Sunday, 24 April 2011

Puppet Clothing- Mail Man Continued

Today, I'm going to carry on from where I left off last time by describing the process of making the Mail Man's Uniform. This will include the construction of his shirt and tie, all the way up to the finishing details such as pockets and buttons.
You can find part one HERE.

Now where were we?

White Shirt
I decided not to make a whole shirt for the Mail Man since only parts of it are visable from under his jacket. Instead, I made the shirt in sections at the cuffs and collar area, creating the illusion of a full white shirt. This made the construction much easier and also stopped the puppet from becoming overly padded around the arms and torso, from too many layers of fabric.

Using a paper template as a guide, I cut four pieces of white cotton fabric to make up the collar area. Two on the back and two on the front to curve around the neck and shoulders. Any visible edges were glued back on themselves with contact adhesive to stop the fabric from fraying. I also added a tube of card into space where the silicone neck slots into the body, to give the collar area some support.

The shirt fabric was glued straight onto the puppet padding using contact adhesive. The next step was to make the shirt collar. For this I needed the puppets silicone neck in place to make sure the collor fits tightly, yet still allows the ability to remove the neck if nessisary.

The shape of the collar was first roughed out in paper and then transferred to fabric. To the top left of the image above is a picture of my first attempt using just fabric. I found that the contact adhesive used to glue the edges left a yellowish stain through the fabric and the collar didn't hold it's shape very well. For collar mark II (to the upper right) the edges of the fabric were glued to a piece of white card which was folded inside the collar, stopping any yellow stains from showing through and giving the collar strength.

Red Tie
To make the tie I used a wide piece of red silk ribbon folded and glued around a paper template.

In a similar way to the card in the shirt collar, The paper helped to stiffen the ribbon and stop the glue from staining. The top of the ribbon was folded into an 'M' shape and pinched together to create the small fold under the knot. A small  strip of ribbon was then folded over a triangle of white sponge to create the knot.

The sponge helped to give the knot some shape and stopped the ribbon from looking too flat and fake. The tie was then glued onto the white shirt using contact adhesive. The two scruffy edges either side of the knot were glued down and covered by the shirt collar.

To finish the shirt, the edges of the white fabric were trimmed around the shoulder to make it easier for the arms to slot into place. The image below shows the K&S brass tubing which allows the arms to be removed from the puppet along with the jacket.
Once on the puppet, the fabric panel on the back of the Mail Man's jacket felt a bit loose and moved every time I touched the shoulders. To stop this I glued a sheet of paper inside the back panel of the jacket which helped to stiffen the fabric.

Now that the shirt and tie were finished, the remaining edges of the jacket were trimmed and glued into place on top of the trousers.

The jacket collar was then created  using a similar method as the shirt collar except there was no need for any card since the jacket fabric is much thicker. The Mail Man's uniform is now mostly complete, but to finish things off a few more details are needs.

Finishing Touches
My Mail Man's uniform design includes a number of small buttoned pockets along the front of the jacket. I made all the pockets for both Mail Man puppets at the same time to try and keep the dimensions of each pocket as close as possible.

Each pocket was made up of a blue fabric square with a triangular fabric shape folded over the top edge of each square. All edges were glued with contact adhesive and attatched to the uniform.

Each Mail Man puppet needed two largeer buttons for the front of the jacket, four small buttons for each pocket and two more medium buttons for each cuff.

Each button was sculpted by hand using Super Sculpey Firm. Pictured above are some of the tools I found useful while making the buttons, including a sanded down cocktail stick (or toothpick) for pushing the indents into each button. And two pins (one missing it's point) for making the small holes.

Each button was then painted with a metalic painted for a brass effect. I used a strip of tape to keep each buton in place while painting. once dry, I coated the buttons with Araldite (clear two part epoxy) giving them a glossy shine. This also created a strong potctive glaze to stop the paint from scratching off. The buttons were attatched to sticks for this to stop the epoxy from pooling around each button.

The buttons were then attatched to the uniform with contact adhesive.

