I've recently been requested to build a relatively life-sized crane.
Up until now, any rig I've built has been out of aluminum wire and K&S brass tubing, but I'm worried if that would be strong enough to fully hold something that could easily be over 3ft tall and weigh close to 5lbs (2.2kg).
I have zero experience or knowledge regarding ball joint rigs, but would certainly be open to buying one...although budget is, as always, a concern.
Any thoughts, ideas, or similar experiences? Thank you.
Aluminium wire for sculpture is available in square section to big sizes, which might be useful, but probably using several strands of 3mm twisted together is fine.
I've made one puppet that size, a lifesized raptor-like dinosaur, and it needed support (a light stand) to take the weight. So the leg joints did not have to be so stiff they could support the weight by themselves. If they were, they could have been pretty hard to bend. If you double the length of a puppet, the mass increases 8 times, so the strength of the joints would have to increase just as much. I think I had ball joints with steel plates in the neck, multiple strands of 3mm wire in the small forearms and in the toes, and simple wooden hinge joints in the legs. There was no tail made - it was for a series of closeups so the tail was never seen, I had a smaller 1:6 scale puppet for shots of it walking around.
If using wire, I would go with a heavier wire. Lots of strands of a thinner wire tend to be more springy than a couple of strands of a heavier wire. I used many strands of 3mm (1/8th") wire for this dragon head (shown being made), and it was bouncier than if I had had the next size up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5vckBvmGfE I made it work, but it took a lot of walking to the computer, back to the puppet to adjust the move, and back to the computer again, to get the size of moves I wanted. The dragon head was half the size of the raptor head.
Much much of the puppet is going to be shown? I've seen Aardman do a lot of half built puppets because only the front is being photographed. That would cut the weight down quite a bit. Then you attach it to a c-stand or other sort of rig on the back that could hold the rest or at least most of the weight.
I built some life-sized puppets out of plywood, nuts, and bolts. They had a wedge-shaped rig that held them up during the entire shoot. That worked pretty well, but required a lot of rig removal in post.
Thank you all for the ideas.
Unfortunately the puppet will be mostly shown in it's entirety so there aren't any easy cheats or workarounds I can use.
From the test builds I've been doing, I quickly realized that it will absolutely need a support system and that much more Photoshop work in post (something I was initially trying to avoid).
To help reduce weight, I built up most of the body and head with chicken wire, the neck from twisted wire covered in cushion foam, and the legs from a sturdier K&S brass tubing. It all seems to work fairly well, but I'll now be adding some rigid wood inside the body that I can mount the support system to.