Has anybody had any experience of making eyeballs that sit inside a hollow cast head, and can be moved by using pins in the pupils?

I was wondering what solutions people have used for parts that hold the balls in place and allow them to move easily within their sockets.

I have had something like this made for me, but there is too much friction between the eyeball and the front of the face to manipulate the eyes, and although the eye balls have been lacquered, they are picking up dirt from the car body filler that is just inside the head around the eyeholes. There is also an issue with the screw that holds the part into the head, so I don't have control over the tension across the whole piece.

I'm just trying to find a fix or an alternative, or even someone who could take on the work.

Thank you!

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Suraya - your head mechanism looks amazing!! 

I really like the approach jowanneke used! It's simple and effective and cuts through all the extra technology we so often get caught up in, plus it mimics reality. When a person looks down the eyelids go along for the ride. Of course we don't look down every time we blink, but then I prefer a very stylized type of animation and to me simplicity and stylization are far more important than mimicking superfluous 'realism'. I think that often results in a labored and cartoonish look - but that's just me and I know I'm in the minority on this one. 

Also, attempts at realistic and complicated eyelid mechanisms have proven to be one of the most problematic things in puppetfilm in recent times. I think if I were going to do blinks now I'd add them digitally to keep them subtle - the eyes need to be the windows of the soul, and shouldn't be distracting. 

My usual approach is the same as Jowanneke - blank eyes are placed in the mould, and the liquid latex or foam latex or silicone forms the sockets around the eyes.  

With blinking - In the past I made eyelid shells of vacform plastic that slide in between the socket and the eyeball.  The socket is rubber, so it can stretch to let the shells fit in.  That was easy for bigger eyes - marble sized or bigger - but I didn't do it with small eyes like most of my human puppets have.  I was using replacement stick-on eyelids of plasticine, and someone I animated for made silicone replacement eyelids for their puppets, complete with eyelashes.  But the problem with all of those stick-on eyelids is that it was very hard to rotate the eyeball without the eyelid coming loose.

For a couple of puppets, the upper eyelid was painted onto the eyeball, so it could only come down as the eye looks down.  Not ideal but I got away with it.

I switched to doing eyeblinks in post production, which works fine for the 4 frames I usually did for a blink.  (1 frame half-closed, 1 or 2 frames fully closed, 1 frame half open.)   But not so good if the puppet's eyes need to stay half-closed for a long period of time.  Better then to have the eyelid physically on the puppet.    I could have the eye rotate sometimes, holding the lid in place with one finger while turning the eye, and sometime pushing it back into place if it moved a little, but it isn't something you want to do a lot of.  The shells that slide under work better for that.

These are the silicone eyelids, a set for each character, that were used in Isabel Peppard's film Butterflies.  It helped that the eyes were big, but they were still fiddly things I had to pick up and apply with tweezers.

This allosaurus hatchling had the styrene shell eyelids that fitted inside the latex socket. There was a line of putty on the edge to give me something to get a grip on, to pull them closed.  If you were to do that with a socket made in a hard material, you would need to make the socket to fit the eyeball plus the thickness of the shell.  It might tend to scratch the paint off the eyelid, too.

Yes, I like the idea of the lids being part of the ball, only my character will also be looking sideways without a lot of head movement, when she is wary / scared / suspicious and trying to keep fairly still. In the film, I have planned for her thoughts to end with a blink, so when the character is trying to get the thoughts out of her head, I have planned for her to blink really hard, for some time. Obviously I can re-consider the performance if I need to.

I guess doing it digitally may be tricky for when they stay shut, and I need to consider what I have time to do in my timescale. 

I was looking at the eyelids in Suzie Templeton's dog. I believe she has used rotating eyeballs. I cannot tell how the eyelids have been done. They do not look like replacement.

I am going to test the idea with the tights, and also see if I can build a small ledge onto the face on which to sit the eyelids. Failing those, I may make non-moving balls and the pupils / iris' to move on top, as I have done before. Really because I have little time left before shooting.

I haven't seen Butterflies. I love the look of that puppet, and I guess with the right design, eyelids that sit more prominently on the face could be done in a few different ways.

Maybe you could use a combination of the two approaches -- e.g. make a "fully closed" cover for the eyes you just have to apply once the eye is fixed shut (or if the eyes in your final puppet are easily swapped, make an alternate pair of "closed" eyeballs), and then add a couple of transition frames of the lid closing/opening digitally?

Suraya said; my character will also be looking sideways without a lot of head movement

The eyeballs I make have eyelids all the way round the ball. The eyes can look right and left as far as you want. Hell, the puppet can look at its own brain if it wants to. With the latest version I even added small eyelashes. That also works. This all is possible because of the flexibility of the rubber. I use no lubricant between the eyeballs and the rubber, just sawdust to prevent stickyness.

Of course! I wasn't envisioning it going all the way around the ball. That's a great idea!

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