I've historically always done the rod in feet, plugging holes method, but really want to up my game.

I keep looking for behind-the-scenes footage that may give me a glimpse of how the larger studios do their tie downs. From what I gather, Laika does a lot of rigging and post-production elimination. I've recently been obsessed with figuring out how Bixpix studios does their characters with Tumble Leaf. In this behind the scenes video ( http://vimeo.com/97622366 ) they clearly use a rig for the flying characters, but I don't see any evidence of foot screw tie downs. Are they using magnets? What do they do when the character is leaping in the air at the end? Use a rig just for those few frames?

I'm looking for any insight that you other animators may have, not necessarily from your own productions, but also from any books or set visits you may have made to larger professional productions.

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All the studios use tie down rods and plug the holes/paint them out in post. Sometimes the holes are plugged with clay, sometimes with small pegs. If a character is in the air, a rig is used, even if it's only for a few frames. Magnets are rarely used. Unfortunately there is no magic tie down secret.
I've seen magnets in action at Cosgrove Hall in the UK, where they are more popular. If I had a puppet sliding and dancing on a polished floor, I might consider them. A friend used them, but found the floors did have to be smooth sheet steel for them to grip well. He also seemed to be a bit restricted in how far off balance his puppets could be, without losing their grip and falling over. His puppets seemed to take shorter steps so their centre of gravity didn't get far out from the foot on the ground. My puppets can bend over as far as I like, even horizontal just above the ground, held by one foot, and I like it that way. And I often have rough ground, where holes are easier to hide, and in many shots the ground where the character is standing is out of shot anyway, so I am happy with my T- Slot tiedowns.
I use rigs for just those few frames where they are needed. I know some tall spindly Tim Burton puppets with small feet needed rigs just about all the time though. Painting the rig out is pretty easy, but sometimes painting out the shadow of the rig is trickier. It's a step I would rather avoid when I can. But for feature films with people to do rig removal, or things like blending the upper and lower replacement faces, extra work in post production is not such a big deal. For me, a day spent cleaning up in post is a day I can't get any animation, or puppet making, or set building done, and those are all more fun!

Thanks guys, this was really helpful.
I will just keep hoping then that someone makes a quantum leap in tie-down technology sometime soon.

Are you looking for anything in particular, I mean, are there any problems with the usual tiedown methods that you're trying to overcome or something? I can imagine there might be a few variations on the classics, but I doubt there's anything that beats them. Do you have any reason to believe there is some kind of tiedown secret? 

Bruce Bickford had an interesting way of making tiedowns. He would jam the loop of a folded piece of wire into the puppet's back. The ends of the wire would go into the set floor, which was made of clay. He would find a way to conceal those wire ends behind the legs every frame and you would never see them as a puppet walked across a set. On-screen, they seem to almost float, but it's very effective. That's the one thing I really took away from interning with Bickford in the 90's. He has some clever ways of doing things.

Thanks Nick, that is a super great reply. Much needed information in a clear response. I too have wondered different reasons for different types.

StopmoNick said:

I've seen magnets in action at Cosgrove Hall in the UK, where they are more popular. If I had a puppet sliding and dancing on a polished floor, I might consider them. A friend used them, but found the floors did have to be smooth sheet steel for them to grip well. He also seemed to be a bit restricted in how far off balance his puppets could be, without losing their grip and falling over. His puppets seemed to take shorter steps so their centre of gravity didn't get far out from the foot on the ground. My puppets can bend over as far as I like, even horizontal just above the ground, held by one foot, and I like it that way. And I often have rough ground, where holes are easier to hide, and in many shots the ground where the character is standing is out of shot anyway, so I am happy with my T- Slot tiedowns.
I use rigs for just those few frames where they are needed. I know some tall spindly Tim Burton puppets with small feet needed rigs just about all the time though. Painting the rig out is pretty easy, but sometimes painting out the shadow of the rig is trickier. It's a step I would rather avoid when I can. But for feature films with people to do rig removal, or things like blending the upper and lower replacement faces, extra work in post production is not such a big deal. For me, a day spent cleaning up in post is a day I can't get any animation, or puppet making, or set building done, and those are all more fun!

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