Hello there!
Making my fist stop-motion movie and have some questions about technique. I wanna use tie-dows and wooden set to make puppets stay sturdy, but I don't quite understand how to put a cover down the set floor.

I mean, there are puppets feet and these holes for tie-downs in the set floor. Thus how do you guys do various kinds of the surface in your sets?

I would be grateful for any information about it.

Tags: cover, decoration, help, set, stage, tie-down

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Strider has a tutorial on hiding tiedown holes somewhere...

Like him - When the holes can be seen, I put a plug of plasticine in the hole, about the same colour as the set floor.  Usually my set floors are blotchy and mottled anyway, with a few colours in them, so it doesn't have to match perfectly.

Another way could be a small piece of masking tape, painted to match. 

When the puppet foot goes over the hole, the plasticine can be poked out from below with the tiedown.  The foot hides it.  When it is time to lift the foot, the plasticine is pushed back in the hole.  It may not match exactly how it looked before the foot went there, but you can't tell, because you didn't see the change, it was hidden by the foot.

Often you don't see or notice the holes.  I have used a bold painted pattern to imitate a loud carpet in a pub, with dark and light spots in a regular pattern, and put the holes in the dark spots - they didn't show at all.  With other sets (like the stage in L'Animateur)  they show a bit but I didn't worry too much, they were meant to be puppets in a puppet show anyway.

I also sometimes have a carpeted floor - usually a velveteen or chenille fabric with a pile,  or fuzzy felty fabric, but finer than actual full scale carpet.  The holes are drilled in the particle board floor underneath, then the carpet is put down - with a little light spray glue and some staples.  Over the holes, a slit is cut in the carpet with small scissors.  The slit opens up to let the tiedown through, and closes up again when it is removed, and with the pile fabric you don't see it.

This might work to some extent with paper or plastic sheet laid over the set floor, a slit that mostly closes up above the hole, but without the pile to hide it, it would probably show a little bit.

Other sets are outdoor scenes with rough ground, and most of the holes disappear into the general roughness, especially if the camera is fairly low.  I make rocky bits that stick up, and hollows, and cracks, mostly with plaster and tile adhesive, and a few holes just blend into that.  I might paint a dark line going across the hole to break up the round shape, and make it look like part of a crack.  From a low angle I might even have a mound in the foreground that blocks the hollow where the holes are.  But if the camera is up high looking down, they are likely to show up, so it's back to the plasticine plugs.

The one time it's really hard is when you have a smooth polished floor in plain colours.  Any patches or plugs are likely to show, either the colour is different or they are less shiny.  So I don't do polished floors!  That's the one time magnets might be worth using.  Otherwise I guess you could fill the hole with plasticine and paint it to match, then after the foot lifts off you would have to fill again and re-paint.

The last option is to fix it in post.  Just as you can paint out support wires by using a clean shot of the background, you can paint out holes.  Get a shot of the set before you start animating, then put the puppet in and animate.   Use that clean frame in Photoshop, TV Paint, or whatever, to replace the bit where the holes appear.  But watch out for shadows - if the puppet is still casting a shadow over the hole for a couple of frames, the bit of clean background won't match, because the shadow wasn't there then.  You will have to sample a bit of the floor nearby that is in shadow, to patch over it.  Then when the shadow moves away, patch it with the clean background frame.

Thank you so much!! I really appreciate the help!

Here's that tutorial Nick mentioned: http://www.stopmoshorts.net/?p=258

Thanks for link, Strider, it's very helpful indeed!

Due to said problems with traditional tie-downs, I have started using magnets. I am sure there are better ways to do this, but I use magnets salvaged from old computers. They are strong, but not strong enough to fly across the room like some rare earth magnets are. Using epoxy, I attach small ceramic disk magnets (sold in craft stores) to the bottom of the puppets feet during the build-up phase. I cover my plywood animation stage  with blue cloth (green could also be used). I put the puppet on the set and place one of the computer magnets under the set directly below the foot to be tied down.  The ceramic magnet in the foot attracts through the wooden floor to the computer magnet underneath, thus holding the foot down. When I need to move that foot, I simply remove the computer magnet from underneath. No holes to drill, no threaded rods to tighten. One variant would be to use a piece of sheet metal as the floor, eliminating the need for the second magnet underneath (see attached pic).

Nice answer Stopmonick and I am glad you posted the tutorial Strider. I have seen your video on Tie downs and the text tutorial helps fill in the blanks.