Finnished Uniform
Here are a few pictures of the two Mail Man puppets with finished clothing. Note-the hands are only temporary.

So far I'm pleaesed with the way our film's puppets are turning out. It's nice to finally see some of our cast members. You can see how Nathan is doing with our Actress character 'Elle', along with a look at some of our filming setup, HERE.

This post has been a bit longer than usual. I think here is a good place to stop.

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Puppet Clothing- Mail Man

In this post I'm going to be talking about making the uniform for my Mail Man character. The two Mail Man puppets my brother and I will be using to film have already been bulked out and padded with foam (Which you can see HERE) so now it's time to start making some clothes.

Although this character is slender, the clothes I make will still need to be quite tight fitting. This is because I've padded the puppet in such a way that any baggy areas of clothing are actually filled with sponge. This tight fit over sponge should maintain the baggy look from my design, but also reduce the amount of 'boiling' or unwanted movement from the clothes when animating.

To get a tight fit on my character's clothing I decided to make paper templates of each section of the Mail Man's uniform. To help work out how different items of clothing are pieced together I would recommend searching online, many different templates for a wide range of clothing can be found for free around the Internet. Using templates for this character's clothing is especially important since I will be making this uniform twice and I want each puppet's clothes to look identical.
Using some paper and a pen, I made templates straight from my padded out puppet, curving the paper around the forms of the puppet and drawing markers for the measurements. I then cut out each shape to test if they still fitted, remembering to label everything.
To the left, on the picture above, are the original paper templates for the Mail Man's jacket. Note that the same template was used for each sleeve. To the right are a copy of the templates with approximately 10mm extra space added around the circumference for the seams. It was this set of templates that were pinned to the fabric to draw the out the shapes using chalk.

Here is a picture of the fabrics I collected to make the Mail Man's uniform. I tried hard to find materials that replicated the look of the fabrics in my final design, and yet were still suitable for my puppet.
I had to keep in mind that although the colour and appearance of some fabrics may look right, at the 1/6th scale of the puppet, the size of the weave could look huge, destroying the illusion of this miniature world. In some cases this 'chunkification' might work, But I wanted the fabric to not cause any distraction from the look or scale of my film.
I also didn't wanted fabric that is too thick since it is harder to sew at such a small scale and can restrict the puppets movement.
I am very pleased with the fabric I've found. There are two types of blue, one for the trousers and a slightly darker one for the jacket (This helps to add variation, texture and interest to the uniform) some white cotton for the shirt and red ribbon for some trimming and his tie.

To help my puppet stand while his clothes were fitted, the armatures for his feet were returned along with some new silicone shoes. Pictured above are the shoes fresh from the mould ready to be trimmed. You can find out more about the moulding process for these shoes HERE.

Here is a shot of a test fitting for both pairs of trousers. Like any type of clothing, the patterns were sewn together using a sewing machine and then turned inside out for a clean seam. The trousers were left longer at the waist and foot to allow for adjustments. The length of the trousers were shortened once on the puppet.

To make things easier, I decided to glue the hem of the trousers using contact adhesive as opposed to stitching at such a small scale. The long fabric was trimmed and folded back inside the leg.

To the left, on the picture above, are the Mail Man's Jacket and trousers straight from the sewing machine. On the image to the right, The jacket arms have been shortened to the correct position of the characters wrist and cuffs have been added. In a similar way to the hem of the trousers, the cuffs required no extra sewing to create.

To make the cuffs I started by trimming the overly long jacket arms to about 5mm too short of where they should be at the wrists. Their edges were then glued back on themselves to stop the fabric from fraying. The idea is to add the cuff section using new strips of fabric to make up the arm length. The new cuff section should hide the original shortened arm fabric and appear to be part of the same sleeve folded back on it's self  creating a cuff.
For my cuffs I used strips of the same blue fabric used for the jacket , cut to match the measurement of the wrist. all the edges were folded back on themselves and glued with contact adhesive to stop the fabric from fraying. I also added some red trim to my cuffs by gluing thin ribbon folded along one edge (pictured above). The sewn edges of the ribbon even look as though it has been stitched to the fabric.

The final stage in creating the cuffs was to add a small loop of white cotton fabric, glued inside the jacket cuff to suggest a white shirt underneath.

In the next part I'll talk about the fabrication of the rest of the white shirt, as well as the collars, red tie and finishing touches such as the jacket pockets.

Thanks for looking.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Puppet Head Sculpt- Mail Man Part III

It's time to continue talking about the head sculpting process. To catch up you can find part one HERE and part two HERE.
You can also see how the 'Actress' character's head sculpt is coming along on my brothers blog HERE.

So far I have sculpted and moulded the Mail Man character's head pieces and cast out a number of copies. Here is a picture of all the pieces so far including the two main head components (one for each Mail Man puppet) and a selection of replacement 'mask' parts for the brow and mouth.

At the moment all of the replaceable brow and mouth  pieces are identical and need to be individually changed to give each mask a different expression. However, before I do that, the face pieces need to be able to be easily attached and removed from the main head component. It's important that the mask pieces lock-on to the head so that they stay fixed in place and don't move or fall off the puppet while filming.

An Attractive Face
My brother and I have decided to use magnets to attach the face pieces to the head. Another option would have been to keep the faces in place using tacky wax, but we felt that magnets are cleaner and would hold the faces more securely. Not to mention...magnets are cool.

For my puppet's head I used very small Neodymium magnets. This is a very power full type of magnet that comes in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Not every piece will need a magnet, they will only be used in the puppets main head component. Each replaceable mask piece will then be given a small amount of steel to attract to the magnets. For this I decided to use small steel tacks.

Using a rotary tool I drilled two holes into the puppet's head for the magnets to be set into. One for the brow and another for the mouth pieces. The hole for the mouth pieces happened to go straight through to the hollow area where the neck piece slots into the head, However the magnet is thin enough to not effect the neck when the parts are slotted together. The magnets where then secured in place using a two part epoxy glue.
With the magnets in place the next stage was to add the steel tacks to the replaceable face pieces. I had to be sure the positioning of the tacks in the faces would line up to the magnets in the head. To do this I put a small amount of Blu Tack (you could use plasticine or anything similar) onto the magnets and drew a small dot in the center using a black pen. I then pushed each replacement part onto the head and the Blu Tack, leaving a print of the black ink dot on each piece. I could then drill a hole using the black dot as a guide, knowing the parts would line up correctly.

The steel tacks were shortened using a pair of pliers, leaving the head of the tack to attract the magnet. Pictured below are the drilled face parts ready for the head of the steel tack to be set inside using two part epoxy glue. Only a small amount of the steel tack was needed to hold the face pieces to the magnet meaning the holes didn't need to be too deep, avoiding the risk of drilling straight through the mask piece.
Below is a picture of the two Mail Man heads with magnets installed and an example of the now magnetic faces. The positioning of the magnets on each head are identical meaning the face pieces will attract to each head just as well as the other. The face pieces now attach securely to the heads with a satisfying 'click'.

Adding Expression
Now that the face pieces are attaching to the head nicely, It's time to give my character a wider range of expressions. The strange grin he has at the moment is starting to creep me out.

Above is a picture of some of the materials and tools I use to sculpt with. Over the years I've collected a large number of tools to use but I seem to use these the most. The needle to the right is my favorite. It's much larger and chunky than a regular needle and has a nice rounded tip. My brother uses a playing dart without it's flight as a similar tool. I also use a flat plastic tool for roughing out shapes and a pin with a white Milliput handle for fine details.
The clay I will be using to sculpt the characters expressions is Super Sculpey Firm. It's easy to work with and can be baked in a conventional home oven. I also use Liquid Sculpey, this will help the Super Sculpey firm stick to the fast cast face pieces.

Above is a small selection of the replaceable mouths sculpted for the Mail Man. These mouths were created simply by sculpting lips over the existing mouth pieces using my character expression sheet for reference. The upper row of teeth were included as part of the cast piece because they stay locked in place as we speak. The lower row of teeth are sculpted and the jaw line added to in order to simulate a hinged jaw.

