Greetings, Im looking to improve my stop motion technique, timing, smoothness, speed etc. Is it best to use a puppet you spent a lot of time making? Or is a simple wire frame puppet better? (quick and easy to make and if it breaks you can just make another quickly)

Thanks in advance!

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Hey Jerry,

  I think you can get some good movement with a simple wire armature. The wire armatures will last for plenty of time with the risk of breakage increasing as it gets more 'mileage'. The breaking, however, can really kill your momentum and cause you to switch into repairing mode. kind of a buzzkill.

  The simple skeleton will allow you to focus on the movement and ignore the character's attributes. It's all about posing, timing, ease in/out. 

  In the last year gave me a list of things that helped me improve:

  • animating in silence, no distractions with earmuffs or earplugs. (Focus)
  • very quick and dirty thumbnail drawings of key poses before beginning
  • acting out the motion first, perhaps recording the video for reference
  • Doing a pop-thru rehearsal before actually capturing the final take <--- a key step
  • taking regular breaks during a long recording session. It's mentally exhausting.

I haven't tried using surface gagues yet, it's on my list though.

Good Luck!

-Geoff

   

Personally I think it's a good idea to start by making some simple practice puppets and then practice animating them as well. Use it to perfect your techniques for puppet making as well as animation, because each time you make one and then use it you'll discover the weak points and the strong points and have a better idea how to modify your techniques next time. Make the puppets one at a time and animate with each after making it and before making the next, don't make the mistake I did of mass manufacturing several at once, or when you discover the weaknesses it's too late, you've already made several puppets that way. 

Here's the technique I developed for my puppets: 

Building the Radke Puppets part 1

Building the Radke Puppets part 2

For my practice puppet I made before all these, unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of how I made it, but it was similar to these but much simpler. Just bundled wire wrapped with the sports wrap, and I believe I wadded a little foam under it where I wanted extra thickness. This makes for a very flexible puppet all over, I didn't even make stiff bones, so if I needed to I could bend an arm or a leg any way I wanted to. Highly recommended! No need to make clothes or moving mouth or anything until later.

Here's Skulkin in action, these are the test animations I did to work out things for characters in the film I was preparing to make:

(You might want to turn down your volume for this one about halfway or so):

And finally I did a practice piece that's also sort of a complete micro-film:

I have animated with bare wire armatures before, but I must say I found it difficult to see what I was doing. Having some flesh on the bones so to speak makes a world of difference as far as I'm concerned. But in the beginning you may be too impatient to wait, so go ahead and do a little bare bones animation if you want. 

Hey Geoff,

What great info, and much appreciated! Your advice and tips probably saved me at least several months practice, especially things youve learned in the process (make a quick sketch first, acting out motions and resting between takes) Im not sure what you meant by a pop through rehearsal though, meaning do a quick animation test first before shooting the main scenes? I was thinking about getting a surface gauge as well, looks like im gonna wait on that too! lol Im thinking the main thing, is practice, practice and more practice? Thanks again for your assistance!

Geoff Clark said:

Hey Jerry,

  I think you can get some good movement with a simple wire armature. The wire armatures will last for plenty of time with the risk of breakage increasing as it gets more 'mileage'. The breaking, however, can really kill your momentum and cause you to switch into repairing mode. kind of a buzzkill.

  The simple skeleton will allow you to focus on the movement and ignore the character's attributes. It's all about posing, timing, ease in/out. 

  In the last year gave me a list of things that helped me improve:

  • animating in silence, no distractions with earmuffs or earplugs. (Focus)
  • very quick and dirty thumbnail drawings of key poses before beginning
  • acting out the motion first, perhaps recording the video for reference
  • Doing a pop-thru rehearsal before actually capturing the final take <--- a key step
  • taking regular breaks during a long recording session. It's mentally exhausting.

I haven't tried using surface gagues yet, it's on my list though.

Good Luck!

