Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Stick Figures

The cottage set wall mechanics still need to be worked out for any porch or interior shooting, so today I set about animating a test of flexible hosing material, called Loc-Line (http://www.modularhose.com/), as an over the head puppet control system. I thought I'd better see whether I could animate a quick simple stick figure, without any bones or real attention to the movement, just to find out whether my rig notion might work. (below is an unedited montage of my experimenting with the general idea.)

I found out that a "top control" would be better for me than holes, magnets, or any other tie-downs on the feet of my puppets. A pipe fitted with a fully-positionable ball joint arm, attached to the ceiling via plumbing flange, over the set (roof panels removed when shooting inside) and attached well into the puppet heads may be well worth testing out. I could either edit/key out the rig in PS and/or shoot most often without showing the tops of heads.

I found out that Loc-Line may also be highly promising to use for armature material as well. The entire linked ball and socket chain remains hollow and has an unchanging 1/4" diameter all the way through. Stock wooden dowel fits perfectly inside and could become the bones of an armature and its joint nearly bend 90 degrees without any spring back. I plan to take the amount of it I have here and and make-up an armature that will fit the Rana sculpt. I could use that as her Mach II stand in for additional tests. All I will need to do is add weight inside the feet or install push pin tips to grab and anchor to the flooring.

I found out that Framethief kicks butt. I lost all memory of how to use it since August and messed up formatting and settings but I felt elated while animating anyway. I thought that stop motion was supposed to be a big drag that required bucket loads of patience and endurance to work. But while I was moving and clicking and checking the positions hundreds of times all I could do was grin. I see the long road ahead of improving my performances but I can also see that the road is my home.

I found out that to animate these detailed puppets as I envision them I will need to truly practice how to get the movements more convincing. They'll need a sense of natural weight and more believable choreography. Making the next armature with bones and right angle bends at the joints will help me practice.

I found out that I absolutely loved animating today. This is good. I do not think the animation is any good, but my promise to post something here today forced me to work without finesse. This is also good.

View this clip on Vimeo


  1. Anonymous10:39 AM

    Hooray!! I hope you are enormously proud of yourself. This is a great start. The clip is very spotty but even so I can see little gems in there revealing the knack you have with this. I preferred the initial split-second close-up wider screen, then for some reason the screen got tunnel vision. Nevertheless, I still watched the whole thing with my jaw dropped. Perhaps the figure can now be moved nto the house and interact with the objects and animals there. PK

  2. Thanks PK, I really loved the animating process. (By the way, you can advance each frame with the second button from right, under the clip, to see the wider shots go by more slowly.) I have to figure out better settings for the software. I've got to go digging through my notes from Dark Strider's posts. Next time will be better.


  3. Anonymous3:44 PM

    Did the frame by frame thing. Cool. Got to see the tendu action and the cat. Tee-hee. PK

  4. Anonymous4:03 PM

    Wow, I absolutely LOVE this!!!!

    I find, after the long haul of writing, fabbing, and setup, that the actual animation is a small part of the effort, but the most fun and rewarding part (at least when it's going well!).

    I love the idea for using the loc-line head rigs! Be sure to watch out for shadows from them falling on set. You might also want to try it with armature wire, which is infinitely more flexible and can easily be twisted around to be out of the way (gfor hiding shadows, or whatever). Might give a much better freedom of movement to your puppets.

    I imagine doing it this way rather than nailinf the feet to the set floor will impart a graceflu, floaty movement that will be perfect for Halfland!

    Oh, also think about for some shots where feet aren't visible, just stick a foot into a mound of plasticene or something. That frees up the heads.

  5. Anonymous4:38 PM

    Thank you, Darkstrider. I am on the sidelines here but I learned so much from what you just wrote. Great input. Very enlightening. PK

  6. I know, PK, Isn't Strider amazing?! Mike, I like the Loc-line for the rig because it moves with what seems to me to be a lot more control than armature wire does. It moves omnidirectionally as if it were wire but doesn't move out of that position until I move it. Great tips on the feet in clay trick. Thanks too for the reminder about shadows. If I do choose such a thick rig material I'll be dealing with many shadows all over. When I get there I may make it work by adding even more of them in random dappled sunlight patterns through the tree leaves via digital effect.

  7. Anonymous10:23 PM

    The only real advantage I can see in using armature wire is that it can bend at much sharper angles than the Loc-line stuff, which I'm sure is excellent as well. And it definitely stays where you put it until you move it again. It was absolutely essential for my running rig, and a bit part of its charm is that I was able when necessary to bend it into some uncanny shapes to hide it from the camera's eye and paint it black. Even if your heart is set on using the Loc-Line for overhead rigging, I would strongly recommend stocking up on some Almaloy armature wire at Misterart.com or wherever fine sculpting supplies are sold (sorry for the plug!). For a purpose like that I'd want at least the 1/8", possibly the 3/16 or even the 1/4". It's good to have them all on hand for when you didn't even know you needed it.... it's one of those magic items to a stopmoe.

