FA7034 - Pre-Production Proposal (Notes on Stop Motion Book Review - Puppet Making)
May 14, 2016
NOTES ON STOP MOTION FROM ‘REVIEW’ MANUSCRIPT OF ADVANCED STOP-MOTION ANIMATION BY CHRIS WALSH
For nostalgia – refer to quotes on P.1/2 of Introduction
“Stop motion allows for artistic development across mediums.”
“Artists, by nature, are driven to make a distinctive mark on the world- to resist the norm.”
The ‘philosophy’ of stop motion:
Tenet 1: The Artisan (deeply talented and trained people who make things with their hands)
Tenet 2: The Performer, “Performers serve the same function, reflecting culture and society back to itself, so it can gain deeper knowledge about itself (and to see if it has any spinach stuck in its teeth). Even when a performance is designed to provide so-called “simple” entertainment, it’s actually offering something deeply needed by the community, as it provides temporary relief from daily stresses. Comedy performances often hold up the most unflinching mirror to society, in the forms of satire, spoof, parody and farce. Stop motion animators offer frame-by-frame performances that have the potential to be every bit as effective as any live Broadway production. Each and every day, stop motion animators strive to generate rich and effecting performances, for the benefit of the audience. These performances may cause laughter, or tears, or thoughtful consideration, or (in some wonderful cases) all the above.
Tenet 3: The Magician, “If anything can happen, it ignites our imaginations. It adds wonder to our daily lives, and takes what can be a boring existence of daily routines and habits and introduces a sort of wonderful and mysterious ripple throughout it all. It provides hope that the mysterious still exists for humanity, regardless of science’s incredible advancements. And it’s an acknowledgement that life is a bit more fun when there’s room for mysteries and miracles…even if they’re pretend.
“Through its connection with ancient practices, stop motion animation provides essential nourishment to humanity.”
Phil Tippett on making ‘art’ rather than ‘commercial’ work:
“Why make this intimate series of short puppet films, that aren’t likely to see any profit?”
A. “I really have no choice in the matter. It is a creative obsession that I must pursue. If I do not do it no one else will.”
A great quote from Phil Tippett on why to make a particular project using stop motion (relate this to my own film idea):
“The digital realm requires that one to work from the position of intension. MG cannot operate like that. I approach it more as a collage or painting that wells from the subconscious and as a consequence It requires an approach that allows itself to grow. When working with material objects they look at you and demand attention. They tell you things and maybe you wouldn't otherwise be so perceptive. It is about the process and listening to the things around you, hearing and what they can tell you. That takes time. In the day job we work under the onus of production schedules. I wanted this to be like a much older way of working wherein the consequences of time were less relevant. That informs the process in a very, very different way. It takes longer to cook and therefore you get something unlike what is being made by production processes that are typically used in animation projects. Much of my day job involves shooting live action and I have altered my approach to animation much more along those lines.
Phil Tippett is a follower of Carl Jung, who praised the benefits of confronting one’s Shadow self. (see Phil Tippett’s ‘Mad Dog’)
(Also look up the work of Karel Zeman)
Phil Tippett on being attracted to stop motion from a young age: “I can only speak for myself - the magic comes from the same place it did for me seeing 7th Voyage when I was seven years old. I couldn't understand it then, and I still don't.”
“I just hope they (the KS participants) don't all hate it. But if they do, I'll know I've succeeded in a way I hadn't anticipated.”
On Ideas for Processes in my MA film:
“Sometimes, a piece of very thin wire is glued between the pieces to provide a joint that can then be animated.” – I can adopt this method to the ‘3D’ cutout characters in my film, with wired rigs behind them to support them and enable more effective manipulation.
“Amazingly fluid and sophisticated work can result from this (cutout) method, and its innate graphic style can be a great way for a stop motion animator to explore the drawn world.”
“Being in on how it’s done only seems to deepen the enjoyment of watching people flit and fly.” (Audiences know about the technique – so let’s embrace that!)
The puppet will be a miniature representation of myself – exaggerated, distorted.
The philosophy behind puppets and their meanings:
“A doll can exist on a shelf and be content. Just by existing, it fulfills its function, that function being to represent something else- a person, an animal, or a character of some sort. By contrast, a puppet may sit obediently on the same shelf just like a doll, but it carries with it the expectation that it will be brought to life (or given life, depending on how you look at it). There’s an insistence that surrounds a puppet. A puppet’s not fulfilled until it lives, even if that life is maintained, influenced, and ultimately controlled by, quietly literally, human hands. That’s not to say that a doll can’t have artificial life given to it. Who else attends the tea parties of little kids worldwide, if not “living” teddy bears and dolls? But a doll doesn’t need to be alive. A puppet does.
My film is about being born, living – and then living on, celebrating and making use of the past. It is certainly not about death – that inevitably lies ahead but my film will not dwell on it or any other depressing subject. It is about optimism, carrying on, and hope.
“How can a relationship be so emotionally real, and at the same time, so imagined? How can it be so “on,” then so “off”?”
“The stop motion puppet lives in an animated world, as opposed to a theatrical one.” – But how can the two be brought together more? That and celebrating nostalgia are the targets of my MA film.
Stop Motion puppets should have:
Overall Visual Appeal – trust your instincts as an artist!
Armature – needs to be right for the performance intended
Face – decide, if this is fixed, what needs to be expressed
Fabrication Materials – what did Postman Pat have? Resin head, slightly padded armature, thick costume, etc.
