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.


  1. Hi there!
    got a few question..
    when you placed the brass tubes in the balsa, did you drill a thiner hole and pushed it in? or did you drill a bigger hole and filled the space with epoxy or something?
    and also, copper wires tend to become bended all over when animated alot, why did you choose not to use aluminum,or both?

  2. wow! you and your brother are so super pro, I'm amazed your in school instead of just starting your own shop up.

  3. Joshua how is filming going?

    I'm standing by very eagerly for more posts!!! But don't feel pressured, you've got bigger fish to fry.

    Excited for the development, keep up the great work!

    Tom Glynn
    Chicago, IL

  4. Daniel- Hi, sorry for the slow reply.
    I tried to drill the hole as close to the size of the brass as possible to get a snug fit, any sort of small gap was then filled with epoxy.
    I chose not to use aluminium because it tends to break quite easily, especially at the size I need for the bag strap. The copper wire should last longer. Your right about copper wire, but I'll just keep straigtening it and try not to do any harsh bends with it.

    Alonso- Thanks a lot!

    Tom- Hello, Filming is going great thanks. Sorry I havn't posted anything in a while. I'll try to post more often. I'll start talking about the filming process soon.
    All the best,

  5. Работа КЛАСС!)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Hhmmmmmmm....I'm confused.
      Did you remove your comment?
      because it said "This comment has beed removed by the author" before I could reply. And I didn't remove it.

      And who is this 'author' fellow anyway?
      Is it me, the author of the blog.
      Or you, the author of the comment.

      Well I still have the comment in my emails, so I'm going to answer your question Whether you want it or not.

      "I'vee been meaning to ask.How do you make the lines between the upper mask and the mouth mask disapear on film?
      Btw.LOVE your work.I learn so much from you guys.

      Tommy G."

      Hi Tommy, We remove the seam line betwen the two mask pieces digitally, frame by frame, painting it out in post production. We usually use the clone brush or makeover tools. This is mostly for close ups or mid shots where the seam is more noticable. For the shots where the characters are further away we'll probably leave in the seam because they're (hopefully) not too noticable.

      Hope this helps, and I'm glad you like our blogs.

      Sorry for the loss of your comment, but I like to think it's gone to a better place :)

      All the best,

  7. Are you done with these movie yet

  8. How many boxes of super sculpey did it take to make the mail man

    1. We're still working on the film.

      It didn't take very much Sculpey to make the mail man.
      I only used Sculpey to make parts of his head; his shoes and feet were sculpted in plastiline.

      I probably only used about 1/3 of a box of sculpey, maybe even less.

    2. So when do you think you are going to be done with theses movie?

    3. Hi Jacob,

      That is an excellent question.
      And unfortunately, I don't really know the answer.
      We're are still working on the film, and a lot of it has been re-made and improved. However, we can only work on our film in our free time in between other projects.
      We're taking our time and making sure everything is just how we want it.
      It will be finished one day.