Is there a common scale people work with? or is it "to each there own?"

I'm currently working at 1 inch to a foot. 1/12 scale? So my puppets are 6 inches tall. Would anyone recommend a specific scale to work with? I know it can be different for long shots to close ups, but as far as the main characters, is there a size that just makes life easier, or is it "whateverman"

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My puppets tend to be around 7" tall, but not to any particular scale - they have big heads and hands and short little legs, so parts of them are in different scales. For making props I need to decide what part to scale them to, like for instance bottles and mugs need to look right compared to their heads and hands, but stools and chairs are scaled to their legs. 

From most of the behind the scenes footage i've seen it seems like most puppets are 6-10 inches. It's just getting towards crunch time to start building sets and i need to finalize the scale so my crew can move forward. We might like to refurbish some doll house furniture to cut down on fabrication but i'm not sure if we really want to do that ether. 

I like mixing up the scales like you're doing, it's a sweet stylistic move! To be honest i was a little disappointed in frankenweenie because of the realism Burton tried to go for. I think the magic in what stop motion can create is in style and not trying to copy reality. (movements real-characters and set not). Take the car in ParaNorman! look at how skewed it is! I love that!

Im just thinking about my sanity and if 8 months from now i might be like "WHY DIDN"T I MAKE THINGS JUST A HAIR BIGGER!!" I'm gearing up for a 1-(whatever) year production for a ten minute film, so now is the time to figure stuff out. 

I wish the U.S. would go metric! But for me to think one inch to a foot doesn't hurt my brain, so i can measure chairs and T.V.s and cars and BAM theres the mesurements-just in inches.

BLA!



Mikey Pounds said:

To be honest i was a little disappointed in frankenweenie because of the realism Burton tried to go for. I think the magic in what stop motion can create is in style and not trying to copy reality. (movements real-characters and set not). Take the car in ParaNorman! look at how skewed it is! I love that!

You bring up a complex but important issue - at least one I feel strongly about. With Frankenweenie I liked the stylized puppets but like you I wish the sets had been more wonky. It was not only realism, but a very simplified and flat realism - the landscape was like a billiards table! Paranorman was actually far more realist than Frankenweenie - even though the car was warped and all, it had every seam and screw you'd see in an actual station wagon - just skewed. As for puppets, ParaNorman went with a fully realistic anatomy - every bone and muscles seemed to be accurate, just distorted in terms of proportioning. I like the more cartoony puppets in Frankenweenie (though I like the Norman puppets too). I guess I just wish they had gone a bit more Nightmare on the sets. 

I live in a place that went metric in the 1960's, so initially I thought I would go with a 1:5 scale.  There it was on my scale ruler, so it was easy to translate real world objects.   But nothing comes ready made in that scale.   When I wanted some motorcycles in the set I found you can get them in 1:6, and there is a lot of detail visible in oder motorbikes with the engine exposed.  There are a lot of other things made for 12" action figures in that size too.   So I moved towards 1:6 to take advantage of that.    But not quite true to scale, I tend to have heads and hands a little bigger.   Accurate heads in 1:6 are very small and were hard for me to sculpt - I just finished working on a film for someone that was an accurate 1:6 scale, and though I sculpted several bodies, I struggled with the heads and another sculptor did all but two of them.  They were also hard to animate, the little mouths could be opened and closed, but you couldn't get any real shaping with them.

But as Strider was saying, often the world you are creating is nothing like the proportions of the real world.  And usually I like that approach better, I wish I could free up my own puppet design and get further away from realistic!   I really liked animating the faces on Isabel's Butterflies puppets, the heads were big, so the mouths were too, and I could actually shape them a bit to suggest different phonemes.   My own puppet heads, at least the human ones, have smaller mouths and I can't do as much with them.

I couldn't put a scale to Isabel's sets, everything was the size that worked in that world.  But 1:5 or bigger mostly.

But anyway, I take 1:6 scale as a basic starting point for the sets.  I'm doing slightly smaller bodies, so they are usually around 10 to 11 1/2 inches tall, but the heads are bigger than 1:6 action figure heads.  Sometimes I think they look too big because they are only a little oversized -they can read like small people or kids, even if they represent a tall person, because of the head proportion.  I suspect if they were a LOT bigger, the rules of proportion would no longer apply and they would look fine.

And wonky sets make sense if the puppets are very stylised, though cartoony puppets like Wallace and Gromit can work in fairly realistic sets.  

Looking at the stills, I find the sets in Paranorman a bit too self-consciously skewed, like in some 60's 2d cartoons.  When every window had to be way warped for no particular reason, it can look a bit contrived.  But I wouldn't want them to be dead straight copies of the real world. 

