Hi there, I've seen several video's how to tien down puppets and make walk cycles ets. But can somebody explain how you repair the holes you drill in the surface afterwards? I can imagine how to fill the holes on a rough surface. But on a smooth surface, I think you can see al the repairs very easily.

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Here's the text from a tutorial I wrote for StopMoShorts years ago. Unfortunately the site is long gone and the pictures no longer exist,so I apologize for references to pictures that aren't there - I hope the text alone gets it across.Ill read over it a bit and see if I need to add anything in a followup post. 

You might recognize the image above from Nick’s Tie-Downs; The Animated Movie, which caused something of a sensation around these parts recently. He made it because a lot of newcomers don’t know what a tie-down is. Well, now there’s the movie to answer that question, but people still want to know “How do you hide the holes?” – So I’m writing this little tut to fill in the blanks. The first thing I’d like to bring to your attention…. take a good look at the picture above. Can you see the holes? Cause they’re there. If you’ve watched the animated tutorial, you saw Nick’s pixilated arm come out and drill a bunch of holes before the puppet made its entrance. But because of the camera angle – you can’t see them. Sweet, huh? As the camera moves to a higher angle, they begin to become visible.

Second…. watch a ‘regular’ movie and pay attention to how many shots there are where you actually see the actors’ feet in contact with the ground. Not too many in most cases. You get a lot of shots like these:

No need to hide holes in these shots!

Close ups, mid shots, even nearly full-length shots but with the feet just off the bottom edge. And note the table hiding the puppet in the seated shot. This idea can be carried into walking shots as well… just incorporate some object into the foreground of the set, like a low hedge or a log or whatever seems appropriate to the shot. So far we have a number of simple techniques for hiding holes that don’t require actually disguising them or camoflaging them… mostly just avoiding getting them on camera. Except for the first technique (shooting at an angle) these will also work for action figures or clay puppets that don’t have tie-downs – you can prop them up with big lumps of clay or a tangled mass of wire or lots of tape… a big lump of fun-tac, whatever strikes your fancy.

Ok, now we’ll get down to the nitty gritty. There will be times when you want to show your puppet walking across the ground or a floor in full view, and you don’t want those pesky holes all over the place. Here are some techniques for that:

  • Plug holes with plasticene- Mix it the same color as the set floor. Pop a plug out just as the foot comes down on top of it… you won’t even see it. Then when the foot lifts away, re-plug.
  • Cover the floor with paper or cloth and cut little X’s – with the tip of an X-Acto knife. They’ll close up after you remove the tie-down screw.
  • Paint a mottled surface – so holes don’t stand out. Something to represent carpet or speckled tile or marble.
  • Texture your floor – especially for outdoor shots… a little rough texture (like pebbles or clumps of dirt) will hide the holes.



Pre-drill & pre-fill

Generally an animator will pre-drill tie-down holes. It’s difficult to drill them mid-shot in close quarters right under the puppet’s feet without knocking him over or doing all kinds of damage, and then you’ve got sawdust to clear away. Much easier to pre-plan where the puppet needs to walk… maybe drill some extra holes if you’re not entirely sure, and use one of the above methods to hide the holes. The kind of wood you use for your tabletop makes a difference here… particleboard or MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is composed of tiny particles of wood held together with an adhesive binder, and it’s easy to drill through without getting ragged splintery edges sticking out. Plywood or similar products can splinter and end up looking really weird.

If you’re using the plasticene-plug method mentioned above, plug all the holes after drilling them and

pass a thumb over them to blend the clay smoothly into the set floor. Remove a plug just as the foot is coming down over it… you might need to swing the puppet over to the side (careful not to bend any limbs or anything!) and then swing him back. Then re-plug as the foot lifts away. It’s okay if the floor looks slightly different after than it did before – for one thing people won’t notice because the foot was there, and for another, it’s perfectly fine for a puppet to leave footprints… why not – people do!


Simple set floor

A lot of newbies don’t think it’s possible for them to use tie-downs because they have to shoot on the living room table or their computer desk, and their parents would KILL them if they drill holes in it! Well I have good news folks… it’s not hard to rig up a makeshift set floor that can be taken down and put away in minutes. It’s easy as pie… just lay a board on top of any table and slide it forward so it hangs over a ways, then clamp it securely in place! Voila! Drill away to your heart’s content (just make sure to vacuum the sawdust out of the carpet!).


Final solution when all else fails… paint it out!

Maybe you used some of the above techniques, but when you watch the scene back in your framegrabber program you notice an edge of a hole that you missed – or maybe you’ve got films you made in the past and didn’t bother to hide the holes for whatever reason (didn’t know how, ran out of time…). Don’t despair, there’s still hope!!You can do what producers (or suits as LIO would say) always like to believe will work for anything… fix it in post! Load the offending frames into Photoshop or whatever painting type program you’ve got, and paint the holes out. It’ll be laborious and painstaking… especially if there are a lot of holes to do. What you’d want to do is use the eyedropper tool to grab some color from areas adjacent to the hole and just paint right over it. It might still show a little, but should look better than the black crescent that was there before! Maybe do a little more detailed painting if you deem it necessary. This technique can also be used to hide holes in the bottom of a puppet’s feet when he lifts them into view. 

If you have to have smooth floors of an even colour, where any blob of plasticine is going to show up, you either don't have holes in the first place, or paint them out afterwards.

No Tiedown Holes:

1.  Use a steel floor, steel in the puppet feet, and strong magnets under the set to act as tiedowns.  

Or 2.  Support the puppet with a rig that you paint out afterwards, and maybe a blob of tacky wax under the foot to help you keep it from sliding about.

Painting out digitally:

I create another layer above the background footage to put the patches and fix-ups on.  I use TV Paint Animation, but Photoshop (and PS Elements) can do it, or After Effects I think.  That way they stay the same for the whole shot, not repainted slightly differently for each frame.  Then I go in and erase them if the puppet goes in front of that area and I don't want the patch to be sitting there on top of the puppet.

Both of you, thanks for the advice. I'll do some experiments.

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