    I could readily see using loc-line for the main support arm, with a length of good stout armature wire strung through the middle of it and emerging to comprise the last 6 inches or so of the support rig. And of course, it has so many unexpected uses as well.

  8. Anonymous10:25 PM


    One beauy of using the wire for Buster's support rig is that I needed to sort of coil it like a spring behind him so it could be lengthened when necessary.

  9. Oh, thank you, Mike, I'm coming around to see the wisdom of wire. I shouldn't a question your advice duh. I'm going to my files and pulling tuts on armatures that you've compiled for the SMA handbook. I'm starting over but I've learned a lot and gotten feet wet. One thing is that the Rana puppet will be quite large for a stop mo puppet (about 16" tall) and heavy when she'll be all dressed. So I'll have to work out my rigging to fit the cottage's interior, even with forward walls removed, hence the overhead idea. However, I see from fiddling today that the rigging wire will have to be somehow immobile laterally otherwise I lose the position when say lifting one leg during a walk. Hmm.

  10. Anonymous11:52 PM

    Well, this post is getting more than its fair share of comments! And here goes another.....

    You might also want to consider making the puppets so there are sockets in hip and chest areas to accept the support rigging. Often, as in walking or running, the pelvis will glide smoothly along while the head wants to move around more, so it's good to leave yourself various options for something like that. Rigging could alternately come from above for appropriate shots, or below, or from around behind some piece of scenery.

    And while we're on the subject of wire, here's some wisdom that came under reecent message board discussion:

    Ther is no substitute for acxtual ARMATURE WIRE. The brand I linked to is called Almaloy, some kind of alloy that's specifically made to be extra-flexible and have almost no springback. REgular aluminum wire os good as long as it's soft-temper, also known as annealed. But don't buy aluminum wire from the hardware store unless you can find some that specifically says it's soft-temper or annealed. Generally it's actually heat-trated (hardened) for the hardware stores.... a process known as anodizing, which makes it hard and brittle. As long as it comes from a sculpture shor and is annealed then it's the good stuff. All the aluminum wire sold through http://www.mcmaster.com is soft-temper.

    This message brought to you by WIRE... it does a puppet good!

  11. Anonymous1:34 AM

    I'm wondering: Is Loc-Line originally intended to deliver oil for lubrication when you're drilling in metal? I think that I've seen it used for this purpose on trikfx's site...? But then, he's in the stopmo world -- did he maybe repurpose the stuff? Marc Spess sells it over on animateclay.com, If I remember...

    Shelley, where'd you find yours? ...And Mike, do you know what I'm talking about?

  12. Anonymous2:04 AM

    Yes, I've seen it in several machining catalogs for that purpose. Not called Loc-Line, but it looks identical. Possibly (probably) the exact same stuff. I know you can also buy pre-made doll armatures similar to what Shelley is using here made of it (by Loc-Line).

  13. Ok, I just Googled, and the doll armatures are apparently cobbled together from the flexible hose assemblies manufactured as Loc-Line.

  14. Hi Fellaws!! Mike, thanks for the tip to buy Almaloy, I will indeed and try my hand at some block and wire armies. I realize that your upcoming tutorial on Race the Wind (http://www.stopmoshorts.com/mar_06.html) will answer a lot of my rigging quandaries. Looking forward to reading that! And thank you for the wunder idea of the hip and chest supports. If the counter weight was sufficient, that could do it!

    Sven, yes, the Loc-Line is manufactured for industrial proposes from adaptable liquid transport to flexible vacuum hoses. It was adopted by doll makers for pose-able armature. I have to add though that Loc-Line is far better quality than other ball/socket tubing that look similar. I have several types here and only genuine Loc-Line has any stop mo potential because it holds the spot where you put it while the others slip. It has to do with the denser plastic and the shape of the individual links. I got my supply of it through a dollmaking supply house called Edinburgh Imports (http://www.edinburghimports.com/shopping/FU7Display.asp?492364=S012) (I ordered it through the mail--because the Internet didn't exist yet!) This doll supply site shows how the stuff works inside a figure (http://www.fun-a-fair.com/locline/) and this stylish company uses it (in black) to pass fiber optics through! (http://www.berkeleypoint.com/products/loc-line/index.html)

    MMmmmm, wire!


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