I learned two major things.

1. Pre-Drill. I often wondered how you could get a hole drilled under a puppet without moving it.

2. Fix in post- I am all for using computers for set clean up (just not in favor of using it to enhance the puppet)

I pre-drill, in theory! Now and then, I need a hole where I didn't expect to, and have to drill one in the middle of the animation. The puppet has to be bent out of the way, and the hole drilled. Then I use a hand- held vac to clean up the sawdust. Then the puppet is put back as closely as possible, but it doesn't usually have to be perfect because you don't want to repeat the same frame, you want the position for the next frame.
Sometimes you can drill from underneath instead, so the puppet doesn't need to move as far out of the way.

Magnets seem to me be much easier technique to work with. My puppets is about 11 inches high with simple wire armature inside.  

So, if  there will be magnets in its feet, then won 't the wire bend spontaneously every time foot rises?  

And by the way, don't you know how to make rigs for support puppets while a jump or run?
 Wallace Jones said:

Due to said problems with traditional tie-downs, I have started using magnets. 

If you are using the first magnetic technique that I described the wire won't bend every time the foot rises because the second magnet underneath the table is removed. There is no magnetic force acting on the magnet in the foot at that point so you can animate as normal. Once the foot is back down, you place the second magnet under the table to hold it down, repeating the process for each leg. However, in the second magnetic technique that I describe with the metal floor, picking the foot up is a bit trickier because you do have to raise it a bit higher than normal to escape the force of the magnet. The result is not the smoothest walk cycle because when the foot is coming back down the magnet will grab it and pull it down when its about a inch off the surface of the metal floor. Covering the metal floor with cloth helps to counteract this somewhat. As for support rigs, they can be made of armature wire attached to a wooden block. The rig base can be outfitted with magnets and tied down in similar fashion. These rigs can be painted blue (or green) and removed via chroma key or in post.

Swirro said:

Magnets seem to me be much easier technique to work with. My puppets is about 11 inches high with simple wire armature inside.  

So, if  there will be magnets in its feet, then won 't the wire bend spontaneously every time foot rises?  

And by the way, don't you know how to make rigs for support puppets while a jump or run?
 Wallace Jones said:

Due to said problems with traditional tie-downs, I have started using magnets. 

I was just searching the forum for posts about tie-downs and I came across this old thread!  I'm about to embark on my first proper animation and was really unsure about what to do in terms of securing my puppets.  My main issue is that I'm scared to pre-drill holes, start animating, and then realise that my puppet's foot isn't going to land in the right place (my puppet is a dog, so I have a tricky walk to contend with!)!  I'm scared of drilling holes mid-shoot :-/   

Wallace Jones, I like the idea of using magnets which aren't rare earth magnets (they can damage computing equipment can't they?) but I'm just wondering how strong these ceramic disc magnets are?  If the base of my set was 12mm thick, would the magnets be effective?  I'd rather use two magnets than magnets and metal sheeting.  Or would you suggest I use a thinner board as my set base?

Thank you!

i can say from experience...if they arent rare earth magnets they wont attract through even thin cardboard , let alone plywood! You will have to pony up for the real mccoy or else be dissapointed... however when using metal sheeting as a floor with minimal cover between it seems to work ok with some super powerful standard store bought magnets. If you are in the U.S. then i reccommend harbor freight... they have some cheap magnets in various sizes!


 For some reason, the magnets attract better through wood than cardboard. Maybe this has something to do with the density, but I am not sure. I used a really strong standard magnet that was salvaged out of a old computer for the anchor magnet that goes underneath. In retrospect those ceramic magnets are probably not the best choice for the bottom of the puppets feet. They work, but something stronger, as Chris suggested, would be more ideal.  Rare earth magnets can damage hard drives if placed in close proximity.The fabric covered sheet metal technique may be a option for you if you  just want to jump in and start the animation without building a stage, drilling holes, etc. However, let me suggest another technique. Build your puppets with simple wire loops for feet. Using a wooden base, simply screw down the feet with a electric drill or screwdriver. You won't have to elevate the stage or pre-drill any holes. This way, you can put the puppet's foot down where ever you want and just screw it down. See "The Old Cat and the Young Boy" by Shawn Kerns in the video section to see how this looks. It is barely noticeable. I plan to use this technique in my next project. Let us know what you decide.

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