These faces are only rough out at the moment and need more work before they are cleaned up. The brows also need to be sculpted to give the character a neutral and angry expression.

At the moment he looks like he has a Homer Simpson-esque  9 o'clock shadow. This will obviously disappear once the character is painted. The next step is to make sure the faces work on camera and then make any corrections that are needed. Next time I'll be able to show the finished sculpted faces and talk about the painting/ finishing process. Until next time...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Bulking Out a Puppet- Mail Man

I think I'll take a little break from talking about my puppet head construction and save part III for another time. Today I'll be showing the progress of adding padding to bulk out my puppet.
Unlike 'Elle' (Our actress character) who's body is mostly sculpted and cast in silicone, the Mail Man's will be padded out using sponges and foams since most of his body is covered by his uniform. Once the armature is padded out his clothing will be made to fit and sewn together using real fabrics.

There will be two Mail Man puppets used for filming so I will be working on both armatures simultaneously to make sure the two puppets are padded identically. You can find out more about the construction of these armature on my brothers blog HERE.

Now for the hard part....or parts.
Harder sections are needed on a puppet in order to properly grip the puppet. These section don't need to be squashed in any way when the puppet is moved and are usually found around the chest and hip area.
To begin I created triangular shape out of balsa wood to bulk out my characters hips. I then cut the triangle  in half and traced the metal armatures shape onto the inner sides. These shapes where then carved out using a rotary tool in order for the armature to slot inside.

Square holes where cut to allow access to the rigging points. The balsa wood was then glued onto the armature using a two part epoxy glue and sanded smooth. Balsa wood is ideal for these parts because it is strong, light wieght and easy to work with. In the past I have also used blue foam core to make these parts which is easier to cut than balsa, but can also crush slightly of squeezed too hard.

The chest secton was made using the same techniques as described above. It is important to remember that your puppet still needs to be able to come apart so don't glue the balsa to any removable arm, leg or neck parts and don't cover up any rigging points. Also, a large area needs to be left above and underneeth the arms to allow for shoulder movement.

Now for the soft parts.
Areas that need to squash or stretch with the movment of the puppet need to be made of softer materials. Below are a selection of materials I've used to pad out my puppet including a selection of sponge/ foam, sharp scissors and contact adhesive.
Below I've added thicker upholstery foam to the waist and shoulder areas. I tend to cut the foam roughly to the shape I need and then glue it to the armature using the contact adhesive. Once dry, I then trim the foam further, cuting until I'm happy with the shape.

Contact adhesive is ideal because it's fast drying and can flex with the foam once dry. Remember to let the contact ashesive dry fully on both pieces before pushing them together, and make sure everything is alligned because it sticks instantly. 

To finish off the torso I added a thin foam jacket to help smooth out the upper body shape. This jacket was made from a single piece of foam cut from a template,which stretches around the body with the seam running along the back. The same template could be used for both puppets.
I decided not to use the thinner white foam for the arms and legs in order to keep them thinnner and give their shapes more definittion. e.g  the sharp trouser seams.

The arms where made using the thicker foam. It is possible to bulk out arms by wrapping the thin white foam around the armatures again and again until you reach your desired thickness. However, for this character I wanted the arm to be cut into more of a cone shape. The set of hands pictured are from an older puppet and were useful for gauging the length of the sleeve.
I decided to make the legs out of one large piece of foam. This was to try and get the right look to the characters baggy trousers. The shape was roughed out and split along the back to allow the armature inside. It was then glued and trimmed.

Insteady of cutting out a shape to look like the characters legs, I trimmed the foam into the shape of his trousers with angular seams lines similar to my concept design. The idea is to make the fabric trousers so that they are a tight fit to the foam leg and mantain the sharp seam lines. The tight trousers should also minimise the amount of boiling on the legs. This is where things such as fabric move each time you touch a puppet inbetween frames, causing it to jiggle and 'boil' once the footage is played.

Here is a shot of one of the puppets fully padded. Both puppets are now ready to have the clothing tailored to fit. The Mail Mans neck will be moulded and cast in silicone next.