Adam Elliot's mantra on Mary and Max  - on a sign on the workshop wall to remind the modelmakers not to get too  realistic - was Wonky and Chunky.   The roof tiles on a house, for example, were about 3 times the size of real roof tiles in relation to the size of the building,  and the doors had to be big enough for the puppets go it through.   The typewriter Max uses had big keys, and fewer of them, to fit in with him and his fingers.  That's the Chunky bit.  But lines were never straight, or objects symmetrical, that's the Wonky part.   Nothing can be bought off-the-shelf if you are working with that kind of stylised reality, everything has to be made for that production.  I bought a 1:6 typewriter recently, made for action figure diaramas, it would look stupid in Mary and Max's world, or Tim Burton's.

It's actually easier to build straight sets - there is more work in building curves or odd angles into everything.  And more thought, making it somehow all fit together in its own terms.

I am glad this discussion is going on. I have begun sketch doodling the sets for my first film. With limited room and money I am trying to find ways to cheat the perspective and when I can use mini sets or forced perspective for large areas. My whole life has been technical drawings and mapping so scale is critical to my way of thinking.  I may never be able to come up with something that is skewed (on purpose). I am currently trying to sculpt figures in 1:6. It makes for a tiny head but for my first project there is no dialog.

In order to get around the problem of limited space, and still make my characters around 12" tall, I make smaller scale 1:24 sets for wideshots - like a whole street of houses - and make smaller sections, like just the front porch, in 1:6 scale to use with the characters.

Most recently I made a 1:24 house with a very mild degree of warping, not going for a world of crazy angles so much as an old house that has sagged a bit with age.   I wanted to soften the effect of perfectly straight, hard lines, without forcing myself to warp every single object so it would fit into the scene.  

  

Hello. 

I have been using 1:7th scale for my most recent project and I find that to be really easy to judge by eye as well as not making the props too fiddly. If you have a look at the posts on this blog with images of the props http://anthonyleigh.wordpress.com/ they are all in 1:7th scale. I would recommend somewhere around this size and then adapt as and when you are ready. If you look at a guy called John Frame, he doesn't really use scale he just makes the pieces the size they need to be for the scene. Don't fret too much about they scale and enjoy the pieces you make.  

Gad, Nick, what can I say, except, "You da BOMB!"

StopmoNick said:

In order to get around the problem of limited space, and still make my characters around 12" tall, I make smaller scale 1:24 sets for wideshots - like a whole street of houses - and make smaller sections, like just the front porch, in 1:6 scale to use with the characters.

Most recently I made a 1:24 house with a very mild degree of warping, not going for a world of crazy angles so much as an old house that has sagged a bit with age.   I wanted to soften the effect of perfectly straight, hard lines, without forcing myself to warp every single object so it would fit into the scene.  

  

Niiiiiice StopmoNick! I'm not great with numbers so I've been sitting here for like a half hour trying to wrap my head around conversions X^0 ... so 1:24 would mean 1 inch in the model would equal 24 inches in full scale, which means 1:24 builds would be smaller compared to 1:12 and 1:6??

StopmoNick said:

In order to get around the problem of limited space, and still make my characters around 12" tall, I make smaller scale 1:24 sets for wideshots - like a whole street of houses - and make smaller sections, like just the front porch, in 1:6 scale to use with the characters.

Most recently I made a 1:24 house with a very mild degree of warping, not going for a world of crazy angles so much as an old house that has sagged a bit with age.   I wanted to soften the effect of perfectly straight, hard lines, without forcing myself to warp every single object so it would fit into the scene.  

  

Yes, 1:24 is smaller.  It is one quarter the size of my usual puppet scale of 1:6.  

Biggest - 1:6.  Then 1:12. 1:24 scale is also called 1/2" to the foot. A 6 ft tall human figure would be 3" tall.   

That house looks fantastic, Nick! Is that for the short with Poe and Lovecraft?

And just throwing in my 2 cents on scale -- I also typically aim for 1:6, partially because it's a nice balance between small enough to build stuff feasibly, and big enough to work with easily, and partially because like Nick, I like to take advantage of existing doll accessories at that scale.

That being said, I'm currently planning a short that'll predominantly live in 1:12, but feature excursions into 1:24 or 1:6 for particular shots. Also one that technically uses 1:1 scale puppets, but considering the hero is a 15" tall teddy bear, it's not *that* different. So totally depends on the project.

Nick, your work is astounding. Is there more of your work online you can point us to? I think I've worn out youtube watching all your videos...

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