Saturday, 21 May 2011

Props- Mailman's Bag & Hat

It's been far too long since I last posted anything. Things have been getting busy now that my brother and I are filming. I'm going to try to catch up and post more often so that I can show you how the shots are turning out soon, But first I'm going to continue talking about the model making process and today It's all about two of the mail man's props- his leather satchel and his hat.

Mailman's Bag
The Mail Man's leather satchel is quite an important prop for the character and plays an interesting part in our film. It also needed to be animatable and easy to control because I wanted the bag to swing and flow behind the Mailman when he is running, adding some nice secondary motion to the character's movements. In order to achieve this, the bag needed to be very light weight.

To start, I carved the main body of the bag out of balsa wood. This was ideal since balsa wood is light weight, strong and easy to work with. I chose to use this material as opposed to blue foam core because the bag would later need to be glued and contact adhesive and two part epoxys tend to cause the foam core to melt.

The balso was then carved and sanded into shape, using my sculpted maquette as referance. I also added some small K&S brass tubing to the back, glued in place with two part epoxy. This is where I'll later rig the bag to be animatable. I made both bags (one for each of the two Mailman puppets) at the same time to keep them identical.

Next, I used a rotart tool to carve down into the top surface of the balsa, creating a lip around the edge, giving the bag some depth. This was then painted black using acrylics. It wasn't nesisary to make the bag completly hollow, this was just in case the camera ever peeks under the edges of the bag flap, and to create the illusion of depth.

The next stage was to cover the basla with a fake leather-like material. Originally I planned to sculpt the main body of the bag from Sculpey, but later decided against it to keep the weight down and achieve a more realistic texture with a leathery material. The shapes for the bags panels were first roughed out in paper to create templates and then cut out from the leather material. These were then glued in place using contact adhesive.
The two side panels were glued on first, followed by one large panel (pictured above) which was streched virtically around the balsa creating the front, bottom and back of the bag. Any rough edges where folded back on themselves before glueing.

 The bag's opening flap was created seperatly and attatched afterwards. It included thin wire sandwiched between the leather and some brown card, allowing it to be controlled and repositiond when animating.

The bag strap was created in a similar way in order to allow it to be animated. One strand of thin copper wire was added to a small leather-like strap and covered with a thin strip of brown card. This stiffened the strap and allowed it to be controlled and repositionable. This copper wire is easy to bend, holds it's shape and should last longer than aluminium wire which tends to break after too much use.

To finish things off I added some straps to the opening flap and punched some buckle holes into them.
Here is one of the finished bags.
The shape of the bag was created to look distorted as if it was full, heavy and sagging in the middle as it appeares on my maquette. I'm pleased with the way the leather-like material turned out and I think it looks far more convincing than if I had simply sculpted it.
This is how it looks on the puppet. The bag is also curved to fit around his leg.

 For some reason I didn't include buckles on the bag of my sculped maquette and I was toying with the idea of adding them to these bags, but they just didn't look right and made things look cluttered and busy. So I decide to keep them simple and as they are. If anyone asks...I'll say that the bag is left open for easy access and that the buckle straps are tucked inside. don't believe me?

Here is a shot of the two bags on the puppets.
To give more control to the movment of the bag when animating, I decided to add a rig going from the Mailman's waist to the back of the bag. This was made using two strands of the copper wire twisted together and attatched with two part epoxy to K&S brass tubing.

A flap was cut into the leather to give access to the K&S rig point in the bag, and a small slit was cut in the Mailman's trousers to reach the K&S in the puppets hip. This rig, along with the wire in the strap, should help lift the bag away from the Mailman when running. This can be seen in the picture below. The wire support will later be painted out of any frames in which it is visable.

Mailman's Hat
The Mailman's hat is not featured in the film as much as the bag because he loses it fairly early on in the animation....what can I say, he's no Indiana Jones. because of this I decided to only make the one hat for the puppet we use near the start of the film.

I started off by sculpting a rough shape into the puppet's head using Super Sculpey Ultra light. This is baked just like regular Super Sculpey, except it's very light weight. you can't get as much detail from it as regular Sculpey, and it's strangely sticky and silky at the same time. But it is good for bulking out large areas and keeping weight down. Once baked I carved and sanded the ultra light into the shape I wanted (above to the right).

Next, I covered the shape using the same blue material I used to make the Mailman's trausers. I glued the fabric in place using PVA glue at the top, used sparingly so that it doesn't soak through the fabric, and super glue around the rim. The fabric was glued carfully to create the folds and a strip of black card was added over the top to create the rim.

The cap section was also made with the black card which was then covered in a flexable, shiney, black plastic which I cut from an old office folder. The red strip was made from ribon I had left over from the Mailman's uniform.

The small badge on the hat was made in a similar way to the buttons on the Mailman's uniform. It was sculpted from Super Sculpey and painted with a brass enamel paint. I then coated it with a clear two part epoxy to give it a glossy shine. The simbol on the badge is of an envelope.

Here is the finished hat. It may not be in the film much but it was a fun prop to make.
And finally here is a shot of the puppet adorning his newly aquired effects.

That's all for this time folks!
Next I'll be posting more pictures of the finished puppet's along with the theatre usher, set pictures and eventually, the filming process.
Thanks for looking.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Puppet Head Sculpt- Mail Man Part IV

It's been a while since my last post, so I think I'll bet back into the swing of things by continuing with the process of creating the Mail Man character's head. You can find my previous posts about the puppet head sculpting process through the following links- Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3.

So far the two puppet heads have been cast, along with all the magnetic, replaceable face pieces, which have also been given different expressions using Super Scupley, sculpted onto each piece. The next stage is to test the sculpting on each replaceable face piece to see if they work on camera.

Pictured above is a small set up I created on my desk to photograph each of the face pieces. The main puppet head part was secured in place and in turn every replaceable face piece was attached and photographed. Using a laptop I could then flick through each image, checking how well each expression transitioned from the next. I was also looking out for any sculpting errors or unwanted bulges that needed changing, which I could then quickly correct at my desk and re-photograph.

Once I was happy with with each piece, they were baked in an oven to harden the Super Sulpey clay. After cooling, I could then start sanding each of the parts to make them extra smooth and remove any small bumps around the seam of the sculpted mouths.
I started with a more coarse sandpaper and slowly worked my way up to a higher grit sandpaper, finishing with a very fine wetordry paper. The pieces were then ready for the painting process.

Before any paint was applied, The back of each piece was masked to stop any unwanted paint from disturbing the way each of the faces connect to the head. The parts were then  mounted onto small cones of spare plasticine and arranged on the spraying surface. The cones hold the pieces above the surface, stopping any paint from pooling around the bottom of any parts.  

Next, The first coat of primer was applied. I decided to use a matt, white primer because I didn't want the parts to become too shiny, and white is a good good base colour for the flesh tone. A darker primer might have caused the final flesh tone to be less vibrant.

The first coat was only lightly misted on, to help bring out the surface detail. Any small imperfections all of a sudden become visible and can now be corrected. That means more sanding!

On a few of the faces, small seam lines appeared where the Sculpey mouth joined to the resin face. Most of the time these disappeared with a bit more sanding.

In some cases they needed filling. For this I used Super glue, lightly flooding the seam and letting it dry. The glue dried quickly and could then be sanded flush to the surface, making the seam...ta daaaaaa....disappear!

The faces could then be re-primed, misting on each coat until evenly covered. Once dry, I gave the faces a skin tone using a matt flesh coloured spray.

Pictured above are the mouth pieces once prayed, dried with all masking removed. The next step is to add all the details to the mouth and teeth.

Colours were added using acrylic paints. I used a small brush to paint the inside of each mouth black first, followed by an off white of the teeth. The detail of the hair was brought out by dry brushing a lighter brown over a darker base colour creating highlights and depth.

To bring some variation to the skin I decided to use chalk pastels. This was used to add subtle gradients of colour and give the skin a healthy glow.
I used a pink coloured pastel to add a rosiness to the cheeks and around the eyes. The chalks are scratched onto paper to create a small pile up of dust. Using a small stiff brush, I dusted the chalk dust onto the surface where I wanted the colour and slowly, in a circular motion worked in the dust. This was then sealed using a dull coat spray (I use Testor's Dull Coat). The colour can be built up in layers and different chalk dusts can be mixed to create more colours.

Above is a picture of the puppets face with chalk pastels added. The effect is subtle, but makes a big difference. Both sets of eyes have also been created by drilling holes for the iris and pupil using a rotary tool. They were then painted with acrylics and covered in gloss to create a shine. The eyes will later be controlled and positioned using a pin to turn the eye in the socket.

The Mail Man's eye browns were sculpted using Super Sculpey Bake & Bend clay. This clay bakes in the oven like regular sculpey, however, It remains flexible like rubber. This should prevent the eyes brows from snapping since they are so small and delicate. They were also sculpted in the correct colour clay so they wont need painting, and the colour won't scratch off. The eye brows will be moved onto each replaceable brow piece in use during filming, and will be held in place using tacky wax. this will also allow the eye brows to be moved and animated on the brow.

The Finished Puppet Head

Here is a picture of all the parts of the puppets head, painted and finished.

There are twenty mouth pieces for the two puppets, along with five different brows for each head.
Here are a few images of the Mail Man with different expressions.

I am pleased with the way this character's head has turned out. This is the first time I have ever built a puppets face using this technique.The replaceable faces are very easy to use and should make animating the face much quicker and easier. As a sculptor, I'm also pleased with the level of facial detail this method allows, and how close this puppet is to it's original designs.

In post production the seam across the eyes will be removed.
All is going well so far, Nathan's puppet of our actress character 'Elle' is looking very nice. This head sculpt has also been a lot of fun to make, but the fun is not over yet.

Thanks for looking!