THE SMA FORUM ARCHIVE
Posted by Saurheledion, on 2010-08-11 13:52:19
Seeking Set Building Advice
Hey, so I have a pretty large project coming over the horizon and I was hoping to benefit from your guy's wealth of experience. Some of the areas will be a dilapidated old house, a large, gnarled old tree, a forest (of which really only the bases of the trees will be in the shot), a rice paddy, two hills, and a couple of old dirt roads.
I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for. Perhaps ideas for materials that I could use to accomplish these things? A charming story about building a similar set on a project with so and so back in '98? Any help at all in this area would be greatly appreciated. I'm on a 9" scale and I had originally hoped to use magnets as tie downs, but my faith has been recently shaken in that approach.
Any help at all would be greatly appreciated! Have a great day.
Posted by Nick H, on 2010-08-11 20:22:05
I've done a lot of exterior sets, with rocks and tree trunks. Some were 1/6 scale (for 12" tall human puppets), some were life sized close-up sets, some were smaller scale wide shots at 1:24 or 1:50.
Usually I start with a sheet of 1/2" particle board for the ground. But if the ground is nowhere near flat, like rocky boulders or cliffs, I might have to make it up from re-inforced plaster. I have 2 ways of doing this. One is to make the shape from chicken wire over a few shapes cut out from particle board, then lay fibreglass chopped strand matting dipped in plaster over it. The other is to model the shape of the ground in clay, then do the fibreglass and plaster over it. Just plaster is used to finish off the surface, usually stippling with a brush to get a nice texture and cover up the fibreglass.
If it's chicken wire, that usually stays in it. If it's over clay, I turn it over and remove all the clay.
I use bolted tiedowns, and I usually add a flat piece of wood with a hole in it - like a big wooden washer - so the wingnut doesn't dig into the underside of the plaster when I tighten it.
The same methods can work for a tree trunk. Often I start with a flat particle board profile of the tree, fixed on to another flat piece as the base. Then maybe some cardboard tubing on the front to build it out, or chicken wire, then plaster. As plaster starts to set you can do quite a good pine bark texture on it.
You need a bit more than half-round so you don't see that the back is flat or hollow, but you don't usually need fully round trunks. Sometimes, when I change camera angle from one side to the other, I rotate the trees slightly so they still look round, but usually that isn't necessary.
I've also sculpted the tree in clay, taken a plaster mould, and cast the trunks in latex.
Occasionally I find a tree branch with good structure that can be a trunk, all it needs is some spreading roots at the base.
Here's a pond set being made on a sloping bit of ground:
That's way way back, around 1992!
And here's a cave set being made earlier this year:
It shows plaster and fibreglass matting being applied over aluminium foil. There are also rocks made by carving polystyrene foam, and some rocky wall made from mixing and pouring 2-part polyurethane foam. Both of these would work for building up tree shapes as well.
However - building up in foam isn't so good for the ground where the puppets will walk, you need a hard hollow shell and access underneath for the tiedowns.
With big 1/6 scale houses I lay on overlapping weatherboards made of balsa, 3mm ply, or sometimes card. The basic wall structure can be triwall (thick corrugated card), foamcore, particle board, mdf, or ply. Windows and doors are usually made with wood, much like the real thing only smaller. Bricks are usually cut from 3mm mdf and glued onto a base, then some tile adhesive run in to look like mortar.
With the small 1:24 sets I mostly use thin card, cut with a snap-off blade knife. I did make up some patters for weatherboarding and brickwork and got some vacuum formed sheets, but the originals were still card.
I don't have any clips of a house being constructed, but there is one being destroyed at the end of this showreel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UjUOu-zrRQ&feature=related
Posted by castlegardener, on 2010-08-19 00:05:18
I do a lot of set building as well. For my exterior shots I start with a flat surface, like a sheet of plywood,mdf, or an old door. I then add styrofoam that you find packed in new boxes or buy in sheets from the home store. I cut the styrofoam with a bandsaw, handsaw, or sheetrock saw to rough shape. I use a hand file or rasp to smooth it out some. You can also find an electric foam cutter for pretty cheap that will help. I use liquid nails construction adhesive or caulking or tacky glue to connect it all together. I then apply paper mache over the surfaces to smooth it all out. I sometimes use tile mortar as the base for my paper mache for extra strength and durability (just wear gloves).
I brush on a coat of black paint as a base color. Just remember you can't spray paint onto styrofoam from a can because the propellants melt the styrofoam. A spray can can be used after the first base coated is handpainted on.
There are plenty of photos on my blog listed in my signature line.