In recent years we've been seeing a lot of puppets with translucent skin - silicone mostly, and now the RP human faces in Paranorman (apparently made largely from superglue?). 

I have somewhat mixed feelings on the subject. First, I totally understand the wow factor - as soon as silicone became a viable material for making puppet skin it became possible to make it look translucent, which we often hear is more realistic and actually mimics the way human skin reacts to light. I understand a rush to really make the puppets look spectacularly different when this first became possible. But it's not new anymore - i'ts lost the novelty now, and I find I often dislike the look of it - not across the board, but I just think the translucency is overdone to create an unusual look - a look that was obviously impossible in pre-silicone days.

Human skin can be somewhat translucent. Usually only in newborn babies (not even the majority of them really - they have to audition a lot of babies to find the right ones for those skin cream commercials). The vast majority of people have pretty opaque skin. In fact (just discovered this from the Making of ParaNorman book) it's even standard operating precedure in live action movies to sometimes put tape behind an actor's ears in strongly backlit shots because the light glowing redly through the ears can be very distracting and make people laugh when they're not supposed to. 

When the translucency is overdone it makes me think of weird alien creatures - 

I used to sculpt with the original pink supersculpey a lot, and then I learned that pro sculptors hate it because it's translucent (to try to make it look more like "human" skin apparently!) and as a result you can't see the imperfections on the surface - nor can you see the textures and details you're trying to sculpt. These don't show up until you either paint the sculpt or make a casting of it - by which point it's too late to fix anything! As soon as I got a pasta machine and started kneading opaque polymers into the pink SS I immediately saw the difference, and it was like night and day! Suddenly there was a surface! I hadn't realized until that moment that the super sculpey had this weird no-skin type of effect, and as soon as I did realize it I never went back. Personally I like texture, and since people all seem to have texture to their skin (though we try to minimize it to make women look prettier - if it wasn't there we wouldn't need to do that, would we?). 

And I'm not saying I don't like silicone for puppet skins - not at all! I'm just saying I'd like to see the puppet departments put a little more pigment into the skin, unless they're making some kind of weird creature that spent its life in an underwater cave or maybe a newborn baby or an Irish woman with an amazingly fragile complexion.

In the words of Jeff Goldblum "You were so busy figuring out how to do it you never stopped to ask if you should!"

So what do ye all think? Yay or nay to extreme translucency? And why? 

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I have never liked the look of silicone puppets. To me they look too squishy, and for some reason they give me the creeps. 

definitely not translucent (When Sculpting If i use SS, always prime it grey!)
And in stop-motion since "model animation" is no longer a "must have", nor a necessity, I would say Puppets should be, puppets, and not replicate life in every aspect.

Besides Sculptors, painters, and cyborg builders, lol,  know that there's a rift, when a human sees a figurative painting or object there's a space in recognition, when that object stops being a representation and it's not exactly real they cause repulsion, they call it Uncanny Valley..

and I think that's why translucency kinda sucks!

oh and here's a wiki

That's an interesting article, Bernardo. The note regarding the film review of "Polar Express" and "The Adventures of TinTin" summed up my response to those films perfectly. 

LOL! True that!

grecodan said:

That's an interesting article, Bernardo. The note regarding the film review of "Polar Express" and "The Adventures of TinTin" summed up my response to those films perfectly. 

Thanks guys! I haven't seen PN yet (Gasp! - soon, I promise!) but from the trailers and pics it looks like only Norman and his friend have the really translucent skin. The zombies all seem to be suitably gritty and textural (as they should) and the rest of the human puppets I noticed also did. Not sure though, it might be the way certain scenes are lit - for instance when Norman is brushing his teeth his face looks really super translucent, but in other scenes maybe not so much, though it looks like they use the glowing ears thing several times. I don't mind that - it seems to suit his character - there's just something about the baby-flesh look of his face in the toothbrush scene that creeps me out. Though I guess some kids really do look like that. 

Bernardo - good call on the uncanny valley! I'm not sure the term quite applies in the case of ParaNorman, since the puppets are pretty stylized and not sculpted to look realistic. But then again, you may be right - the skin itself might be a bit to uncannily realistic! Lol - could it be that Norman himself is creepier to look at than the zombies?   (kidding)

I really didn't mean this to be a criticism of ParaNorman directly - guess my timing is a bit bad. 

yeah I spoke about the uncanny valley cause I often feel it in stop motion with some puppets, and i thought it would make me look smart!!!

but I'm just an asshole with an internet connection and loads of free time! LOL  

I've really only noticed the uncanny valley effect in CGI movies. Stop motion humans are usually stylized and aren't meant to look 100% real.

The CGI uncanny valley effect can ruin an otherwise good movie for me (ie. Tron Legacy).

The Fool of the world's main character!

freaks me out with those freakeshly blinking eyes!!!  AND THAT SONG!!!!

I pretty much agree with you 100% on this one, Strider. It occurred to me that part of the problem may be a matter of scale. Silicone looks fantastic for full-size prosthetics where the translucency is in scale with real skin. But given that stopmotion puppets are much smaller in scale, it seems to me that if the silicone is allowed to have the same degree of translucency as when used in full-size items, that translucency will be too deep and therefore look very odd. If, for the sake of argument, a full-size silicone head has a depth off translucency of 3mm, that same depth in a puppet one-quarter the size would look absurd; it would be an effective depth of translucency in scale terms of 12mm!

Of course, silicone doesn't have to look translucent, it suppose it depends on how much paint you apply to the surface, rather than relying wholly on the silicone base being pigmented. For example, Nick Hilligoss's Poe and Lovecraft puppets look properly solid and opaque.

Yes, I love the original TRON. The new one was OK but the CGI Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner characters looked so off that it was hard to ignore.

David Tomasiewicz said:

I prefer the original Tron over that one.

Roger Beck said:

I've really only noticed the uncanny valley effect in CGI movies. Stop motion humans are usually stylized and aren't meant to look 100% real.

The CGI uncanny valley effect can ruin an otherwise good movie for me (ie. Tron Legacy).

I have never understood the disapproval of the 'uncanny valley' effect/syndrome/theory. I don't even appreciate the term - like some abhorrent, unwanted side-effect to experimentation. If something artificial looks real = COOL!!! I freaking love it. More, please! This doesn't mean I like Polar Express, attaching no blame to its visual aesthetic. TinTin was okay.

I don't mind silicone puppets. They look like silicone puppets, really. Same goes for all materials in puppet-making. They all have their own visual quirks. But I'm not shallow. I judge puppets by what they do, not how they look. Or is that people. Realities often merge. But, then...

... what is real... 

I would agree with that but I haven't seen a CGI human that looks 100% real except for maybe this…

Every other CGI human I've seen looked off. Some were very close but still looked a bit wrong hence the uncanny valley effect…

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of robotics[1] and 3Dcomputer animation,[2][3] which holds that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as a function of a robot's human likeness.

I know this isn't really on topic, I'm done now.

Beyond Craft said:

If something artificial looks real = COOL!!!

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