Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Beginning Of...Something

In case you ever need to contact the authorities regarding any of my online conduct, you can use this image for the police bulletin. It's essentially a caricature of myself, right down to the forehead wrinkles (sigh).

This puppet head is simply the result of playing around with various materials, as I work towards something of a design sense for what someday will hopefully be another short film.

I'm going for something that is fairly realistic in style, but at the same time more cartoony (exaggerated) than my last film, The Magic Projector. I want more freedom, in terms of design style and animation style, to play. I'd like things to be a bit looser, more energetic. In short, I want the process of development and the final piece to be fun. Not frivolous, mind you (who would want to describe something they might work several years on as "frivolous"), but fun. As a full-time teacher and very full-time dad, there's no way I'll stick with an indie project if it isn't fun.

Regarding the puppet head pictured: it's Super Sculpey, with an base coat of automotive primer, followed by various coats of acrylic paints, then finished with a matte clear coat. The trickiest thing about using these particular materials for a puppet head is trying to get a final product that not only looks good but can stand up to the rigors of animation.

By that, I mean: the mouth is also Super Sculpey, and is held on by a touch of sticky tac. The eyeballs are clay, that I can "roll" around as need be. The eyelids are clay. The eyebrows are clay. All of these applied (and over time, sticky) items take a toll on the paint job. And if the paint isn't solidly adhered to the puppet head, the animated clay will eventually wear off the paint, or become smeared in to the point of having to seriously re-clean and then repaint.

This combo of a solid head with animatable features is a tried and true design process for puppet heads. You'll see it followed in a lot of features, TV, and indie films. It allows the head to maintain volume and mass and proportion frame by frame, while the clay features allow varied expressions. Of course, there is a limit to expression since the head is solid and can't be stretched/squashed, but hey- welcome to puppet animation.

Stop motion is very much about tests (at least it is for me). Tests give you the confidence to proceed with confidence. And after working commercially when tests weren't always possible because of production schedules, working independently now means I can test all I want (cause it's my dime, and it's my time).

So this puppet head is a test for materials, and for visual style. Until I had a sculpted, essentially finished head, I didn't really have a character design. For me, it was the process of actually sculpting the head (with a few sketches as rough guides) that "revealed" the character (and the design principles that will probably lead the project onward).

The glasses are floral wire, by the way.


Peter Holland said...

Great character head - very distinctive style!


Anonymous said...

Eyelids and mouths...

I'd say, ditch the clay, and get some polymer clay, like Sculpey III.

That stuff isn't as greasy/oily as oil based clay, and it sticks pretty well. If you need it to not stick very well, can I recommend a little bit of talcum powder?

That's what I use when clay sticks to my fingers too much because of some weird ingredient proportions used in that batch.

Fancy me helping YOU! You're one of the guys who got me set up for my first films as far as the camera stuff goes. Thanks, man!