onsdag den 25. februar 2015

Stop motion Reel

A teaser for the company fromHELENA

As a part of my stop motion project I also animated a little short story to my sister's company fromHELENA. A teaser for her upcoming launch of her newest product design: http://fromhelena.com/

fredag den 20. februar 2015

My story and Stop motion passion

 I have always found the media Stop motion quite mysterious and interesting. I have to admit when I were little I were a bit scared of it. I’m not sure the reason why, but there was something about it that frightened me. Maybe it was the materials they used or just me choosing the scary ones.

When I began at The Animation Workshop I saw ´Madame Tutli-Putli´, ‘Paranorman’ and ‘Fantastic mr. Fox’. They are all very well animated and I like the materials they use and the stories are great. There were something that caught my attention and I wanted to learn more. However, it was first when I as a 3D animation intern at Qvisten Animation that I really wanted to do something about it. At Qvisten they have a stop motion department and the work that they do are really good.

I decided that I wanted to try it and I found out that ‘Den Danske Filmskole’ was creating a stop motion short film, which I joined for couple of weeks. However, I did not feel I learned what I needed, so I applied for a spot at Open Workshop at The Animation Workshop and started making my plan. I mostly wanted to focus on short assignments.         

The problems arrived. I needed something to animate with. I am very much a perfectionist and I really liked the characters that Lika and Aardman make. Very high standards for myself – probably a bit too complicated. Yet, I made a sketch of the character I wanted to make and showed it to my supervisor. He said okay and we ordered an armature for it. Meanwhile, I borrowed another armature I could test. When the armature arrived I started building it and it was VERY difficult. I really admire the talented artists who know and make these puppets. In the beginning I wanted to see if I could buy one online, but that was not easy either.  I learned a lot form the building experience and what materials were good, okay or bad to use, but there where a lot of troubles with it. After I finished the armature I started animating. I started with a walk, because that was a fairly easy task for me to do in 3D, but I found out that wasn’t the same for stop motion. I know very little in regards of the media and it really helped me going through the mistakes that I made. Therefore, I began animating more simple actions, just experimenting with the puppet and figuring out how to move it. I animated for 2 months, and during that time I had to do some small fixes on the puppet as it slowly fell apart.
With all the problems, frustrations, exciting moments and hard work I’m now done with my stop motion selfstudy.    

The reason for this blog/site is to share my process, what I’ve learned and what mistakes I’ve made. In the following posts I’ll describe some of the different steps like puppet building, animation and much more. Enjoy.       

Den Danske Filmskole

At ‘Den Danske Filmskole’ I worked on a project called: ‘Ros til Asmus’. It was a short production and they already had two animators on it. I animated one shot, build puppet hands, a puppet head and some props and background objects.    


First armature and animation tests

When I finally received the great news about my spot at Open Workshop I began right away with the plans that I had set up to do. 

While I was waiting for my actual armature to arrive I borrowed another armature from my supervisor. I used it to get a feeling of how to move an armature, just like rig testing in 3D. (See pictures below)

With this one I animated a simple silly walk cycle. It was a bit complicated as I did not have any magnets to fasten it to the table or tie downs. Instead I used some sculpy clay underneath its feet.

Still waiting for my armature to arrive I tried to create a little character out of some fabric, small wooden balls and some sculpy clay. I borrowed one of the sets from the bachelor film 'Roommate wanted - Dead or Alive' and started animating some small actions. For this I downloaded a demo version of Dragon Frame because I wanted to be familiar with the software. Sadly with the demo I were only able to animate 50 frames shots. So very short animations. See animations below. I had a lot of fun with it and I wish I could have used the background more, because it's so well made and beautiful. The set was not build for actual stop motion purpose, which meant I couldn't drill holes in it for tie downs, and the floor is too thick to use magnets. However, I managed to pull off a few animations. 

At the end of the video I made some simple test with hair animations. I knew I were going to have some sort of hair on the puppet, so I tested how yarn would react and how it was possible for me to pose it during each frame. I managed to do pretty well with it and I liked the result of it. 

Building my own armature

Alright my armature finally arrived and I the assembling would begin.

First of all, I looked at some reference picture from various books and webpages. Read about how others had assembled theirs and what mistakes they did. However, it was a bit of a jungle to figure out what was the best way to do it, because it's just a matter of experimenting.


When I had done some research I started sketching the character I wanted to create. I wanted to make it fairly simple, especially with the clothing. This is what I came up with (see below). I call her Annabelle. Quite the trouble maker. 
On the drawing I wrote which materials I wanted to use at that time, however some of the materials got replaced after a few tests. 

 Next step: Metal armature assembly.

I got my armature from an online shop called animation supplies. It arrived in a small box and in small plastic bags. I more or less had everything I needed to assemble it, just had to find a saw. With the armature there where this green glue called Threadlock (in another post I'll show the different materials I used). It glues the components together.



I was not completely happy with the armature as it had some funny joints. One joint consisted of two joint = 2'n'1. The shoulder area worked fine but the arms, chest, hips and knees where weird. If you look at the picture and the arm you can see that it can be bent two places, which is not very practical or correct. I'm not sure why its made like that, but I would not recommend this armature.

