I'm rigging a small cape and looking for info from people who have done this before. The cape is about 5" long and is torn and ratty. So I can't hide wires in hemmed seams like I have in the past.

I'm considering weaving some floral wire and then embedding that in a molded silicone cape, but I want to use real fabric. It's consistent with the look of other things in this production.

I wouldn't mind laminating wire between 2 layers of cloth, but I assume the outline of the wire will be visible, and that's assuming I can laminate fabric in a way where the adhesive doesn't soak through and discolor the fabric AND that I can do it using some adhesive that's flexible.

Does anyone have experience with this sort of thing? I read somewhere online that Corpse Bride embedded copper mesh in some part of the Bride's dress, maybe the veil, but it didn't provide details on the mesh dimensions and weave density/wire gauge.

Thanks in advance.

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Hey Dave, just throwing out an idea, I haven't tried this myself, though I have done the wire-in-hem stuff a few times. 

I once asked Don Carlson what kind of armatures Bruce Bickford used in his clay figures, and he told me Bruce didn't put any armatures in at all. I'm not sure anymore if this was just for the tiny figures or all of them. But apparently what Bruce would do is basically make impromptu specialized armatures for each shot or scene based on exactly what it needs to do. Often it would just be a single piece of wire hidden behind a leg and pressed a little ways into the clay. Or if it required more then he'd do more. 

My suggestion would be to play with something similar - maybe bend up a little piece of wire with a couple of loops in it - make the loops lay flat against the cloth on the side that won't be seen in this shot and tape it on or maybe hotglue it with little fabric patches, though that wouldn't be removable later. The loops are just to give better control over the cloth - without loops everything would just slide around annoyingly. 

Anyway, I'd just make a test cloak and play around like that, see if it seems plausible. See how much wire is necessary, how little you can get away with. Wax might even be able to stick the wire on, though it could also remain in the cloth and make ugly-marks, not sure. All to be determined by playing around. 

Just got struck by a thought - possibly you could stitch the wire on just here and there with thread matching the cloak color, and then rip the stitches out later if you need to move the wire to the other side of the cloak or insert a differently-shaped piece of wire for a different shot. 

With clay you usually wouldn't need wire, the clay itself can be animated.  Cloth can, a little bit (it sure as hell animates when you don't want it to), but if you want nice rippling waves or to get it to hold more extreme positions, wire gives more control.  

Instead of running the wire along the edge, you could have 3 or 4 wires radiating from the shoulder, like the finger bones in a bat's wing.  That way the trailing edge of the cloak can be as torn as you like.  Not that I've done a cloak like that, haven't needed to, but I've done several pairs of bat wings and it works for that.  Use the wire to shape the main parts of the wing/cloak, and let the jaggy bits in between just follow along.   Loops or zig zags sound like a good approach too, the zags could follow the bigger rips in the cloak. 

For Death's cloak flapping in the breeze  (  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRt9ZIX4l5g&list=PLCF76D858842B...  ),  it wasn't ragged so I had a wire going all around the edges in the usual way, with the cloth folded over and lightly spray glued.  I could have sewn it but I was being lazy.  

One thing about cloth flapping in the wind, it can be fairly random looking with quite sudden changes in direction, so some smaller tatters of fabric doing their own thing will probably look ok.

Hi guys,

This puppet is being shipped 8 time zones away and is for a project where clay isn't an option. Same customer as I made the pirate for (http://hettmerfx.com/stopmo_pirate.html), so I'm locked into a "look" and need something as bullet proof as possible. A shrink-wrapped solution, as it were. And the cloth will be seen from both sides.

Never tried it myself, but here's an idea; why don't you use aluminium foil. You can bend it in any shape and has the thickness of a cape...

It may be worth experimenting with fusible interfacing.  Interfacing is a very lightweight fabric attached to the inside of garments to make them a bit more stiff, for example the inside of a shirt collar.  The fusible kind has an adhesive that allows you to iron it to the top fabric.  I've used the one-sided kind inside clothing but you can buy a double-sided  fusible interfacing that may just work if you embed wire or wire mesh.  It should be available at a fabric store.  Here's an Amazon link:  



I wasn't suggesting using clay. And of course my method can be easily swapped to either side and kept hidden, but since you're not animating the puppet, I can see where you would want a more foolproof system that doesn't depend on the end user being clever or creative in implementing it. 

