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 How to Build a Stop Motion Puppet | Scott Wiser :: ★ Animator ★ Filmmaker ★ Storyteller ★

How to Build a Stop Motion Puppet

Stop motion was the only other type of animation I hadn’t tried … until this Charlie Chaplin inspired project! Created on a very small budget, I hope this post inspires other animators to build their own puppets. I’ve always wanted to make a film that paid homage to Charlie Chaplin and this Weber State Downtown Store project gave me the perfect reason! I will post it here (below) once we release the video in September. Until then, let’s discuss the making of the puppet used for the film.

Design

Usually, when I am designing an animated character, I start with gathering reference, sketches, drawing etc. But for this character, while I had a mental image in mind, I had no idea what my materials would be. So I started by shopping. I bought the pillows and necklaces from a thrift store, found the wood for free, I searched awhile for the clock parts on ebay, and bought the Premo Sculpey from an art store. Once I knew what my materials were I made several sketches, found this design I liked, and finally figured out how it would be built. Most armatures I saw in my research were made from metal, and were definitely more durable, but they can be really expensive and work intensive. So I went with wood and wire. Once I started cutting the wood, the hardest part to figure out was the neck – and how I was going to get it to twist and turn. In the end, a tight fitting dowel in a hole + wire did the trick.

Construction

For the head, I sculpted the Premo clay head over a piece of pre-drilled wood. I discovered that when baking any Sculpey brand clay, you shouldn’t follow the package bake instructions exactly (It will be too brittle). The clay needs to be baked a little longer at a slightly lower temperature.  I would suggest baking a test piece to help you better understand the clay. I also made the hands from clay, making sure I made the holes for the wire before baking. Once I put it all together, I used contact cement to glue the arm, hand, feet and head pieces to the wire. The shoulder and hip joins remained unglued so I could move them around. A Note On The Face:  I wish I had the time and budget to build a facial rig with movable facial elements. In my google searches, I felt I could have figured it out if I had more time. So you may have to search a bit. You may also have to be inventive. But I’d love to see what people come up in regard to the face. I may explore that avenue in future projects!

Costume & Details

For the puppet’s clothing, I used an old t-shirt and cut it up to make a pattern – as shown in this great YouTube tutorial. I then took the pattern to my wife, who is great at sewing, and she helped me build the costume from the unstiched pillow fabric. Her brother, a machinist, helped me refashion the old clock using the leftover parts and came up with an clever system to attach the clock to the clothing (pins hold a washer and cinch the fabric between them). To finish, I painted the face and sewed on the great beads I found at the thrift store.

Producing the Film

Of course, I started this project with the basic, approved concept. As I built the puppet, I watched most of the major Chaplin Films until I felt I could write a solid Chaplinesque story. I wasn’t planning to write the music for this, but the song popped in my head one morning and I went and wrote it out in a few days. It was a treat to work again with Joseph Limb on recording (he also did the orchestrations). And the great thing about working at a University was that they had a full costume studio that graciously lent us the Charlie Chaplin Costume. Filming went great, except for the fact that I pulled my thigh muscle 15 minutes into shooting. It was a painful day, but I think it actually added to my performance in the final video. We took one day to film the live action portion of the video, many days of editing, and only a few days to do the animation, utilizing green screen for some of the more difficult shots. I can’t wait for you to see it. Again, I’ll put it at the top of this post once it has been release.

Now I want to hear your thoughts on the process. Do you have any tips or questions to add in the comments below? I’ll reply to your comments asap.

 

22. July 2014 by Scott Wiser
Categories: Uncategorized | 8 comments

  • Monica

    What an amazing transformation, from pillows and blocks of wood to a full blown puppet. So much talent! Your timetable was put together fabulously! It helped me picture the entire process from beginning to end. I can’t wait to see the film!

    • http://www.scottwiser.com/ Scott Wiser

      Thanks Monica! I wish we could just show the film today. It was a big step forward for me as a storyteller. I’m glad you understood the process from this post. If you have any questions, let me know!

  • Brock Guymon

    So the final video will be a combination of computer animation, stop motion, and live shots? That’s Awesome! I look forward to seeing your finished project. Looking back to your first animated shots I can see a huge improvement, it makes me so excited to think of the things you’ll come up with in another couple years! Keep up the great work!

    • http://www.scottwiser.com/ Scott Wiser

      Thanks Brock! I’m having a blast and growing a ton. Yes, the character was animated by taking one picture at a time and then I compiled and timed out the pictures Photoshop. The Effects are all digital. And yeah, it was a blast to play Charlie: as I walked down the street I had the coolest interactions with people. Chaplin was a master storyteller, and a favorite among animators.

  • Henrike Dijkstra

    This looks so fun Scott and I esp like the puppet a lot!!

    I think it`s a great idea to find materials first and then start sketching the character. You can get fresh new ideas that you hadn`t even thought of and don`t have the problem of having to find the right stuff to fit your idea.

    Can`t wait to see the end result. :D Be sure to post it in the FB group when it`s online!

    • http://www.scottwiser.com/ Scott Wiser

      Thanks, Henrike. Yeah, that’s exactly why I searched for materials first … and I did have some ideas I wouldn’t have had if I had started with the sketches. I will definitely post the video on Facebook in September!

  • http://www.smilesfoto.com Sharon Landon Brechbill

    What a great puppet full of wisdom and knowledge with a side of whimsy. Great job !

    • http://www.scottwiser.com/ Scott Wiser

      Thanks Sharon, I like that description!

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