-Geoff

   


Hey Strider,

Thanks for the awesome tips and suggestions. From what ive learned so far everything youve said is right on the money. I spent a lot of time (over a month) making my first puppet, then made a quick practice puppet right afterwards. Both have the same problem, but I didnt realize it until afterwards (both are too big and heavy for the doubled up wire I used) So they arent able to support their own weight on one leg, like walking. Both are large at 18inches tall. Was wondering if a simple lightly padded puppet might be better instead?..but as you said, I could use practice in making puppets AND animation, so why not do both? Think my next one will be a bit smaller, 12 inches...  Your work is amazing bw, professional, very smooth and realistic too....How long did it take you to get to that level? Thanks again!
Strider said:

Personally I think it's a good idea to start by making some simple practice puppets and then practice animating them as well. Use it to perfect your techniques for puppet making as well as animation, because each time you make one and then use it you'll discover the weak points and the strong points and have a better idea how to modify your techniques next time. Make the puppets one at a time and animate with each after making it and before making the next, don't make the mistake I did of mass manufacturing several at once, or when you discover the weaknesses it's too late, you've already made several puppets that way. 

Here's the technique I developed for my puppets: 

Building the Radke Puppets part 1

Building the Radke Puppets part 2

For my practice puppet I made before all these, unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of how I made it, but it was similar to these but much simpler. Just bundled wire wrapped with the sports wrap, and I believe I wadded a little foam under it where I wanted extra thickness. This makes for a very flexible puppet all over, I didn't even make stiff bones, so if I needed to I could bend an arm or a leg any way I wanted to. Highly recommended! No need to make clothes or moving mouth or anything until later.

Here's Skulkin in action, these are the test animations I did to work out things for characters in the film I was preparing to make:

(You might want to turn down your volume for this one about halfway or so):

And finally I did a practice piece that's also sort of a complete micro-film:

How long did it take to get my animation smooth? Honeslty, it took until Nick H explained how it's really done until it sank into my head and I actually understood it. Pretty much as soon as I learned he techniques, my animation made the quantum leap to as smooth as what you see here. And it just so happens I made a thread about it: THE SECRET - Using "Step To Live" for smooth stopmotion (this is ho...

Oh, how could I forget? You may already know about this ,but another important factor in getting smooth animation is what Disney animators called the 12 Principles of Animation. <- That's a writeup I did years ago, with some links but many of them are probably defunct now. I just checked my favorite which was the Animated Cartoon Factory site mentioned at the end, and the site is still there, but the example videos aren't working for me - when I click on one I get "Unsupported Codec". So I guess the videos are just too old and can't be played on the sleek modern internet. Still the best book I know about it is the Animator's Survival Guide. 

This looks like a pretty decent guide, but I really wish I could find good examples of exactly how to do it, like the Animated Cartoon Factory used to have: THE 12 PRINCIPLES OF ANIMATION AS ILLUSTRATED THROUGH DISNEY AND DI...

This one's pretty good, but it still doesn't go into the nitty gritty details you need to know as an animator, it's more like a quick sound-byte version to make it all seem really cool, but not great for instruction. For that you probably need to get the Animator's Survival Guide, he really breaks it down to frame-by frame and shows exactly how to create each effect. 

Jerry,

   pop-thru's are just a recording of only the key poses, without every frame or final lighting or scene dressing. A fast dry-run of the motion exposes what hidden problems may occur. They can take just five minutes. 

    I found this old tweet that describes it:

https://twitter.com/TragicMagicFilm/status/954051051472142336

The pop-thru can expose problems with armature, with the puppet's position and how hard it is to reach it, shadows, staging, and anything else that you need to correct before the final motion. 

What I have found is that the pop-thru gives me great new ideas for timing and acting decisions that weren't in my mind before. It's like a thumbnail for the shot.

I'm glad this is helpful for you.

G

Jerry said:

Hey Geoff,

What great info, and much appreciated! Your advice and tips probably saved me at least several months practice, especially things youve learned in the process (make a quick sketch first, acting out motions and resting between takes) Im not sure what you meant by a pop through rehearsal though, meaning do a quick animation test first before shooting the main scenes? I was thinking about getting a surface gauge as well, looks like im gonna wait on that too! lol Im thinking the main thing, is practice, practice and more practice? Thanks again for your assistance!

Geoff Clark said:

Hey Jerry,

  I think you can get some good movement with a simple wire armature. The wire armatures will last for plenty of time with the risk of breakage increasing as it gets more 'mileage'. The breaking, however, can really kill your momentum and cause you to switch into repairing mode. kind of a buzzkill.

