Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Puppet Head Sculpt- Mail Man Part II

Today I'm going to continue going through the Puppet head sculpting process which I started HERE.

The Mail Mans head has been roughed out using Super Sculpey firm and all the removable face sections are working correctly. The next step was to clean up the sculpt to make it more presentable and aestheticly pleasing. I sculpted the head working from a large collection of referance images and maquettes I had close at hand displayed around my desk in order to capture the right details for the character.
Below is a picture of the sculpt with more detail added to the hair.
I roughly sculpted the character's mouth in a smile in order the get the correct positioning for the teeth. The upper set of teeth need to stay in a fixed postion while animating the characters lip sync. Only the bottom row of teeth would move when talking because of the way the jaw is hinged. Once I was happy with the positioning of the upper teeth, I removed the lips and carved out an area around the mouth. I then added datail to the upper row of teeth and eye areas. The sculpt ws then ready to bake to harden it.
Above is a picture of the final head sculpt. Areas of the face have been sanded to give the seams of the replacement parts a flush finish and to smooth the sculpt. I know the character has a goofy grin now, but later on I will be able to add lips and the lower set of teeth to resin cast copies of the mouth pieces in order to give the character different expressions and mouth shapes. The same process will be used to change the characters brow.
The sculpt is now ready to be moulded in silicone.
The first step was to plan how each peace of the sculpt will be moulded. Small cones of Sculpey were glue gunned onto each part to create pour spouts. These spouts are where the resin will later be poured when casting.
Next, The mould boxes were made using panels of foam board, glue gunned together.
For the moulds I used RTV silicone. Before pouring, I painted a layer of the silicone onto each part of the sculpt with a brush to make sure all the datails are captured and to reduce the amount of air bubbles.
I then filled the moulds with silicone using the 'bombs away' method where you pour the silicone from a height creating a thin stream. The fact that the stream is so thin causes any bubbles in the silicone to pop, reducing the amount of air bubbles in your mould. Air bubbles can be created when mixing the catalyst into the silicone rubber and can cause details to be lost. The best way to avaoid air bubbles is to put the silicone into a vacume chamber to de-gas. When pouring the silicone it is also important to pour the silicone into the corner of the mould box, not over the sculpt, and to let the silicone slowly flow up and around the sculpt.

Above is a picture of the three silicone moulds cured and out of the mould boxes. The sculpt has been cut out of the silicone using a scalple blade. I have cut around half of the mould in a zig zag pattern so that they snap shut and lock back together in the correct position. I chose this meathod of moulding opposed to a two part mould because it's quicker and creates less of a seam line.

The next stage is to start casting out copies of the head in resin.
I used Fast Cast resin because it cures quickly and is not too expensive. The resin is mixed in two equal parts. Below is a picture of my first casting. The pieces came out quite niclely. It actually looks like white chocolate!
As you have probably noticed, it looks like my character has been in a fight with those missing teeth. An air bubble must have been caught in the mould when casting. This problem was easily fixed by angling the mould differently while I poured the resin. The next set came out fine. And the next set, and the next set...

This is how many sets of faces I've cast so far. There will be two Mail Man puppets made for the film so only two Hair/ear parts where needed. The pour spouts were cut off using a rotary tool and the seam line were cleaned up. The moulds were cut in a way so that the seam lines are on the back of the masks and won't be seen.
The next stage will be to sculpt the different brow and mouth expressions for the replacement parts and to paint each head. But I think this post has gone on long enough so that'll have to wait until part III.
Until next time...

Friday, 25 March 2011

Puppet Head sculpt- Mail Man

Recently, I have been working on the Mail Man's head. My brother Nathan and I have decided to make two full puppets for the Mail Man character so that we can both work on animating the character at the same time on two different sets. Both the puppets need to be exactly the same so I will me molding the character's head sculpt so that I can cast two sets of heads along with all the replaceable face pieces. Overall the head will consist of four parts, the hair/ears, the eyeball socket, the replaceable mouth and a replaceable forehead.
The head needs to be made from the inside out so to begin I had to make the eyeball socket. I wanted the socket to be made of silicone so that it grips the eyeballs firmly but also allows them to turn.
The aim was to create a silicone version of the grey plastiline shape shown above. The square brass tubing (K&S) will be where the socket locks in place, and the eyes are rough fast cast copies of the beads used in my Mail Man maquette.

This was then molded using plaster using a plastic cup. once the plaster had hardened the grey plastiline was removed along with the square brass tubing. The fast cast eyes stay in the plaster to create the eye socket shape.
After casting out an eye socket in silicone I realised that it's shape was too flat and wide to fit inside the characters head. I repeated the same process with a new plastiline socket shape that saved space and curved to the contours of the face. Below is a picture of this new socket along with a silicone cast version with the eyes in place.
The square brass tubing used to lock the socket in place is also used to slot the head onto the puppets neck armature. The character's neck will be cast in silicone and needed to slot into a hollow area in the head. To achieve this I roughed out the characters neck shape creating a solid tube shape where the neck will slot into the head. I then pushed Milliput (two part epoxy hardening clay) over this tube shape and the square brass tubing and left it to harden. I then removed the plastiline neck leaving a solid, hollow Milliput shape that the neck can slot into using the square brass tubing.
Above is a shot of of the silicone eye socket and Milliput head core next to my Plasticine maquette. It is important the the proportions of the inner head core match those of the original maquette, especially around the eyes and neck areas.  
The next step was to start bulking out the head shape that supports the silicone eye socket. It's a socket for a socket!
 This was sculpted using Super Sculpey firm. At this stage I baked the sculpt to harden it. I then applied a small amount of vasiline over the front surface of the face and pushed a thin layer a Milliput onto the face and around the eyes. The vasiline stops the Milliput from sticking to the sculpt so that it can be removed once hardend creating a mask. This mask was divided across the eyes creating a forehead and mouth section.
Now the four head sections have been created, but as you can see from the picture above, they need alot of work. The rest of the facial features now need to be added using super sculpey to rough out the basic shapes.
Above is a picture of the mail mans head with most of the features roughed out. The sculpt still needs a lot of work and details need to be added but all four major head components have been made. I think thats about enough for this post, but I'll continue the head sculpting process in part two.  
Tune in next time for another exciting edition! 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Sculpting Puppet Feet

Now that pre-production is complete it time to move on to production and start building the characters.
We've decided to make the puppets first since they require the most work and detail. Sets and props will be tackled later.
First up on my long list of model making is to sculpt the Mail Man's feet. I'll be sculpting the feet over the puppets metal foot armature so that once the final foot is cast in rubber I'll know that the armature will fit inside. You can see how these feet armatures were made on Nathan's blog by clicking Here.

To sculpt the shoe I'll be using plastiline so that once finished, hard resin molds can be taken from the sculpt. Once molded, the plastiline is then removed from the metal feet armatures so they can be used again when casting the puppets final silicone feet. In the picture below the basic forms of the feet are being roughed out in grey plastiline.
The grey plastiline is good for sculpting with because it can become soft when warmed by kneading with the fingers but also holds details well once it cools and hardens. Below are a few images of the final feet sculpts.
Although the Mail Mans baggy trousers cover a lot of his shoes I decided to sculpt socks just in case his heels are exposed during one of his running scenes. Holes were also included so that real shoe laces can be punched into the silicone later on. The feet are now ready to be molded.