2D director switches to StopMo... I need help and advices!

Hello ladies and gentlemen,

:-)

Well, this is my very first post on SMA.com

To make it quick, I'm a french 2D animation director with some experience switching to StopMotion for a commissioned music video but I never did that, nor making an armature, nor a mold, nor even animated a single pen using my built-in camera eh eh. And I've strictly nobody around me who can help me out about Stop Motion. So I've spent days over the web to learn learn learn and get informations. So I'm pretty much hopeful I'll get a bit of help here...

So far I've done a character design and sculpted the face using Super Sculpey Clay. Here is a picture of the face through different angles. It's important to note that I followed Nick Hilligoss Youtube videos to get everything done and I adapted it a bit for my puppet anatomy (neck is lower than shoulders!). I know Nick's around, so thousand thanks to him already. I sculpted head with Clay over an armature which I expect to use again while I'll cast silicone tomorrow morning, using Nick's technic again. Then, there might be no surprise (hopefully!!), it might fit the mold and character and won't touch the plaster mold.

Also, the armature was ordered on Animation Supplies. I've 3 characters to do, and one of them is going to be wire-armatured, so that I can see the differences too for my next projects. Not sure the expensive armature is a must-have, it's definitely long to set up and I'm affraid joints lose their strenght... will see. This kit seems to be really ok though, as my character is definitely very fat so no worries joints are that big.

Then I did a plaster mold of the face which I opened today. While removing the sculpt out of the mold I noticed a few details broke. Too thin details. I guess plaster doesn't allow sharpness and too much accuracy in sculpting otherwise it just breaks right? But overally mold seems ok.

I'm so so so anxious for the silicone casting. as the plaster is fragile, i'm affraid it'll break again when getting the silicon out of the mold.

I had to find a solution to raise shoulders above the head, and considering the character will walk like a gorilla, I needed to allow full rotation of shoulders which is now the case. It's a mix of epoxy clay (?? the one with two substances you've to mix and it warms and sets quickly and becomes as tough as stone), plastic surrounded wire (in case it breaks, plastic holds wire) and copper.

Here is a quick drawing above the foam filled character with special shoulders. On the above pic you can also barely see them. sorry i didn't take more pictures.... I tried my best to leave access to armature screws to tighten them up during animation...

Today I removed hands and covered them with latex foam. (smells definitely bad that amoniac stuff! Seems my cat peed on my puppet!) but that might do the looks-like-skin-trick. It's kind of a troll, so I'm not seeking for perfection. The more there is texture, holes and air bubbles the better it is. It makes her ugly!

For clothes I expect to make a rough something, as if she was kind of a witch, so dirty drapery around her with kind of a dress plus some gear like knife, skulls and garlick chain! Each wired to stuck at the character or possibly be animated. Any advices about elements like this by the way? Is that good or not to add them that way? Or better not to put any?

Dirty bushy hairs a bit like the character designs pined to the wall on the above picture. 

Soooo.... Is that anything to you I've done in a bad way so far? Anything I could do before adding clothes? Anything I must absolutely change? Anything good which I might not forget to reproduce on the next puppets?

I've plenty other questions, especially about the sets and how to fix character on the ground (in special cases I mean) but maybe it's best to let you see all of that first eh eh... sorry....

I hope you'll find this interesting enough to give me your precious advices and feedbacks.

Thank you for reading!

Fursy

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Bienvenu Fursy!  Thank you, it is very good to know I have been of some help to you.

That is a great looking troll!  Mais c'ette une femme?  Very scary!

I don't know why your plaster mould is breaking.   I sculpt fine details and make plaster moulds.  The only parts that are in danger of breaking are parts like the inside of the mouth, which sticks out on the mould.  I put some wire in the plaster to give it more strength there.

I don't sculpt with Super Sculpey, but it should be ok if it is still soft.  If you baked it so it is hard, then it would break off pieces of the mould.  But if you don't bake it, I don't know what is happening.  

I use Chavant NSP plasticine, which becomes softer when it is warm, and I open the mould and remove the plasticine when it is still slightly warm.  

I wonder if the heat from the plaster setting would make the surface of the Sculpey get a little bit harder?  I know there are some members here who sculpt in polymer clay and make moulds, so maybe they know. 

Or maybe it is not a very hard plaster?  I use the best quality plaster, like Ultracal 30, or Hydrostone, for the first 2 layers of plaster, so the fine details are strong.  Then I use ordinary Casting Plaster on the back. 

If you are casting in silicone, you could make the mould in epoxy resin instead of plaster.  That would be stronger.

The silicone will be soft, so it should not break off any more details from the plaster mould.  Perhaps you have cast the head in silicone by now?

Did you use Foam Latex for hands, cast in a mould, or liquid latex painted on the finger wires?

In your photos it looks like you are doing it in a good way!

Hi Nick and others!

Ho, thanks a lot for your reply, compliments and long feedbacks! Glad I didn't do anything wrong so far, at least based on what you can see!