Ok, shipping it to someone else is a different thing.  I mainly rely on improvising something myself when it comes time to animate the shot.  That's why it's much more work to make a puppet for someone else.  (And why I'm not doing it any more.)

Speaking of aluminium foil, Blackwrap (used for lighting) is a foil with a matte black coating on it.  That avoids any unwanted shine showing through.  I've used it for a scroll that needed to unroll, with thin paper spray glued either side, the same could work with cloth.

The trouble with foil or wire everywhere is that you can't grip it without deforming it - great when you want to animate it flapping about, not so good if that is where you need to grab the puppet to hold it while you move the arms.  I found the same thing with wires in the cheek, couldn't turn the puppet's head without squeezing them.  So it's best kept minimal, only enough to be able to shape the cape, or removable wires, or perhaps a special one made just for where it is waving about.  That's what I did with my head, only used the one with cheek wires for a shot where I needed it to smile, used a head without wires in the cheeks the rest of the time.

      if you want to stick two random layers of fabric together or a layer of fabric to anything period.... pour some silicone into a smooth, flat tray or hot glue some short foamcore walls to a piece of melamine or glass. peel it out after it has cured and now you have a smooth, non stick surface to paint out 3 layers of prosaide. dry each layer with a hair dryer before the next layer. go big with the layers so your brush is wet or it'll stick to the old layer and pull it up. once it is dry you have a flexible, incredibly sticky sheet. press on your fabric of choice( this also a way to do fur transfers) and peel that bad boy off. you can press that to another piece of fabric and they will be stuck together. what's also cool is do this before cutting the fabric and it acts like thread locker and keeps the edge from falling apart. you can transfer the fabric to freezer paper first to keep the sticky off your scissors. 

    Animation friendly fabric? put foil tape in it. you can build up layers for more hold. don't put it everywhere, or it will look like a crumpled paper bag. be strategic. put strips of it in where you'd like to run wire but need something that won't show through as much. Put it where you can easily get to it with your fingers as an animator to shape it. Foil tape can be got at any hardware store. they use it to seal airducts and it will be in the HVAC section. it will also stick to fabric, so put it on first and then lay down the prosaide prepped fabric. if you're scared it'll fall apart, put prosaide on both fabrics (unnecessary) or give it a little light ironing to melt it together, but take it easy, it can melt through.

      the foil tape will give control but won't hold it up in the air, so, run wire down the leading edges of the cape and maybe a wide loop in the center back but only if it needs it. my guess is the cape is short enough for two side wires and foil along the bottom joining the wires together. the top wire ends need to be attached to the main torso armature with screws. 

      make the cape fast and crappy to test out how much armature you need. really play with it, and then make a sweet one with confidence. 

good luck.      


Strider- That's right! Bickford never used traditional armatures, but would fold a piece of wire over onto itself and then twist to create a loop, and then bend the loop down and jam it into the character's back. When I was helping him in the 90's, I misunderstood how he wanted to prongs and stuck the loop into the head instead of the back. As a result, it was very hard to walk the puppets. I don't think he ended up using any of my shots, but it was a good learning experience that led to... Well, I still don't know how to walk clay figures. We used the "sliding waist" cheat in Will Vinton's class, so I was never really taught how to do it with clay. But now that I actually make clay, and given that it is lighter weight than clay has been traditionally, walking a puppet might be something to try.

Patrick, thanks for the tips! I have all those ingredients you listed. The prosaide sounds like it addresses the adhesion issues very well - it's thin, it stretches, and it won't soak into the fabric like glue does. (I already tried a few ) And making it on a silicone slab fixes the application issue that has thwarted me in the past.

Between the foil and wire loops I should be able to get something that works. I might try embedding wire in the prosaide layer, too.

I had a look n the builders' merchants, and they have a thin lead flashing with adhesive backing, designed for roofs. But it is quite thick, so might not be useful.

The copper mesh is available on eBay, there's an ultra fine version that is pretty thin. I expect that's what they used on Coraline. I think the original use is for hatmaking.

...and lead foil seems to be available for modelling -http://www.modelsrgo.co.uk/verlinden-lead-foil.html 

Curiously they do not give the dimensions!

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