Adding Clay, Foam and Facbric

Next up was sculpting the armature. For some of the more solid parts I used a hoppy clay that hardens within a couple of hours. I wanted to use Millieput as it becomes very solid and shouldn't break as easily as hobby clay, but I wanted to get started as soon as possible and it would take some time to get Milliput sent to Denmark.  

As you can see in the picture below I decided to make her chest area and bottom solid. By doing this it would make it easier for me to rotate her without misshaping her.

Next I added some tinfoil to the clay, because I found out that the glue did not want to interact with it, so I had to add something on top of it to make it stick together. Probably not the best solution, but it was the best idea I could come up with. After that I added the foam to create volume. The foam I used was not too spongy otherwise it would loos its volume.      



In order for me to tighten or loosen the armature I had to make small holes into the foam. It's important to gave access to these areas if the joints get too loose. I used contact glue to make sure it stayed together.    

 When I was happy with the volume of the foam I took out some fabric and started cutting, sowing and gluing.

Hand building

Building the hands was not very easy and I was told that I should probably make a lot, because they wear out fairly quickly as it is the part of the puppet you use the most. 

I followed the instructions of the armature I got from animation supplies. Use very thin metal wire and put it together as shown in the picture below (left). Next I added some plastic tubes which shrinks when heated (picture to the right). I used a small metal plate to put the metal hands on and placed that not a pot with water and heated it. It takes about 5 minutes.     

When the heat shrink had set I let them cool down. As soon as they were cool I started sculpting the hands. I used sculpy mold which is a clay you use when you want to make a mold, the good thing about this clay is that you put it in the oven and when it's done it keeps the shape when you bend it. Like silicon but less good. For the hands it's important to add a thin layer of the clay and make sure there are no cracks in it otherwise it will break when backed. The backing is very simple: set the oven to 160 C and give it 5-6 min. it's a matter of testing it. If you give it too much it get very quickly dry.  

Head and neck building

For the head I use the same hobby clay as I used on the body. It was important to make a hole at the bottom for the neck to join. The same problem occurred with sticking the skin clay together with the hobby clay. It kept falling off. Here I also tried adding some tinfoil between the layers. It helped but I would not recommend it as it became a problem later. The skin clay is called sculpy and when the head was sculpted I baked it. The problem I mentioned before was that when the clay got harden and after animating with it the clay lost contact with tinfoil. Sadly, I first found out about this problem when I made the second head as the first head broke. I'll show and write more about fixes on head and hands in another post.        

When the head was done I moved on to the neck. The method both armature and materials I used do not hold up very well so I won't describe too much of it. I don't recommend it. However, I used the same mold clay as with the hands and added very little acrylic colour to mix in and backed it in the oven. At the end I decided to hide the neck with fabric. 

Fixing hands, hair and head

For the hands I made 3 different ones. The second par where made the same way as the first ones, mainly because I did not know which other method I should use, and I did not feel sure using the silicone method. It also takes a long time to make, but it's probably the best way to go. For the new hands I added some acrylic paint to the clay. Trying to match the skin tone of her face. It's not easy to find the same colour because when you bake it, it becomes much darker and more towards one of the mixed colours. For example, I had yellow, red and blue in the mix and when I baked it, it became much more yellow than the actual colour I mixed. For this process you need a lot of patience, or like me: "I don't care, it's just hands and I'm not a professional" :) However after a couple of weeks they got too dry and began to crack. 

The last pair of hands I made, I used Latex milk. I forgot to take pictures of the process only one, because I was too annoyed with Annabelle at that time. However, I'll try to explain it to those who finds this interesting. The armature hand was made the same way as before, but this time I finally got hold of some Milliput and added it around the places I wanted to be more solid. However, I do not recommend adding the Milliput on the fingertips for this method with Latex milk, the milliput will break off. When The milliput had dried I dipped the hands into a bowl of Latex milk and dried them with a hair dryer. This I did over and over again till I was happy with the volume of the hands. When they are done you add some cornflour to them and carefully brush it off. It will make them less sticky. I did try to add some acrylic paint to the latex, but that was a bad idea, it made these small clumps of paint and I mainly did it because the latex is see-through so I thought by adding colour it would make the colour thicker. Which it did not. However, I really liked the result because it did not become dry and they where a bit easier to work with.     

Everything is not easy and especially when you don't know anything. When I made the hair for the head I decided to use same technique as with the hands. I used the mold sculpy, added some colour to make it brown, but if you add too much colour it becomes too dry after backing. Even before baking the consistency becomes a bit dry and falls apart. This is the result:   

I used acrylic paint to mix with the sculpy which makes it dry, so instead I got some help and he mixed some food colour into it and the scuply kept its moist. However, after animating with if for a month it becomes a bit dry, but with the other hair it only lasted a weekend.   

To create the hair I used a solid backed mold made from sculpy, which I got help with. It would help me shape the braid I wanted as it was too difficult to braid it. 


Final result of hair and new head. For the new head I used the exact same method as the first head. This is the head I used for all of my animations and later on I found out that the tinfoil method did not work as expected.