Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gregor paint

I feel pretty good when doing scenic painting on sets a props. It's not my strong point, but it's fun and works for my style of film. In the set painting, it's big with lots of washes and sanding and dry brushing and all sorts of things to distress and scale up everything. Fun. Character sculpting is much harder for me. The heads are about 2.5 inches tall and I will be shooting lots of close ups so they can't be as broad-stroked as my usual painting technique. That being said, I don't think they need to be precise or clean. I want everything to be a little rough (which ain't a problem with me at the helm).
I have been looking at a lot of paint work I like and something that I'm really into is non-realistic colors. A friend Brett Superstar ( paints with some crazy pallets and you don't question them. Blue face with red highlights? Looks great! So I am trying to get some of that into the paint jobs.
On Gregor's head, I did a fleshy base coat and then lots of funky washes. Some red nose and cheeks and he's done. Now he just needs brows and pupils. And it's on to the other characters!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gregor Puppet Build

For Gregor's puppet, I want a big blocky sculpt, but I don't want the mess and hassle of foam latex so I decided to build the puppet straight on the armature. I want ball-and-socket armatures for all of the puppets, but I don't have that kid of money so I decided to try out one of the armatures from. They came as a kit that took an hour or two to assemble and in the limited playing around i've done, it feels fairly smooth. I don't have much confidence in the armature's strength, so I was careful not to tension it too much. Just enough to stand on it's own. I got it from .

Gravity is the mighty enemy of stop-motion so it's important to make you puppet as light as possible. Chair foam is a great light spongy material. I traced a general outline into a block of foam and then cut it out. I then cut that shape in half, front to back and sandwiched the armature into the middle using some Barge. I carved the shape down with a razor blade until it was close to the right shape. The torso was so choppy that I laid some thin sheets of foam to make it a smooth surface. Now I had a naked foam Gregor.
There are different ways to costume a stop-mo puppet. My favorite look is having the cloths sculpted in foam or foam latex and then glueing the cloths to the surface. This is nice because it adds all of the texture and detail of real fabrics but maintains some sculptural quality that you'd lose if you made pants and put them on the puppet. What you glue with depends on the foam and the fabric. I have a stretchy material thats pretty thin for Gregor so I put pros-aid directly onto the foam and let it dry. 

 Then a cut a loose pattern for the parts of the suit and stretched them over the foam. I rub the fabric to get all of the air pockets out. Then I used some fabritac here and there to really secure the fabric.
Once the suit was basically done, I sew some seams and then glue strips of it to the puppet so the suit looks sewn and not glued together. Add a few buttons and cuffs and he's ready.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gregor Head Sculpt

I love sculpting! It's one of the most fun and rewarding parts on the production that on commercial work I never get a chance to do. For Gregor's head I started again with some very rough thumbnail drawings to find the shapes. I looked at some Russian royalty from the olden days and used that as a basis. When I had a few things that were starting to work I jumped right into the sculpt. I used sculpy because I wanted to be able to sand it down and make it really blocky in places.
Gregor will need replacement mouths, so when things were starting to get close, I cut his mouth off and worked on them separately. After some sculpting, baking and sending the mouth fit pretty well into the head. I put some half spheres in the back of the mouth and then propoxy into the head, pressed them together and then pulled them apart. This gives the mouth registration so it will always lock into place.

I took the two pieces and made a silicone mold of each. In the head mold I roto casted some plastic. Basically I wanted the head to be as light weight as possible. I filed the face half of the mold with the two part plastic, quickly closed up the mold and rotated it until it cured. A good trick my friend Scott showed me for this is to leave a little of the plastic mixture in a cup so you can see when the plastic has cured.

For the mouth, I casted plastic into the back of the mold (where the registration spheres are) and then pressed fresh sculpy into the front of the mold. Then I sculpted the mouth into the correct position. I had some sanding to make it fit, but not too bad. There will be big seams on the face where the mouth meets the head, but as I've said before, I love showing the process in the final product as long as it's not distracting. I am making a puppet film after all.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hands part 2

So I Had two sculpted hands, ready and prepped for mold. Now I need to make the mold. The last mold I made was 10 years ago so I went back to my friend Marty for some pointers. As expected Marty took me to school. 

Because Im making silicone hands, I needed to make a stone mold. First I needed to build up a wall of clay ( to block off the plaster for the first half of the mold. I start with a wooden board as a base and rolled out a thin layer of clay. This way if the hands get presses down during the process, there's a water clay buffer between the hands and the board. I put the hands on top of the clay and press them in lightly. The I roll out some more clay. My hands are between ¼ and ½ inch ( they are thin in fingers and thicker in the palm) so the sheet of clay I rolled out was about 1/8 inch thick so that it come halfway up the fingers leaving one half of the hand exposed. I loosely cut out the shapes of the hands in the clay and then lay it down around the hands. Then I smoothed it up against the edge of the hands. You have to get it pushed tight against the sculpt your molding so the plaster doesn't leak in between the Klean Klay and the sculpt. Then I used a rubber sculpting tool and my good old fashioned fingers to smooth it out. 

Then I built up a wall about three inches high all around the mold. I smoothed the wall into the base again with tools and fingers. When I was done, it didn't look professional, but it looked good enough to do the job. 

I then put some “keys” onto the surface of the clay. The keys are shape that will help register the parts of the mold. Like teeth in two gears, they will fit the halves neatly into each other. I used some silicon keys that we have at bent, but in the past I've uses plastic spheres pushed halfway into the clay. I put some pro-mold release that we have at bent on the hands (you can use Vaseline too) and if I had used the plastic spheres I'd have put Vaseline on those.
Here's where I followed Marty's process very closely. I mixed up the hydra-stone. Starting with a small batch and keeping it pretty thin. Not watery, but not as thick as pudding. This fist layer is about getting into all the crevasses of the hands and getting rid of any air pockets. With a chip brush, I drizzle the plaster over the hands and then shoot a little canned air at it to push the plates into every crack. Once the hands are covered I let this layer set up for 15 minutes or so. Then I did the same thing again this time with a bigger batch of plaster. After that sets up, I grab a little hemp (I've used burlap in the past too) and ball it into little nests under the watchful eye of Marty. I dip those nests in some hydrastone and lay them on top and the drizzle the rest of the mixture over them. After this set up, I did one more thick batch of plaster and put it on. I left the whole thing for about 2 hours to dry.

Next I turned the whole thing over, and pulled out the Klean Klay. You can clean off the rest with a little bestine, but don't rub it too hard on the hands because it will eat through the pint and clay. ILastly I put in a few little squares of clay against the edges of the walls to be pry-points so that I could use a screwdriver to pry open the mold. Once it looked pretty good, I coated it all with Vaseline and did the plaster prosses the same way I did on the other side. 2 hours later voila! I have a mold. It ain't the prettiest thing, but now when my hands break in the middle of a shot, I can make a new one. I casted the hands in silicone, which is a whole other process Ill get into at some point. Its hard to do unless you have access to a place where they use it a lot, so not ideal for your basement. In the past, I have painted liquid latex into the mold, closed it around the armature and squirted in expanding foam, which might be a simpler solution if you have only your basement to work in.
Damn thats a long post.