetry books and architectural modeling books, as well as the model railroading, dollhouse construction as mentioned above. You'll need to design your sets with access points, which might mean all your floors have to be trapdoors.

Posted by lilly_t, on 2006-09-21 17:07:36

A little while ago I came across these amazing miniature interiors created by Frances Gleener Lee. The so called "Dollhouses of Death. wikipedia: "Frances Glessner Lee (1878 - 1962) was a millionaire heiress who revolutionized the study of crime scene investigation. She founded Harvard's department of legal medicine, the first program in the nation for forensic pathology. Through the 1940s and 1950s, she hosted a series of "Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death". Forty to fifty of the nation's leading crime scene investigators would be invited to a conference, where she would present them with an intricately constructed diorama of actual crime scenes, complete with working doors, windows, and lights." Maybe this is inspiring? It is a real pitty she wasn't an animator too! The interiors she created are excellent! Susanna

Posted by nymrhod, on 2006-09-23 15:59:34

Boy Oyng's suggestion was going to be mine...'Modelmaking for the Stage' by Keith Orton. It's the most helpful book available at the moment for making scale interiors. There are very few. David N

Posted by Nick H, on 2006-09-21 20:17:35

Look at a room, and the stuff in it that tells you it is a hotel room, or that a rock band is staying in it. Now make one like it, only smaller! :P First, work out your scale. If the sock puppets have a hand inside to operate the head, then you are looking at around 1/3rd to 1/2 scale, bigger than most stopmotion sets. Perhaps closer to 1/4 scale if the heads are big in proportion to the body size, its up to you. Some things come in smaller sizes, like the mini bottles of booze you can buy. Look for small shot glasses to substitute for bigger ones. Look in toy shops for toy guitars, you can repaint them if the shape is good but the colours are crappy. Find what you can. Look at things as shapes, not just as what they are. Part of one thing might be the right shape for a part of something completely different in another scale. If you can't find it, look at how each part of the object could be made. Walls are basically flat surfaces, and there are lots of things that come in flat sheets. The walls could be particle board, mdf, ply, foamcore, plasterboard, whatever. A vertical flat surface, once you put a door or window in it, or a hanging picture, becomes a wall. A door, window, or picture frame is just lengths of timber or moulding with mitre joins at the corners. They are cut with a saw - so use a smaller saw. Or substitute foamcore and cardboard that you can cut with a knife if you don't have a saw. I've seen all sizes of ready made picture frames, some with elaborate mouldings, at discount shops... many would suit a mini hotel room. Some are small enough to work in my 1:6 scale sets. Wooden furniture is also made mostly of flat materials with square corners, you can make most of it in much the same way as the real thing. Curved objects are trickier, you may have to sculpt them. If you want to have some things smashed in real time, you may have to build them from breakable materials. If the break will reveal their structure, you may need to build some of that structure. A brick wall might need to have individual bricks with just grey powder in between, a plasterboard wall might need a hole in it pre-cut, then the piece put back in and the join smoothed with plasticine, then painted over. Furniture might need to be pre-broken, then pushed together again. When I needed weatherboards falling down, frame by frame (in my showreel at stopmoshorts) I had to make each board separately, and only held in place with a pin. I had to have only a timber frame holding them up, instead of a sheet of chipboard, since when they fell it would be seen. So look at where the damage has to happen in the room, and only build the extra bits where you need them. Some objects smashing could be a full-sized closeup, if the miniature was not likely to smash as well. See the puppet's arm swing around and knock the mini vase (maybe plasticine, painted like the real one), then cut to close-up of the real one hitting the floor and breaking. Get 2 or 3 from the $2 shop for re-takes.

Posted by Boy Oyng, on 2006-09-21 22:28:20

Nice link, Lilly T Susanna. And let's not forget the amazing Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago...