Stop Motion Puppet Construction 1st Edition Part 3
- Sunday, 18 April 2010 17:52
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2011 16:49
- Written by Marc Spess
4.0 Armature/Puppet Design:
This is the most important part of making a Stop-motion puppet. Bad planning and design of your puppet at this stage will result in a difficult puppet to animate and bad animation. Especially for the beginner if your puppet is poorly designed then you may be put off from Stop-motion altogether as being too hard so I can't stress this aspect of the construction more.
The Story board is where you work out all the actions your puppet will need to do, walking, Jumping, talking, flying? Any action that the puppet is going to perform that could impact its design should be taken into consideration for example if the puppet is going to fly then you will need to have some place to attach wires or rigs. If the puppet is going to talk, then you need to figure out how you will do the lip sync etc.
Armatures are the skeleton of the puppet. They support it and enable it to be animated effectively. An armature should be strong enough to support the puppet's weight but not to hinder its movement. The armature needs to be stiff enough to move and support the bulk of the foam and clothing on the puppet. Don't make the mistake of making a perfect armature only to have it sag when the puppet is foamed out. It's better to err on the side of too stiff until you get the hang of it.
Armatures are normally made of aluminum sculpture wire, in the case of simple armatures or intricately built ball & socket armatures that can be very precise and very expensive. Other materials can be used as long as the puppet will be able to be animated.
I have used both , and prefer the ball & socket machined armatures which realistically simulate human movement (assuming your puppet is humanoid). Wire armatures can be springy and you tend to have to bend the armature slightly more than you need, to allow for the spring back effect. Good aluminum sculpture wire is pretty "dead" and is the best choice for a beginner. However, the main point to make on this issue is that wire armatures are definitely workable, and the beginner should not worry about learning all the machining techniques employed in making ball & socket armatures but rather grab some wire and pliers and get stuck into it. The following photo is of a basic wire armature made with sculpture wire and epoxy putty.
How will my puppet stand up? This is really critical. If your puppet doesn't stand up well and secure you will be fighting a losing battle when animating and the end result will be disappointing.
There are several ways of securing your puppet. A simple way is with a pin through the foot into the floor of the set. This is okay if you have a clay puppet where the pin is easily covered and will do as long as the puppet doesn't move about a lot. Of course your set will have to be soft wood or styrofoam, or even foam core.
A Tie-down is a device to fasten a foot to the floor. It is usually attached to the puppet from underneath the set floor and is usually a bolt, but I have heard of wire also being used. If the puppet only has wire in its feet, a very thin strand of wire may be threaded through the foam or clay in the bottom of the foot, hooked over the wire inside, and back out through the bottom. you'll need two tiny holes in the set for the two wire ends, then twist the wire together under the set floor. This is good only if the puppet is staying in place for a while, it's too hard to do if the puppet is walking. The downside to tie downs is that you have to drill holes in the floor of your set and hide the holes afterwards. I will discuss different tie downs later during puppet examples.
Rare earth magnets are very good, especially if you don't want annoying holes in the set floor. These magnets are available through specialty shops. Magnets are used a lot in industry to remove ferric particles during processes and come in different sizes and strengths. The magnets should be strong enough to hold the puppet foot but not too strong as to hinder the animation. Also the puppet's foot needs to have steel in the foot or it won't be magnetized. The floor of the set will also need to have a thin sheet of steel so the magnet will stick to the underside of the set floor. Wallace in the Aardman film "The Wrong Trousers", is able to walk up a ventilation shaft and around to the inside of the shaft because of magnets.