taking one frame at a time since 1999

I'm animating my puppet walking and want to avoid using tie-downs in the feet since I would see the holes from the high camera angle--plus, I don't want to destroy the set I built.

I'm using a ball and socket arm with a weighted base to hold my puppet up. It is firmly attached to my puppet's lower back with a brass square tube. 

I am running into a lot of difficulties in which I feel like I'm fighting against my rigging in order to move my puppet from one position to the next. Because the attachment point is located on his back rather than the foot that makes contact with the ground, t

For example, I want my puppet's shoulders to sway as he walks and his torso to bop with each step, but I can't freely move his torso since it's attached to the weighted arm rig. What's more, if I grab his torso with one hand while moving the arm with my other, I have no hands to hold his feet to the ground; so as I make the torso adjustment, his feet slip and slide all over the place and I need to spend a lot of time readjusting their position back to where they should be. Often, while readjusting the feet, the torso will get moved out of position and I find myself back to square one.

Is there some sort of technique for using ball-and-socket arm rigs that would help me with this?

I've attached the segment I've animated thus far and some pictures as reference. 

Thanks for any advice in advance.

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I know what you're saying!  I seem to need something to locate the feet in the ground, even if it is not enough to support the puppet.  Your clip doesn't look bad, but I know how hard it would have been to keep those feet in place.

I have never had much luck with doing a walk with just a rig, I always got the feet skating about, so I nearly always use tiedowns.  Maybe some blue tack would be enough to keep the foot in place, though I doubt it.  Even with a run, I prefer to tie down the foot on the ground.  Only for flying can I rely on just the rig.

I did a spider once, with just little pinholes in the set, made with a 1mm drill bit. One of the wires in the spider legs was a little longer and could poke down into the hole.  (when the foot was raised the wire folded back on the side away from camera.)  When moving the spider, I had to keep a finger on the feet that were supposed to be on the ground, but the pin hole was enough to just keep it located if I held it down. (With 8 legs, it worked best with 2 animators, one on each side.) But for a shot looking down, even the 1mm pinholes would show up. I painted the pub counter it was walking on a mottled, blotchy pattern with several shades in it, so I could smear a bit of coloured plasticine over every hole, and it wouldn't stand out.  I generally avoid a smooth glossy floor all of one colour wherever possible.  If it is unavoidable, you can fill the hole with plasticine and paint over it with the same paint the floor is covered in, but then once the foot has been there you have to re-fill the hole and wait while the new paint dries, so that slows down an already slow process.  If there are irregular blotches the plasticine is just another one of them.  The foot hides the moment when the tie down has to poke through, and is still above it when the plasticine re-fills the hole.  It might be different from how it was before but you don't see the change, so it is not noticed.

With the stone paving in your shot, I would drill tie down holes and fill them with plasticine, and do a paint job that disguises the small differences in colour.   There is already a splatter of fine dark spots, I would do more of that, and maybe some crack lines. That could disguise pin holes, if you wanted to just poke a pin through the foot to stop it skating.  For myself, I would not use the rig at all for that shot, it means painting out the rig and the shadow of the rig in post, and while that is possible, I don't set myself up for the extra work if I can avoid it.   Yes, I know it is making big holes in the beautiful pavers, but I tell myself that the set is there for the purpose of making a film, not as a work of art in itself.  You can patch it up with epoxy later if you want to restore it.  

But although I can't get good results, I do see clips of action figures doing incredibly athletic fight scenes, held up by a rig.  So some people can manage it.  It may help that the figures are moving quickly when they do move, so the puppet is either paused, or running and kicking so the foot doesn't stay there for many frames.   

The other way, for really invisible tie downs,  would be magnetic tie downs.  You have a steel floor, and a magnet you put under the set, and a steel plate in the puppet foot.  Cosgrove Hall in the UK used to do that with a cylindrical rare earth magnet about the size of a C size battery.  It had a threaded hole up the middle so a screw could be used to push it away when you wanted to remove it.  It was that strong, it needed to be moved away a bit before you could remove it without shaking the set.  But that is best for a perfectly flat floor, not for those flagstones.

Hm, I'd like to try the pin idea and see if that's enough.

I agree, animating standing characters that are secured to a point above the ground is awkward and feels unnatural, yet all the time I see behind-the-scenes of animators doing intricate character movements with nothing but an arm rig (as far as I can tell) so I feel like there must be something I'm not doing right. 

Thank you for the tips! I am curious though if any animators here prefer to use the arm rig for this sort of movement and how they approach it.

I have tried an overhead rig, with some success. First was for a running shot, with the background being slid past. I could just lift the puppet out of the way, adjust the set then drop him back down again.

Second time was with a puppet that had a floor length dress. Admittedly I cheated by attaching the feet to 'skis' that protruded out the back, and I held these down.

The overhead rig was achieved by using a camera slider mounted on its side above the set, and then attaching a ball-jointed rig arm to that. It doesn't help with the moving feet issue, but perhaps having the weight taken off the feet might make the BluTak sufficient to hold them in place?

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