Today I casted silicone into the mold but I don't feel it good at all. I couldn't find  silicone pigments and added simple pigments into it but I'm afraid it won't cure well, though the molding silicone I bought needs 24h  to cure/dry. I'll see tomorrow.

As I'm pretty sure my plaster mold broken while putting the armature+silicone today, I've good chances to need another sculpting/molding/casting session. This is terribly annoying. Destroying a full sculpt if the mold fucked up. Today I bought a very very good plaster, not Ultracal but similar after your comment, thank you. 25€ for 250 gr or so, which is 4/5 time the price I paid the first plaster (molding plaster in art shop btw, not a random one!). Very expensive but I'm sure it'll worth it and work better. Despite i did the exact mix of water and plaster, my mold still touches slightly wet.

To answer your question, I used liquid latex painted. Drown hands into the latex then painted with a now-completely-dead paint brush! Tomorrow I expect to add acrylic to the latex and paint over it to add detail and opacity to the fingers. Any recommendation about that? Do I just need to mix acrylic to latex and paint?

Well, I'll let you know tomorrow if the silicone worked out... 

If it worked out (fingers crossed just in case), I wondered if painting over silicone with colored latex would work? Is that a combo that works together?

Another question is: is it possible to cast latex the same way in a mold? Will it cure if baked in a oven? Silicone is damn thick to cast in such a small hole, so many chances to create fat air bubbles. Does the silicone sets faster if placed in a oven?

I'm so happy I found this website/forum. It's a gold mine of useful informations. I readen many "handbooks", visited so many websites and learnt a lot thanks to you all. Now I need to practice but it's such a pleasure to start Stop Motion with such a massive amount of informations and kind people helping out. :-)

Fursy

Plaster will still contain water after it sets. That is normal.  It will be hard, but still damp.  It needs to dry out, maybe for a few hours near a heater, maybe for 2 days.  But if it has not hardened, there is a big problem.

No, you can't paint silicone with latex or with paint.  The only thing that sticks to silicone is more silicone.  I mix some more of the same silicone with some pigment, and some naptha to thin it, and use that to paint my silicone puppet heads.

Latex can be cast in a plaster mould.  But, you will not be able to use the mould for platinum cure silicone after that.   The sulphur in the latex will stop the silicone curing and it will stay liquid.  (If you use equal parts A and B to mix the silicone it is probably platinum cure.  If you use different amounts of A and B, it may be a tin cure silicone, and maybe it will cure.  Test a little on some dried latex first.)

Foam latex is used to fill the mould, and is baked.  You can see the process in my Making Puppets album, look for the FatRat photos.   They start about 12 photos down.  http://www.picturetrail.com/sfx/album/view/60051  

Liquid latex is usually used to make a hollow skin.  You pour it into the mould, leave it for half an hour or an hour, then pour the liquid out again.  It does not work very well casting a solid object, it needs exposure to the air so the water can evaporate.   Here is a video on making hollow latex shoes in a plaster mould:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfwIgSC9Ka8

Yes, silicone will cure quicker if it is is warm.  But not too hot.   I put my mould in an oven at 50 degrees Celsius so the silicone painted on to the mould will cure faster.   Then I can paint another layer with the same mix of silicone, because it has not yet cured in the cool room.  I paint on 3 or 4 thin layers, before I fill the mould by pouring silicone in.

I don't use a paint brush with latex!   A toothpick, metal tool, or a piece of soft urethane foam, like a sponge, is better.  I throw the piece of foam away after I use it.  But if you soak the brush in turpentine, orange oil, naptha, or some other solvents, the latex will swell up and get soft after a few hours, and you can clean the brush.  I think petrol (gasoline, essence) will work to clean latex from brushes too.

Wah that is cool advices. Some of them I already applied as you described them into the video.

The troll silicone casting went out actually pretty ok. Some air bubbles etc but that's definitely much better than doing it again.I had to find solutions to fill the air bubbles and add missing detail, just added more silicone.

By the way, I tinted my silicone with dry pastels, rubbed onto thin emery paper, then you've all the colours you want, no need to mix. Just added this to my white silicone and it did the job. You just have to mix for a long time to be sure there is not waves of silicone uncoloured but that worked very very well. (brand of pastels: Rambrandt-> expensive ones but just 5mm of the pastel is enough). This same technic doesn't work in Latex, it does not mix.

Today I sculpted and did the plaster mold of the second character, using the Ultracal plaster. Not ultracal but similar french one. That is AMAZING. Thank you! Ho my... if only I had that one for the troll/witch. That is so strong, so thin, so efficient. Indeed, nothing moved nor broken. It's hard as limestone! Looks like it a lot when cured. Thank you very much for the trick, that was extremely helpful!!!

Also I did the trick of putting wire into eyes and mouth and actually fixed the mouth wire into the clay walls so that it does not touch lips (as i noticed it appears on the mold otherwise), when I put plaster. Then, when you put plaster, it does not move at all and remains in the very center of the mouth hole.

