Saturday, April 22, 2006

Just In Under the Wire!

Starting at 6:30pm tonight I made my first wire/block armature, mach III based on the Rana sculpt.

Thank you everyone for the comforting support and good solutions to my time management affair. It really was a relief to hear from each of you that I'm not alone in the matter. I realize having days clip by at a race pace isn't something to complain about, I was just at a loss for how to better apportion my time. This 6pm browser boot may work out well!

I'm happy to report I completed the armature I wished to but I'll have to wait a bit to see how she moves, realistically Wednesday, wait, that's a lie to myself, *realistically Friday. (*if you don't know what a "Mittlesmurch" is, a.) good for you! and b.) it's for me, an intense, regularly occurring health issue that lays me flat out for a few days. c.) you don't wanna know. d.) I may need a code word to post so you'll know why I drop out; "Back Later, Gone Mittlesmurchin'?!")

On to the specs: I chose a three strand braid for the arms, two Almaloy, one galvanized 18 gauge wire. I wrapped the braids in flexible wire mesh to enhance the longevity, should the braid snap with use. I made a 6 strand braid in this same fashion for the legs, which are in the (confusing) backward knee action of a goat, so I can practice Rana's movements first. The wrapped braids were hot glued into drilled holes in wood blocks. The bones were lengths of small dowels, glued and wrapped with 30 gauge wire.

The rig: This morning I spied an extra Swiffer© mop in the pantry that I thought might make a good universal joint hip rig for Rana. It is utterly movable in every direction and stable, lightweight, with a handle that could fit in the channel of a cinder block for counterweight. If it tests well, I can paint it Chroma blue.

Next stop: Reading more about iMovie importing and compression, trying out Boinx iStop Motion software for the heck of it, getting either a copy of Muybridge on animal figures in motion or a digital clip to single frame study so I know how to work the backward bending knee joints, and testing the new mach III Rana armature in a short clip.

I wish you great success with what you are working on this week!


  1. Anonymous4:32 AM

    Great job on your first armature! Interesting choice adding in a galvanized steel wire.... later on you ought to try just almaloy, there's really nothing else like it. My thinking is the steel will largely counteract it's amazing flexibility.

    The hotglued sockets will be the weak points. I always make armatures solid wire from head to toe, and then the blocks would be added onto that.

    And, if I haven't ripped into it enough yet ; )

    People often think of a goat (or horse or dog) leg as being "backwards"... but that isn't the case at all. When you study animal anatomy you find it's pretty much the same as human anatomy, just ditorted. Fingers becoem fins in fish, toenails thicken and become hooves etc. The lower segment of an equine leg is actually the foot, elongated and held upright... they walk on their toes. Then what seems to be thigh is actually shank, and the thigh is a short piece partially hidden inside or against the abdomen.

    check this pic

    You may be fully aware of this, and maybe it's your stylistic choice to remove the upper leg segment, I don't know. If so, then just ignore my knee-jerk anatomical lecture.

    I don't mean to come across so negative... it really is a great job! I love the simplicity and good structural design. Congratulations on making it! And I'm looking forward to seeing it in action.

    Thanks for the lesson in medical terminology too... sorry to hear about the troublesome malady.

  2. Hey! This armature is great, actually extremley good for your first big is it? Also, sorry about the litle draw back while you feel crappy. Hopefully you'll be on your feet again soon!

  3. Thank you, Strider! What you say is absolutely correct, of course! I have saved many visual references for every 1/2 Land character and I'm in such a bloody rush to get these practices in that I haven't even looked at them! Thank you for the skeletal image, that's something brilliant for stop motion I never would have thought to collect! I'm sure that if I study animal motion I will catch on. I love your insight that fingers become fins, etc. that's really enlightening for this project.

    And great suggestion for the no glue joins and Almaloy only twists. (If I had the benefit of your Buster tut I'd be in better educated shape--hint!!!!!!!) I tell you, my main objective right now is to get some decent animation practice in. I doubt I will use these early armatures for real Rana shooting. I'm hoping by then to perhaps have a better ball joint version made downstairs? I can't really picture that but--maybe after I speak with Clare?

    Hey Joe!, Thanks for asking! The armature is 13" hoof to head. I was playing with it this morning, making her hold and arm full of yarn and walk a step, and boy, is it thrilling to see something such a literal step closer to actually getting to animate this character, Rana, for real! It's a bit like its coming to life and it's more fun than I could have imagined!

    Thanks all for the well wishes for my lady malady. So far so good--thank goodness.

