Thursday, September 10, 2015

Yanu I was going to meet you

 I love revealing the paper puppet casts from their Ultracal molds. It's the coolest thing to have something that you sculpted in clay be reproduced over and over in another material. You know what I'm saying?!
In order to get this film done I have completely given up trying to make proper armatures opting instead for savage twists of wire crammed into the casts quickly enough so I can't protest my doing it. Ooo-rah. I use almaloy and steel of various weights. Then I wrap with sports tapes and yarn. I add bones made from split drinking straws and fix the finished armature inside the cast shells with masking tape.
Then I start back-filling the voids between the armature and the skin of the pupp. I use foam, taped in, or any sort of junk I may find handy, like wood shapes or strips of old woolen sweaters. Once the two halves are filled, I seam them together into one figure again with... masking tape!

Then it's a matter of finishing the sculpture by building up with foam and more masking tape until the character is ready to be finished with wings, hair, paint, shading, etc. Above lower right you can see the beginning of Yanu's wing installation.
Clips of white faux fur are glued down to cover the join and to add moth like texture. Additional skin detailing can be done with thick gel mediums, allowed to dry over the wall furnace pilot, then hit with matte medium on top. On the right you can seeYanu drying next to a small mermaid Kyra puppet in progress.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Black Bird Wing Singing

Finished black crow wing held up to nearly finished Tarn puppet in a bag for size check.
Top Row: Plugged tubing into fitted socket built into crow half of puppet. Folded it to rest comfortably against the crow's body. Spread it out, added multi-strand wire supports and padded out the main arch with tape wraps. Filled in the spaces with masking tape pieces on both sides, like a membrane. (Bonus peek upper left; puppet's finished last long hair strands being held in place with pins until fixative matte medium dries. Successful hair is successful!)

Middle Row: painted black, the expandable wing armature is checked for fit. Using a foam core board, I pinned the fully opened wing down and began adding rows of feathers with glue (and pins until dry.)  I was careful to choose the sides of feathers that corresponded to the side of the wing I was covering, top side for outside and under side for inside. As the course of feathers had to become smaller toward the top edge, I began to get comfortable with shaping and trimming down real feathers without them falling apart.

Bottom Row: On and on the feathers were applied course by course, from bottom edge to top, letting glue dry on each row before removing the pins and beginning the next row. This was done to both sides of the wing until all feathers were glued firmly in place and all pins were removed.

The finished wing can be opened all the way and folded up, as if at rest, next to the body. There will never be a sequence where this character will use her wing to fly but it will be nice to have the option of her kind of rustling herself enough to express an emotional response to the action. And when she's unconscious, it'll be a nice option for her wing to spread open on the ground, if it looks good in the moment.

I was utterly surprised at how natural and life-like the wing moved and looked when done. It was pure pleasure making it this way.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

What in Tarn-ation?! Part 2 (nine years later)

Continuing the story of how the Tarn puppet was made. Once the animatable puppet figure was completed, I drew a line down the middle-ish to see how I might want to divide the human and crow halves for finishing. I began the human side with a coat over the paper of a pale portrait pink skin tone. After the skin was shaded and detailed, she seemed so shockingly nude! (see last post about her). I didn't want the puppet's nudity to be all the audience saw as that wasn't really an important feature about the character. I did want her to be clearly human in form on that half of her, but needed a mitigation of color/texture into the crow feathers as well.

Opted to make her a sheer black lace dress that followed her body curves but looked like a comfortable night gown as you'll see. I had thrown these scraps of lace away three times as I rarely use lace in 1/2L (except for spider's webs). So this dress is made from the black half of spider's webs. I used straight pins to hold the painted and stiffened lace down while the glue dried. (The "crow in flight" over her bikini line appeared on its own from using random lace pieces. Nice!) Lower right, I finished off the hem with painted unraveled crochet pieces that I further shredded and stiffened with tons of matte medium. She's been through a long rough ride, you may recall from the story. You can even see the cut on her human calf starting to bleed a bit there.

