May 12, 2010

Puppet update

Second to last post on Prague puppet making, I believe. I have had a great couple of days in the magical world of the czech language, in colder than expected studios with inspiring sets, puppets and animators. Yesterday I went to the foam latex studio of puppet maker extraordinaire, Jarozlav Bezdek.

I spent the day making the hands for a puppet I have designed and will complete by the end of this week. The hands will be, in their final form, made out of a foam latex material, which is softer and lighter that the latex available in the plaster shed.
The process of making puppet hands is quite simple, as I learnt, but it requires some materials which might not be so easy or cheap to acquire. First, I experimented in clay to model the right hands for the puppet I had in mind. I went through a couple designs, finally deciding on some rougher larger hands that will hopefully look a bit more like wood than latex. The best way to model hands of of clay is by carving them out of a block. Making them through an additive process took a bit more time and resulted thinner than I expected, too thin for the wire that will be fitted inside.

After the hands were modeled, I stretched out a rectangular panel of clay, about 1/2 " thick or half the thickness of the hands I made, and I traced the outline of the hands on the sheet of clay. Use a different color than the hands, so you can better separate the two later. I carved out the shape of the hands following the outline and fitted them in there. Then, with L shaped metal corners surrounding the hands, I covered the hands in plaster. After it dried I flipped it over and removed the layer of clay. The hands remained attached to the plaster. I covered the other side of the hands in plaster in the same way as before, adding a layer of soap in between to separate the two sides. A couple pieces of clay are used also after the layer of soap to make it easier to get the hands out of the mould.
The puppets I was learning to make have only 4 fingers because of the mechanism that is used to attach them to the armature. The wire used for the fingers was made of very soft lead. Do not lick the lead, it will make you sick! When the mould is dry, the clay hands are removed and the wire is fitted into it. The latex mixture is poured into either side of the mould and eventually baked in an oven to complete the process. Contact me if you are interested in making some puppets or puppet hands out of foam latex in the near future, or if you have any questions about the process or the vague descriptions I wrote where I brush over important details !

I'll post soon on armature design and technical drawings.

Happy animating. Make some puppets and watch THIS!


May 8, 2010

Czech Puppet Animation

Hello SMFA Animation people!
The last couple of posts are an excellent introduction to my post! I am currently in Prague doing a workshop on Czech puppet design and puppet animation. Its a ten day schedule where we learn about the way that stop motion animation has been traditionally done in the Czech Republic. Well, all that we can fit in such a short time frame. For the last two days we have been making a short animated film with the same style of puppets that were used in Jan Balej's film "One night in one city". It has been an amazing experience to be able to work with these puppets. The are created with a special armature specially designed to allow the most controlled movement of the puppet. The armatures is made of two wooden parts and several metal joints and extremities. The wooden pieces are placed in the center of the puppet, at the chest and at the pelvic area. They join together the specially designed pieces that form the legs, arms, neck and torso of the puppet, which are mainly created as a series of joints.
This particular example does not have the top wooden part. But you can see that the puppet construction is much more sophisticated than a wire armature. The joints at the knees, the ankles, the elbows, etc., are set so there will be no discrepancy in the way the puppet bends his body when he moves.
Later in in the week I will have a lecture on puppet armatures, so I will be able to post a more detailed description of how it all works and where the parts are made. What I know for sure is that the professional armature is relatively expensive, priced at 15000 Kc, the equivalence of 882.5 USD.
For now, I am just enjoying the animation process, in the Hafan studio, where the Czech film, "Fimfarum" was shot.