Tomorrow I'm making a wire armature. Will post a few pics of today's work so that the above message gets clearer.

And, what do you think about that?
I'm searching for a way to walk characters on a leveled / hilly ground. (sorry for the lack of precise english term). Because without tie downs, animation seems impossible, and this is something I'll encounter in my film... Any idea? Using the glue removable with Naphta to fix feet on the ground?

Alright, 
Thanks

Alright. that's all for today eh eh!

Going to see Dead Can Dance live tonight yeah yeah!!!!

:-)

Thanks

Fursy

I make the uneven ground with polyester resin and fibreglass,  or just plaster and fibreglass, usually over chicken wire.  Then I drill holes and use my usual screw tie-downs.  I put a wooden block on the tiedown, like a thick washer, so when I tighten the wingnut underneath, it does not dig into the plaster.

I think the aluminium mesh is better, it has more strength.  But I would still cover it, and use fibreglass matting in the plaster to make it stronger, and more rigid so it does not flex.

I would have a timber frame all around the outside, with legs attached to that to hold the ground above the table.  There could be cut-out pieces of particle board or plywood, like the black part of your coloured drawing (around the edges), so there is a straight line on the bottom, but the line of the hills on top. You can staple or screw the mesh onto the top of the particle board.

hi! :')

Ok understood Nick. Thank you for your explanations. Good ideas with the frame around outside yes, that'll make it stronger and prevent any distortion of the mesh grid! Good point with Fiberglass too, will remember that.

I'm posting a few pics here of the work in progress.

• Witch/Troll:

This is a picture of how it looked when I opened it. Plaster broke completely, got air bubbles and very bad detail etc. Considering the mold was broken and that I had no time more, I decided to go ahead with it and to use the defaults and not to try to hide them that much. so I made her even more dirty than I expected, like a real dark troll full of soil, very dirty (far right picture). If I've a bit of time I'll try making another head with a different design but not sure...

• Below is one of the other characters (Hansel). I'll try, to save time, to use the same face for both and see if adding hairs can make it or girl or boy. I'm waiting for the head casted with armature to see if the mouth wasn't too opened... Afraid of that.... Will see tomorrow too. I should have done a big hole into mouth, but lips more closed. anyway.

That's it. Any opinion or advice welcome!

Thank you!

So many work has been done so far, here are random pictures!

More or less how it'll look like. 8fps !! Not smooth at all!

And a few pics of the sets etc etc. 

Thanks Nic for helping me out a lot a few weeks ago. That was really really helpful. In the end I didn't do a uneven ground, too much constraints. I had to do 1 ground I could use many times so best was to make it as much sober as possible. Then Matte painting and props will do the trick hopefully.

I never did any stop mo before, discovering animating, it's fantastic. I'm discovering green screen too, and noticed many tests are needed before being able to provide a perfectly keyable matte eh eh.

This looks FANTASTIC!!

I look forward to more and more updates!!

cc

Wow, that really is beautiful!!! I love the black and white photography. Will it be shown in black and white? 

Also, why 8 fps? You won't be able to put that on a DVD or Youtube or anything without doing crazy things to it to get it to a useable frame rate.

It looks too good to animate at 8 fps!  At the film rate of 24 fps, that's 3 frames for each pose, which will be very easy to notice.

12 fps is alright, that is like shooting "on twos" - or 12 1/2 fps if it will be transferred to a PAL DVD at 25 fps.

You didn't make uneven ground, but you used the same method to make the cave walls.  They look really good!

Ho! Thank you very much!! Sorry for that very late reply but deadline is so soon that I work 24/7 !! No time for internet at all! Very glad you appreciate the pictures, very motivating to read such feedbacks!
This is my first stopmo film and I must admit I felt in love with that. It's such the perfect kind of animation, which just needs your imagination, no computers at all. Never did a film with so few compositing or digital process. It's killer. I was pissed by animation so I'm glad I found this.
And the funny thing is that I'm not someone patient at all usually, but for stopmo I discovered I'm very patient. this is so cool! :-)
1/3 of the film is animated, so I'll post it here as soon as it's done.

Thanks for your nice comments, another picture here for fun! :-)

Have good holidays to all of you!

@Strider: Actually, shooting at 8fps is just a way to shoot/animate 3 time less the characters, so it saves a lot of work. at 24fps you have to be very delicate and accurate while animating as you must do the same action of the same lenght, cutted into 24 shoots instead of 8. Even at 8fps, when you have big close ups with a 100mm lens for example, you can even see details invisible with eyes, so the motion must be daaaammmnnnn precise. It seemed that for animating some parts I almost just had to blow on the character so that he moves just as much as I want. It's indeed not true, but it could have been true eh eh! But maybe you know that already!

So for just like Nick said, every picture is screened 3 times (After Effects does it) so that the final video actually plays 25fps, then you can put it on Youtube and so on!

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