  4. Anonymous9:42 PM

    Glad to hear you're planning to develop the armature skills further before committing. Most people have to make several before coming up with a really decent one. I'd say each armature I've made has had it's good and bad points... I wonder if anyone ever gets to the point where they're perfect? I suspect not. But I'd say armature #5 will be a big improvement over the earlier ones, and #10 better still. And I'm just talkin' wire here!

    And since you responded so well to my critique, I'll continue it a bit. Just a few more items I've thought of since then, as Rana took up residence in my cranium.

    You might consider independent shoulder suspension... I'm referring to the shoulder girdle that allows the shoulder itself to swivel around atop the ribcage so we can shrug. Not every puppet needs this extra level of movement, but since Rana is so beautifully and subtlely sculpted, she should have that subtle ability to move the shoulders independently (IMO). All it would mean is essentially the arm wires would emerge directly from the spine, unattached to the chest block. There could still be a block there to bulk out the chest and provide what's known as "grab points" for animating... it really helps to have a solid form under the fluffy stuff that has a definite shape to it and can be easily positioned.

    About the Buster tut.... there are a couple of threads on the message board where I went into pretty extensive detail about his construction:

    Urethane upholstery foam and puppet construction questions

    Regarding Kling's Plug-in armature kit and Liquid Latex

    Not sure if I've already directed you to these or not. It's as close as I'll get to a real tutorial on Buster's construction, but I'm just about to start in on those Scott Radke puppets, which I'll make in a similar manner, and I promise to take lots of pics and at least blog extensively, if not possibly refine the material afterwards into tutorial form. By the time I finish all 8 puppets, I should be getting pretty good at it! Since making Buster I've figured out a few things... like for instance I didn't need to wrap 2 layers of thread... a single one would do, and it needn't be so closely spaced as I did it. But more on all this in upcoming bloggage.

  5. Thank you so much, Strider!! Your critiques are always more than welcome because they are always thoughtful and very useful. These today are cases in point. I will look into Rana's shrug capability for sure. And no, I did not know you wrote anything on the Buster construction, I hardly visit the boards, I was waiting for that write up at your blog, duh!

    I want to practice animation to the point where I'm satisfied with the performance. I suspect there will be a lot of experimentation until I find the method of armature and puppet construction I am willing to create. Perhaps all of Halfland will be but a start in my animation life. It's an Opus right now but I want to find a balance between the standards of expert animation and the pleasure of personal art.

  6. I know what you mean about finding that balance. I can do some really smooth animation if I work hard enough at it (well, maybe Phil Dale or Nick Hilligoss wouldn't think so...) but I actually prefer it to be a little jittery and kind of weird at times. Maybe one day I'll hot that Corpse Bride level, but for now I like a more rough and comfortably stuttery approach. My studies into hand puppet performance made me appreciate certain odd things, like the way the heads jerk around when they're "running" (tried to imitate that with Buster) and other highly stylized bits of "Puppet Pantomime". But I do think it's beneficial to try to push yourself as far as you can go toward smoothness in your experiments, so you can actually express yourself through your animation and any herky-jerkiness is intentional rather than being at the mercy of an incomlete grasp of animation skills.

  7. Anonymous8:39 PM

    Hello. Just wanted to say that I like your site and your Halfland project designs. I've been catching up on your previous posts. I agree with Strider's ideas (hello strider) about movement. In a way I think jerky motion adds to the readability of the characters actions and communicates the ideas behind any motion with speed and efficiency.

    Also, would you all agree that there are a lot of really creative independent stopmo projects surfacing? It seems like quite a handful of production blogs have surfaced and people are busy developing projects. Or maybe I'm just getting around to them finally. Anyway, I love it.

  8. Wow, D.G.!! Great to meet you! Killer site you have there! I've already linked you. I indeed do think there are more projects coming to light. I think the web has an awful lot to do with that too. Makes me wonder just how many like-minded there are out here!! Hmm... Conference?!

    I love the visible armature in your characters in the posted trailer for Man Drawing... reminds me of Gary Baseman at Red Nose Studio and the way he leaves his hand in some frames.

    I look forward to keeping tabs on you, thanks for visiting and for the kind encouragement!


  9. Anonymous10:11 PM

    Hey there D!
    (Wish I knew what the D stood for)

    Nice job on the blog. I was priveleged to see a preview glimpse of it a while back, and had to hold my tongue because you said you weren't ready to go public with it yet. I'm glad to see you've taken the plunge. I think you've got the most complete list of stopmo blog links I've seen... and alphabetized too! I'll definitely link you on my blog, and add a few of the ones you've got that I missed.


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