Overall Performance Potential – “performance potential for a puppet is 70% measurable, and 30% “the weird thing that sometimes happens between the puppet and the animator””
“The puppet is a vessel for the animator’s consciousness”
“To anyone looking in at the process, it’s just someone moving an object, but for the animator and the puppet, they’re on a journey together that exists outside (or at least “to the side” of) the normal experience of time.”
Character Design for Stop Motion:
Start with ‘humanoid’.
Look up ‘The Hand’ by Jiri Trnka, and his other works.
Find other characters that will inform my own, and write detailed descriptions/draw detailed drawings.
There’s no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ puppet design.
From Ian Mackinnon:
“Always check the armature thoroughly before casting to make sure there are no dry solder joints (where the solder hasn’t heated and flowed and gained full strength). This is much harder to fix once after the puppet has been cast and costumed.
“Test the compatibility of the materials you would intend to use. Different materials shrink at different rates so, if you have a tight-fitting costume - for instance a sleeve that goes from a silicone hand to a foam arm - you have to make allowances to avoid “stepping”. Also, some sculpting/modelling materials react to some mould making materials. Always do a patch test to make sure there are no bad reactions and also that you are using the correct release agents to stop the different materials from sticking together. Some materials are difficult to bond together - a glue that will happily stick foam latex to metal won’t stick silicone to metal, and bear in mind that silicone is notoriously difficult to stick to anything.”
Modelling Putty and Sculpey – all one piece
Brass Tube (K&S)
Block – body parts connected by wire (consider this process, from P.10, for my armature)
Ball and Socket – the most common
Tools for Fabricating Puppets (Essential)…
A Drill Press
A Sturdy Vice (Secured to a Workbench)
A Coping Saw
A Rotary Tool (great for the stop motion tool kit)
Good tip – use a light box to trace your armature design and then insert the armature design within. If drawn to scale the pieces can even be laid on top of the drawing too.
Look up Street of Crocodiles by The Brothers Quay – puppets reveal themselves as puppets (might be an effective approach for my MA film).
Maybe use Sculpey for the head? (refer to P.32 onwards).
Look up ‘Higglety Pigglety Pop’ (Spike Jonze, companion piece to ‘Where The Wild Things Are’).
Stainless steel is the best material for armatures, and CNC (Computer Numercial Control) is the best, most precise process. Look up Mike Emiglio – he makes and sells high quality armatures.
‘Super’ Sculpey hardens even more, allowing for sanding down.
If design drawings are kept to scale it will be much easier to sculpt them. The head, for instance, can be sculpted as an angular block initially, and then eventually carved to shape.
Look up ‘The Adventures of Mark Twain’ by Will Vinton – for high quality sculpting.
I need to think about a lot of replica parts (arms, feet etc.)
Main material – silicone rubber (Mould Star 30. This is a low-viscosity (runny) silicone, so bubbles will easily rise to the surface and harmlessly pop). Or foam latex?
Need ‘mould release’ for spraying onto the surface of part 1 of the mould, so that the two pieces don’t stick together.
Good tip for creating a hollow head – P.22.
Resin – Smooth Cast 300, quite strong and can be painted easily.
Need primer paint as an undercoat for the resin, before regular acrylic paint is applied.
Look up ‘Balance’ by Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein (for oversized puppet hands).
For arms, maybe use Dragon Skin 10 FAST (another type of silicone which is flexible, tough, and can be tinted) (see P.6).
Notes on Costumes:
“An effectively costumed puppet will help your audience understand your character better, and will inspire the animator to create richer performances.”
“You want something that matches the scale of the puppet and its world, but that also won't impede the movements of the puppet. In short, you want fabrics that are believable, and not too thick or bulky.”
Look up ‘The Demon’ by Kihachiro Kawamoto (for grand theatrical costumes).
Look into sergers for helping with fraying fabrics.
Look up Deborah Cook – a great stop motion costume maker.
Notes on The Space:
Look up Komaneko: The Curious Cat (the character creates a stop motion animation).
Cater the idea to the space available – so that it will work.
Find a simple, sturdy table.
The animation ‘deck’ should sit on top of this table (refer to P.4 for specifics on this).
Look up Bottle by Kirsten Lepore (for the fact it was shot outdoors, with natural light).
DIY Stand Adaptors
Grip Stands (C-stands/magic arms)
Basic hand tools
Small floor mat
One or two power bars
(see P.15-16 for more specific materials and tools)
Look up Jim Danforth.
Totally study the section on this to get fully equipped.
Look up The Maker by Christopher Kezelos (for low key, dramatic lighting).
Look up Story of the Fox by Ladislas Starewitch (for effective lighting).
Look up The Fox and the Chickadee by Evan Derushie (for effective lighting).
“Again, the moment carries with it a particular atmosphere, a feeling. Lived moments like these are truly special, magical, even. And they carry within them the range of human emotions, from the darkest and scariest, to the most hopeful and joyous. Over time, these moments become precious memories that make us who we are as individuals. Now ask yourself- how much of that magic in these memories comes from the light itself?”
Look up the work of Vittorio Storaro (for effective lighting).
P.28 is particularly good for the logical steps/process in lighting for stop motion.
Totally study the section on this to get fully equipped.
Use focus (play with depth of field and aperture) to get a romantic, dreamy atmosphere.
General Notes on the Manuscript:
Neatly laid out, with a lot of facts and considerations about each subject before leading into specifics surrounding the ‘Nia’ puppet.
There’s a good sense of humour throughout, making it feel like Chris is on the same wavelength as the reader.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!