Her crow half was slowly covered in black feathers, glued on in rows, over the shape built into the pupp. Our new kitten was thrilled that I had decided to bring out a big box full of feathers just for her to have fun with. How nice of me. Ahem. I had to box up the whole pupp and supplies each night to keep the marauder from damaging them. Lower left shows how I found the kitten inside that "secure" box one day! Oy.
Random images from the making the character's face. Dear people, these gorgeous red hand-blown glass eyes were purchased for this use over 20 years ago in New York! Can you believe that?! I used a component of a plastic spine to create the white sclera for the human side (upper right), adding red wool fiber to make them bloodshot and coating the cornea with a non-toxic pendant gel. Her lids are wired for slight facial expression.You may notice I use 4-way stretch fabric as a skin under-layer where motion may be an issue.
The fixed puppet had to be cut apart and expanded to increase her range of movement. Here you see me holding her legs open with elastic while papering over that configuration. The middle shows how the back of her neck was opened (it will be covered under layers of feathers and won't show at all) so that she can curve the head over with chin down gracefully (not shown). Right, is how the pupp looked inside her safety box a she was forming. Cool.
Fingers and toes were extended with papier mache and individuated for positioning. Nails were made from flower punches of vellum cut into petals and glued into place.

One of my favorite things in All of Halfland is how I dirtied up the sole of her human foot with chalks, fixed with matte medium, to imitate the state mine are always in. I paid close attention to how the blackness collects depending on how the body weight lands. Tarn's human foot is always barefoot like my own and so having her's filthy too is very telling about creatures like us. Thrilled about this detail.
It was weird to cut into a puppet in order to fabricate a wound that is part of the tale. I added several coats of blood like colors and bleed effects (upper left). She arrives at the cottage with the wound exposed. And has it bandaged by Rana the rest of the film. I made a linen cuff for that that covers the cut that can be added or taken away depending on what scene needs to be shot. Upper right shows the matte medium drying around her toe nails.

Her crow leg needed more texture to balance the human side's lace so I wound it tightly with steel wire then added another course of thick thread in between those for even more. Painted all black, it'll do (lower right). The thigh of the heavy crow leg was covered with a ring of fine feathers held in place until dry.

Next post will show how her crow wing was made. It was probably the easiest thing made in Halfland, yet takes my breath away. Can't wait to show you.

Thanks for watching.

Friday, September 04, 2015

How To Get Crow's Feet

Answer, smile while you make a puppet.
I seem to have landed on a really strange method of puppet making. I describe it in the previous post(s) but thought a closer look into how the crow woman's human foot poses might better illustrate what the results are like.

Above, you see the single human foot in its two extreme poses from both inside and outside angles. The ankle flexes, the toes point and flex. Her metatarsal works when bent in place as if supporting the crouching weight of the character, (seen lower right below).
Far left above shows how her human leg will rest while she is riding the tortoise-hare horse.

What you see of these characters is not made via armature movement exactly but rather by using expandable metal mesh as part of the make up of the layers of skin. So far it holds up to positioning over and over. It will likely fail during intense animating but the Halfland movement style is almost a montage and the few seconds of screen time can almost be tied down with wire to hold if need be.

Funny to think that all these hours and effort will only be shown for brief moments, scant seconds in the end. I don't feel badly about that, instead elated, as if the glimpses into this imaginary world are not quite there to be fully examined.

Thank you for watching.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

A Rare Bird: Tarn Is Coming

 I deviated from my sketch for Tarn's human half face. Instead of having the bill be a nose with the mouth underneath, my hands went with keeping the beak a mouth and building out the jowls underneath. She also currently looks more happy on her human side than I had intended. We'll see how that gets handled shortly.

This is the puppet that was made over an unfinished clay sculpt with my bizarre finishing techniques. It's Bee-Zarre to see a new mythological creature coming to life for the first time. We've all seen mermaid and saytr hybrids with their halfway horizontal demarcations. And I've seen a lot of wonderful human to crow mash-ups, but never a creature divided in half vertically (upper right). Is that possible? Could the Halfland Tarn story be an entirely original new myth? I hope so.
This is a shot of the completed Tarn puppet in her prone unconscious state before further finishing took place. She only needs to be shown in this position and sitting upright astride her tortoise-hare horse holding the reins. Both extreme poses can be achieved via some pretty insane internal armature and skin rigging throughout the whole puppet.
Upper left shows the 8 layers of paper being cut open to release the original sculpt. Layers of torn paper and various types of flexible adhesives are used to mache puppet bodies into a single piece.  I go back and forth with tape and filler material to further finish the sculpt after the initial core is made.

Another layer of washi unifies the additions so I can see the new tighter sculpt. The interior of the puppets are made with multiple wire armatures, almaloy and steel (thanks for the demo of that style, Yuji), which is then further built out with odds and ends of woods shapes were firmness is in order or tightly crammed wool sweater strips (being shoved down her throat with scissors lower left) for volume.

Claws from a holloween crow were added to the puppet skin crow foot with masking tape later made into one joined piece with layers of washi and thick medium.

Next post: How to Get Crow's Feet
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