The first step in making the new puppet is to determine its height and create a pattern for the wire armature. I’ve decided to make mine 12 inches high. Since this puppet should be as perfect a match to the live action character as possible, my next step is to make measurements and apply them to the pattern. So, if my character is 64 inches high and my puppet is 12 inches high, one inch on the pattern equals 5.33 inches in real life. If you need a math refresher, here is the equation to use in this case: 64″ divided by 12 = 5.33. Say the measurement from my shoulder to fingertip is 28.5″, divide 28.5 by 5.33 to find that the puppet’s arm should be 5.35″.
The pattern for the puppet’s wire armature.
Detail of the pattern for the wired puppet hand. I’ll use a mixture of 18 gauge copper and 16 gauge aluminum wire to achieve the correct finger width.
While I am sticking to natural proportions for this puppet, many animated characters have much larger heads in comparison to the rest of their bodies than is found in real life. Adult humans are usually about 7.5 to 8 heads high, counting the head.
Here is a good diagram I found on Wikipedia. You can see that cartoon characters usually resemble infants or young children in proportions.
My next step is to build the wire armature. I’ve just started it. Here is a photo of it on top of the pattern.
The first two wires twisted together to form the torso.
Starting a long term animation project in a world where technology is constantly changing has its challenges. I shot Blood Tea and Red String in 16 mm film because, when I started, high quality video wasn’t readily available. I hope to get a new transfer of the film done in HD eventually. Seed in the Sand will benefit from the many technological advances that are so easily accessible now. The picture quality of my new Canon 7D is amazing! And I love using Dragonframe stop motion software. When I started out as an animator, I had never heard of any sort of video assistance to see how my movements were working and I didn’t even know how to anchor the character’s feet to the set! I’ve learned so much since then. I don’t miss animating blind on my old Bolex at all.
I’ve been doing some reading about what resolutions are available for theatrical projection and what the likely direction of development will be. Right now, a few theaters are projecting in 4k but most are using 1080p. While I am preparing my project in full HD with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, I am maintaining my source files in full 5184 x 3456 resolution so that I will be able to release Seed in the Sand in 4K, with a resolution of 3840 × 2160 or greater if that becomes the standard in the future.
These are two of the helpful articles that I read:
I’ve been working on more storyboards and had a moment of clarity about the beginning of Seed in the Sand. I’ve been struggling with the idea of doing green screen to add myself as the Masked Woman to a scene including the animated characters for the opening sequence. It just didn’t sit well. It’s easy to write in the script, but hard to make look seamless and beautiful with no budget.
Then after making the post about Jan Svankmajer the other day and taking a look at Alice again, I watched little Alice turn into a doll and the solution became obvious. I need to make a puppet to match the live action Masked Woman. No green screen needed.
My schedule currently allows only two days a week with enough uninterrupted time to animate, but I’ve got lots of little bits of time available to work on other things. So, this is what I will be doing with the rest of my free time.
For those of you who are interested in what goes into making an animatable puppet, I will be documenting the creation of the doll, step by step, here on this blog!
Here is a photo of the live action costume to be recreated for the puppet:
The Masked Woman’s Costume
And here are a couple of the storyboards where the Masked Woman will be a puppet now:
Here is the Masked Woman walking into the dead forest.
The little creature is looking down from his nest to see what the Masked Woman is doing.
One of my early animation influences was Alice by Jan Svankmajer. I first saw Alice when I was an impressionable 19 year old art student. It contained so many of the things that I loved and introduced me to so much more. The combination of deteriorating taxidermy, strange sock caterpillars in an old pealing house, mysterious substances in jars and so much more with the story of Alice in Wonderland set me on the path I am still traveling. That film is what opened my eyes to the magic of stop motion animation and inspired me to take an animation class and make my first short animated film, Blood and Sunflowers.
Here is a clip of Alice that I found on YouTube that has been set to the music of Múm (not original to the movie):
To learn more about Jan Svankmajer go to his website here: