I'm in the process of making a short film with two characters, of which one is a cat. The scene is in a nightly setting, my initial ideas were for the cat to have these bright up lighting eyes that cats have. I'm only not entirely sure what would be the best way to approach this. So far I've been looking for beads, but couldn't find any good bright ones. Making something myself would be a good idea if I would know the best way to approach that. I have a lot of vague ideas of what might work, but just not sure. Wondering if having a bright colour yellow and from some reflecting material would be good enough, or perhaps needing a small directed spot to point to the eyes, but not lighting too much around it... Otherwise, some glow in the dark material? (if I could only get that in a small amount somewhere, not crazy expensive, but also not sure how good it would work, as my set is of course still lit lighter then it finally would be, or otherwise it would perhaps get less bright while animating) Or, building a little led light in the eyes? But seems like that would make the puppet itself a bit more complicated, having to cope with wires/etc...
The cat I made so far is really tiny also, to be in scale with the main character. I did a little test with him so far:
It was quite a challenge to get some good animation out of him. I want to do another test with this one, trying to get to him walking at least, but I'm also thinking about making a larger version, at least for the shots where he will be close in the foreground and not close to the other puppet.
Thanks a lot already, again.
There may be a lot of follow up answers with eye making processes/links, but may I suggest dropping by your local taxidermist to look at his fake eyes. I'm not sure if your cat is life size or not. If it is you could try bobcat eyes. If not maybe snake eyes?
Here is a link just for looksies.
Cat's eyes light up because the have a highly reflective layer in them. So I wonder if that Scotchlite tape - used for road signs, and tape you can put on your bicycle helmet or jacket so it lights up when a car headlight hits it - could work? I have used Scotchlight for a front projection screen and it lights up much brighter than the sets and puppets with the same light on them.
Small scale eyes would make it hard though - I made some 1:6 scale cats, with the round heads of map pins for eyes, and I don't think I could cut a disc of scotchlight small enough for that. If the eyes are as big as the circle cut by a hole punch (for paper, from office supply shop) that might work.I had a full size cat head for close-ups, and some 1/3rd scale cats for one particular shot as well. The small 1:6 scale cats were only for wide shots.
I would consider using LED lights. They can be very small. The eyes don't need to be lit all the time, only when they look into the light.
Thanks again Nick for the helpful reply. That scotchlite tape sounds interesting... I don't know how nice looking eyes you could make with that, I imagine it would in principal need a flat surface, so I would either need to give the cat flat eyes or experiment what can be done with it on a slightly rounded surface. The beads I'm using now are about 6-7mm in diameter, so not crazy small. Might still go for a larger version of the cat as well. And led lights is still a consideration as well indeed... might give a nicer look, though I'd have to figure out better how to construct that, probably would still need some half round shape in front of it, would need to make a new head to build that in, maybe good to try for the larger version, though I would particularly need the bright eyes in a shot where the cat can't be too big. Hmm... But ledlights can be very small indeed, just something new to give some more thoughts. :)
Scott: thanks for the suggestion suggestion as well. Taxidermists probably have beautiful realistic looking eyes there, looks like something to keep in mind for future puppets perhaps, especially if they are large scale. For this puppet I'm afraid they won't have the right size, and it won't give me the reflection/brightness I'm looking for...
Here's an ebay shop that sells animal eyes for dolls/puppets …
This might work too …
Just a word of warning - taxidermists eyes are generally only the front third of the eye - more like a contact lens than an eyeball - so you'll have to add in filler to round out the eyes if you wish to animate them. Given that you're thinking of adding a light or reflector, this could be quite troublesome. I also have a gripe about Van Dykes - last time I ordered they didn't tell me the price of shipping until a few days after checkout - it came to an additional $14 for three sets of eyes (at the time I was in Ohio - they shipped from Kentucky I believe). This wouldn't have been too bad if they had shipped them in a small box with some bubble wrap or paper - but instead they sent the eyes in nothing but a 6" x 8" manila envelope - and predictably, an eye in two of the sets were crushed.
I might suggest making the eyes with translucent fimo: cheaper and about the same amount of work in the end...
When I made animal eyes - cat's eyes, sheep eyes - I had a flat surface and a curved lens over the top. These were life sized so I don't know how easy it would be to do in a very small size.
I made a silicone mould of half a sphere. First I poured in a small amount of clear casting resin, and let that set. Then I took it out, and sanded the back so it was flat and had a matte texture. It was like a magnifying lens. I painted the slit pupil on the back of the lens, smaller than I wanted it to look, because the lens effect will enlarge it. When the black paint was dry, I painted the iris on the rest of the flat surface.
Then I put it back in the mould, and poured in some resin with microballoon filler in it, so it was white, so I had half a sphere. After that had set I removed it, and cast another half sphere in just the white resin, then I joined the two halves together to make a complete sphere.
The iris filled most of the visible space on the front of the eye, like animal eyes usually do, with only a little white visible if the eye turned all the way to one side, or up or down.
This is easy enough with a sphere of 16 to 25mm diameter, but maybe more difficult if it's a tiny 4mm eyeball.
Perhaps the reflective scotchlite could go behind the front lens, and then have the rest of the eyeball behind it, but I think that would only be possible with a large size. So I think you should maybe forget about the reflective layer, or adding lights, and just make it look like a cat's eye in daylight.
Even the idea of casting the lens and then the rest is not necessary for very small eye.
For small human eyes, I sand a flat spot on a white plastic bead, or use a drill to countersink a circle around the hole in the bead. I paint the iris and pupil on the bead, then put a drop of clear epoxy glue on top. It stands up like rounded lens. In smaller sizes, the same thing should work with an animal eye.
I just looked at that Van Dyke taxidermy site that Roger posted - the yellow eyes in 3mm and 4mm look good. The also have "Nite Eyes" (Eyes, Novelty eyes section) - but they have LED lights in them, and seem to be for Coyote or Bobcats, 20mm x 16mm size.
My initial thought reading this post is that you could use a black light and white or yellow beads for the eyes. I think this would give you more of a glowing look than a reflective look, but it might work.
Thanks for all the suggestions. I was away for a while and after that got wandered away from the cat's eyes, focusing on some test animation and starting on some music.
Anyway, I was talking with a friend about the possibility of using black light and then read your suggestion. Would any normal yellow bead work with an uv light then, or would I need to buy special blacklight paint? I know that any white material often works, but don't know with yellow...
I think the blacklight could be a good option, then just buying a small uv spot and pointing that into the cat's eyes when I want them to light up...
Thanks a lot for sharing your methods of making eyes Nick. The first method sounds like a really nice method if the eye doesn't need to be too small and you have the right materials available... for this puppet I'd be happy with something more simple I think and the second method you name sounds good. Perhaps I could paint a flattened bead with some yellow blacklight paint, and then complete it in the same way you mention. I have no idea what kind of substance the blacklight paint would be and if it would work, but maybe if I can find it somewhere not too expensive it could be worth the try... Otherwise just go for some brighter coloured bead and make a nice looking eye from that, then perhaps with good lighting when the cat is looking into a lamp it should maybe be possible to play around with glow in post production...