Learning From Stoopid Buddy

Posted: July 6, 2014 in stop-motion, update, WIP
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It’s been a little bit, but here I am with what I think is an exciting update. I haven’t gone into it yet, but I am spending my summer studying both stop-motion animation and character fabrication with Stoopid Buddy Stoodios in Burbank, CA! I am actually about halfway through the sessions, but I’ve been so busy between traveling out here and doing the actual work, that my update had to wait a while. That, and I wanted to have something solid to show when I did.

Unfortunately, I did have to sign a NDA, so I have limits on what I can share publicly. As much as I would love to show and tell you about all of the very cool things I’ve seen behind the scenes, I can’t. Suffice it to say that Stoopid Buddy is neck-deep in lots of REALLY nice and fun stuff! Actually, if you haven’t seen the tour that Wil Wheaton did on his show recently with Seth Green, you should check that out. It will give you some idea.

In character fabrication, we started out with planning our original character puppet while learning the basics of Stoopid Buddy’s process. For our puppets, we are going with the build-up technique. Built on a wire armature bundle derived from the Stoodio’s developed method, we are then going to sculpt the body from foam and coat that with latex. My character, as you might imagine if you’ve been following along, is one of the main characters from my thesis. It is the Caterpillar here and here. I felt that she would present a true and proper challenge while standing out in her own, unique way.

Here is the armature build. It is a combination of various gauges of aluminum and steel wire for flexibility, strength and memory, bound together and wrapped/lashed tightly with string and adhesive. Body blocks are formed from epoxy and contain the tie downs at the ends, also bonded to the wires contained within. It is still pre-hands here, but they will be formed from another bundle of steel wires lashed to the wrist loops. The neck and leg wires are intentionally left long at this point to allow for working room while forming and adhering the foam body. The legs were a bit tricky and took a previous test to settle, but this form should work fine. There is actually a ‘notch’ at the top of each leg arch encased in the epoxy to help prevent the wire from coming loose and shifting back and forth or side to side.

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So I did not get a picture of my head sculpt before it went in, but these are the silicone box molds before they are cut open. Just a bunch of foam board cut to size and hot glued together. The silicone we used was Mold Max, a pretty common one for this purpose. The pins you see sticking out of the sides are to mark the position of the sculpt inside. Unfortunately, my sculpt didn’t make it out in one piece (not unusual), but it was done in Chavant NSP.

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And here are the molds cut open. This involved literally cutting the silicone with a surgical blade slowly in what is known as a “jewel cut” until the sculpt is reached. The jewel cut pattern/texture helps seal and hold the mold together when the head is cast. This was an interesting process, as I’ve never quite attempted it before. An interesting alternative to the two-part molds I used for “Grandpa”. Of course the silicone molds are a “soft” mold, which is more suitable for our heads, which are going to be cast in hard plastic. In my case, the Caterpillar will have what is known as a “flappy jaw”, which means she will have a hinged jaw that can be animated. That is why there are two molds here instead of just one, as the jaw naturally needs to be cast separately.

At this point, the heads have been cast and we will be de-molding them next week. Then the real fun of painting and finishing them begins. As you can see, there is much more work to be done before a finished puppet emerges, but I am enjoying the ride!

As far as the animation class goes, I am restricted from sharing the majority of the work as we are using actual Stoopid Buddy puppets to animate. However, if you are interested in seeing it, I would be happy to give you the password to view it privately. We started out with some general exercises to get the fundamentals down, but now we are getting into performance-based material, which is really fun! The current collection is on Vimeo here, but keep in mind you need the password from me to watch.

That’s it for now! Keep checking in! I will have much more to share on this and other topics soon.

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