Mime Time.

Here is my Final video for the acting project for which I used the armature. In a shootout my character is first shot then gets his gun shot out of his hand.


Making Hands.

Making the hands for an armature is always a tricky process. I have made simple armature hands before using aluminum wire and washers but never professional hands.

I started out by measuring out six peices of wire at 100mm/10cm. Four of these were to be folder in half for the fingers and the other two for the thumbs. Before I could use them though I had to shrink coated the middle of them with a 10mm/1cm peice of shirking plastic. The shrink plastic coating that I have is heat activated and unfortunatly I don’t own a heat gun yet, so I shrank them in a pan of boiling water. This did the trick perfectly.

Now that theyre was shrink wrap on the centre all I had to do was wrap the wire around a screw and fasten in before twisting the fingers together with a powerdrill in the same fashion you would a wire armature.

They are now able to be attached to the armature ready to do some filming.

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Jazz Hands

Building Armature.

Originally, I set aside half a day to build up my armature kit. After a few hours working on it though, I realised this clearly wasn’t going to be the case. However, with an expensive armature kit, I figured it was better to take my time that rush it and potentially ruin it.

I started out with a diagram of what I was about to build. If I was creating a specific character then I would have made sure that the preportians matched that of the character. In my case, I built it to 1/7 scale of a human body; which after researching, seemed to be the standard size for animating with.

I started by cutting down peices of threaded rod into the correct sizes for the specific limbs. For this I used a jr. hacksaw and a small vice; taking extra care to make sure that I sawed directly down the measured line, even the smallest error here could have meant i’d be left with a lopsized armature.

Once these lengths are cut down to the correct size it is important to file them down so that they will fit perfectly into the ball bearings and other joints. Filing poorly here will also mean that when the joints are in, the Loctite solution will not active properly.

Once these are all filed down it is time to screw them into the desired joints. I build the armature first before rebuilding it with the locking solution. This is more time consuming but it allows you to check that you definatly have the desired proportians.

At this stage I had all of the joints ready to be connected together. This is extremely fiddley and you’ll notice that the bits will roll away from you. In retrospect it might have be a lot easier to have a friend hold onto these while you screw it together.

At this point it will be looking a lot more like an armature and less like a bag of metal bits and bobs. In the next post I will explain how I assembled the hands and finished off my armature ready for filming.

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Mouth Shapes and Replacement Eyes.

Mouth Shapes and Replacement Eyes.

Using the mouth shapes that I drew out for my 2d test. I replicated these into Plasticine versions beginning with the lip shapes. Once I had made the lip shapes I was able to create the teeth. When we talk, our top teeth are always anchored in the same place. It was important that the top teeth don’t move so that it doesn’t look like they are moving around the face too much.

Building the Sausage.

To build the sausage I began with two packets of Newplast oil based clay and began to sculpt it around the wire structure. If the model was going to move I would have wrapped the metal in tape so stop it shredding its way through the clay too easily.

After building it up into a rough sausage shape, I began smoothing it off with upward strokes from my thumbs.

At this point I realised that the “brown” clay really didn’t look the colour of a sausage and so decided to apply a very thin smooth layer of Plasticine completely covering the sausage. Then I began giving it a little shineand to do this I just rubbed Talcum power onto it and buffed it up with my thumbs. This is a great little trick for making any Plasticine model look really smooth and shiney.

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Making the Base.

After the last few years of animating with Newplast clay, I cant stress enough the importance of building a simple rig to go underneath the clay. You may not think it at first, but once you start animating without a rig you will notice the plasticine will lose its shape a lot quicker that a rigged one. So in this post I am going to run through how I built a simple rig to go inside my sausage character.

Building a simple rig is real easy, and it will just give you added peice of mind that your character has some backbone. My character is going to be stationary as it is for a lip syncing project so in most respects the rig I am building here could be used for sculpting as well.

To create the rig I began with a sheet of mdf. Mdf is cost effective, handles tools well without splitting and it also provides a smooth surface to build on top of. You could also use other woods as long as they are sturdy. Make sure you avoid Bolser wood as it is far too soft.
I marked out a loose square on the corner of the board. To be honest, as long as the board is wide enough to provide stability to your sculpt you are good to go. Saw this down and if you like give the corners a nice sand.
Drawing a line with a ruler from the diagonal corners will give you a rough Center-point. This is used to drill a hole for the wire cable.
To make the wire cable, I used aluminium wire, and folded it in half. Placing the folder end into a vice and the tips of the other strands into an electric drill I gave it a quick twirl.
There is a general rule for twisting wire if it is too lose it will be too bendy and brittle, too tight it will snap easily the trick is to get it in the middle but with thick wire, you don’t need to worry too much. Do it depends on how much you want your character to move.
Once you have the cable and board. You will need to bond the two together. I did this with epoxy (2 part) resin. This is widely available in any DIY shop and even Poundland!!). Squirt out equal parts resin and hardener 1:1 and give them a good old stir insuring that both the colours have merged well. Place a nice blob of this in the screwed hole and push in the metal cable. Epoxy usually hardens in about 6-10 minutes providing it has been stirred well.
This should be good enough to build onto, however I find that for added stability it helps to build around this joint with Milliput or plumbers epoxy putty. There is nothing worse that a rig that comes loose mid shot or scene. These can be used for any simple character and in my next post I will explain how I used it to provide stability when constructing my sausage character.

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