  The simple skeleton will allow you to focus on the movement and ignore the character's attributes. It's all about posing, timing, ease in/out. 

  In the last year gave me a list of things that helped me improve:

  • animating in silence, no distractions with earmuffs or earplugs. (Focus)
  • very quick and dirty thumbnail drawings of key poses before beginning
  • acting out the motion first, perhaps recording the video for reference
  • Doing a pop-thru rehearsal before actually capturing the final take <--- a key step
  • taking regular breaks during a long recording session. It's mentally exhausting.

I haven't tried using surface gagues yet, it's on my list though.

Good Luck!

-Geoff

   

Nick is the Man! I used his awesome puppet making tutorials on youtube to make my puppet. I also found a free pdf copy of the animators survival kit online so will def read it front to back as well as the link you sent. What would you say are the most important techniques that got you to the next level quickest and helped you make the most improvements? ( cushioning & step to live?) thanks again!

Strider said:

How long did it take to get my animation smooth? Honeslty, it took until Nick H explained how it's really done until it sank into my head and I actually understood it. Pretty much as soon as I learned he techniques, my animation made the quantum leap to as smooth as what you see here. And it just so happens I made a thread about it: THE SECRET - Using "Step To Live" for smooth stopmotion (this is ho...

Great advice Geoff, Makes perfect sense, to put your puppet through a quick pose practice before actually filming... This way you can correct any problems before the filming starts and you can actually see if your puppet can hold or attain those positions... Much thanks!

Geoff Clark said:

Jerry,

   pop-thru's are just a recording of only the key poses, without every frame or final lighting or scene dressing. A fast dry-run of the motion exposes what hidden problems may occur. They can take just five minutes. 

    I found this old tweet that describes it:

https://twitter.com/TragicMagicFilm/status/954051051472142336

The pop-thru can expose problems with armature, with the puppet's position and how hard it is to reach it, shadows, staging, and anything else that you need to correct before the final motion. 

What I have found is that the pop-thru gives me great new ideas for timing and acting decisions that weren't in my mind before. It's like a thumbnail for the shot.

I'm glad this is helpful for you.

G

Jerry said:

Hey Geoff,

What great info, and much appreciated! Your advice and tips probably saved me at least several months practice, especially things youve learned in the process (make a quick sketch first, acting out motions and resting between takes) Im not sure what you meant by a pop through rehearsal though, meaning do a quick animation test first before shooting the main scenes? I was thinking about getting a surface gauge as well, looks like im gonna wait on that too! lol Im thinking the main thing, is practice, practice and more practice? Thanks again for your assistance!

Geoff Clark said:

Hey Jerry,

  I think you can get some good movement with a simple wire armature. The wire armatures will last for plenty of time with the risk of breakage increasing as it gets more 'mileage'. The breaking, however, can really kill your momentum and cause you to switch into repairing mode. kind of a buzzkill.

  The simple skeleton will allow you to focus on the movement and ignore the character's attributes. It's all about posing, timing, ease in/out. 

  In the last year gave me a list of things that helped me improve:

  • animating in silence, no distractions with earmuffs or earplugs. (Focus)
  • very quick and dirty thumbnail drawings of key poses before beginning
  • acting out the motion first, perhaps recording the video for reference
  • Doing a pop-thru rehearsal before actually capturing the final take <--- a key step
  • taking regular breaks during a long recording session. It's mentally exhausting.

I haven't tried using surface gagues yet, it's on my list though.

Good Luck!

-Geoff

   

Most important techniques – definitely start with ease-in and ease-out, which is also called cushioning as you said. If you only use one of the principles let that be it. When you've got that one fairly well in hand move on to anticipation and follow-though. Honestly that's all I've used, well no I do actually use secondary animation too come to think of it, though I didn't really practice that one so much as just start doing it, things like hair, clothing, or maybe arms moving after the main body moves, and just a bit behind it so it needs to 'catch up'. 

Aside from that, yes, using step-to-live was the most powerful thing in the arsenal, and also what I call 'finding your animator's patience'. For me that happened on the Skull Love clip - I just slowed way way down and didn't feel the slightest hint of impatience (which plagues beginning animators). I suppose it's a sort of meditation thing - you drop into that timeless present moment and think no thought of the future or the past. It's very Zen really, and when you're able to hit that timeless state your work improves drastically. 

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