The main portion of my short involves the character navigating a concrete/brutalist city, so I have a couple of questions regarding materials I would need -

- What is recommended for making the bulk of the buildings, walls, stairs, etc? Wood seems a heavy option, however polystyrene and cardboard seem too light and less durable.

- I've looked at countless tutorials on how to create a fake concrete effect but none of them apply to the process of making a durable stop-motion set. Does anybody have any experience in making a fake concrete/brutalist effect?

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Consider using plywood as the structure, as brutalized architecture is characterized by flat surfaces and right angles. You could use papier mache pulp to cover with a thin layer. Experiment with applying the pulp, then allowing it to dry for a short while before pressing flat with a metal blade. I've been using the papier mache for rough stonework and render, and find it cheap and versatile.

Here's my two cents. I'm currently working on a project that requires large buildings as a backdrop, both as skyline and street level sets. Very little interaction of puppets and buildings is needed so my construction is somewhat light duty.

I used 3/16 thick foam core as the basic structure, then trimmed it with strips of chipboard and cardstock, depending on the thickness I needed. I've used tacky glue throughout. Most pieces were painted before assembly. In the case of the tall building at the back, the top was further shaped with light weight spackling, but papier mache or other material could be used as a filler.

Construction goes pretty quick, but can be tediously repetitious with so many similar shapes. (But that's what animators live for, right?) The larger buildings required some internal bracing (again with foam core) to keep the walls from bowing inward. The buildings shown range from 12 to 26 inches tall.

In  1:6 puppet scale, I use tile adhesive to add a concrete texture.  It grips the surface better than plaster, and will stand a bit of flexing without wanting to flake off.  Glue and sawdust can work too.

I use various materials to build the bigger scale buildings - often a double layer corrugated card, about 10mm thick, and can be cut either with saws or with a knife and ruler.  It's called Sceneboard, and I think it is available in the UK as well as Australia, but no idea about the USA.  http://www.theatricalsupplies.com.au/sceneboard.html  It's mostly self supporting and can be joined with hot glue.  The cut edges do need to be covered though, so you don't see the corrugations.  polystyrene foam also works, or particle board, or MDF, but the corrugated card is lighter and easier to work with.  In some cases I used existing cardboard boxes for the basic shape of the building.

This building is made from the box my old Mac Pro came in, with tile adhesive trowelled onto the surface.  It was about 5 or 6mm thick, thicker than the average cardboard box:

It's laid on thickly, and in a few layers, to create an uneven surface and round off the sharp corners, but for modern architecture you would use less.  The base of this diving tower is more like the brutalist concrete architecture you are talking about - a thinner layer of the tile adhesive brushed on, and lightly sanded afterwards to flatten the surface but leave some pits in it, like concrete cast in forms.  (Set for Anthony Lawrence's short film Grace Under Water.) 

  

I do wider shots in 1:24 scale, and for that I mainly use thinner card for small buildings like houses.  Foam core is good for this too, but usually I just use card because it's cheaper.  I make a base shape for the ground plan out of something heavier like 6mm MDF, 12mm particle board, or whatever, then fold the card walls around it and hot glue or pva glue them on.   But when it comes to big multi-storey buildings I go back to the thicker materials for the walls.  I don't use the tile adhesive unless it's meant to be really rough cast, it's too coarse for this scale.  Airbrushing different shades of grey with low pressure to create a coarse splatter gives it enough of a cement texture in 1:24 scale.

StopmoNick said:

In  1:6 puppet scale, I use tile adhesive to add a concrete texture.  It grips the surface better than plaster, and will stand a bit of flexing without wanting to flake off.  Glue and sawdust can work too.

I use various materials to build the bigger scale buildings - often a double layer corrugated card, about 10mm thick, and can be cut either with saws or with a knife and ruler.  It's called Sceneboard, and I think it is available in the UK as well as Australia, but no idea about the USA.  http://www.theatricalsupplies.com.au/sceneboard.html  It's mostly self supporting and can be joined with hot glue.  The cut edges do need to be covered though, so you don't see the corrugations.  polystyrene foam also works, or particle board, or MDF, but the corrugated card is lighter and easier to work with.  In some cases I used existing cardboard boxes for the basic shape of the building.

This building is made from the box my old Mac Pro came in, with tile adhesive trowelled onto the surface.  It was about 5 or 6mm thick, thicker than the average cardboard box:

It's laid on thickly, and in a few layers, to create an uneven surface and round off the sharp corners, but for modern architecture you would use less.  The base of this diving tower is more like the brutalist concrete architecture you are talking about - a thinner layer of the tile adhesive brushed on, and lightly sanded afterwards to flatten the surface but leave some pits in it, like concrete cast in forms.  (Set for Anthony Lawrence's short film Grace Under Water.) 

I do wider shots in 1:24 scale, and for that I mainly use thinner card for small buildings like houses.  Foam core is good for this too, but usually I just use card because it's cheaper.  I make a base shape for the ground plan out of something heavier like 6mm MDF, 12mm particle board, or whatever, then fold the card walls around it and hot glue or pva glue them on.   But when it comes to big multi-storey buildings I go back to the thicker materials for the walls.  I don't use the tile adhesive unless it's meant to be really rough cast, it's too coarse for this scale.  Airbrushing different shades of grey with low pressure to create a coarse splatter gives it enough of a cement texture in 1:24 scale.

Thank you so much for this reply! I'd heard about the tile adhesive method and wondered about the surface texture, but your pictures show roughly what I'm trying to achieve.

Dave Cooley said:

Here's my two cents. I'm currently working on a project that requires large buildings as a backdrop, both as skyline and street level sets. Very little interaction of puppets and buildings is needed so my construction is somewhat light duty.

I used 3/16 thick foam core as the basic structure, then trimmed it with strips of chipboard and cardstock, depending on the thickness I needed. I've used tacky glue throughout. Most pieces were painted before assembly. In the case of the tall building at the back, the top was further shaped with light weight spackling, but papier mache or other material could be used as a filler.

Construction goes pretty quick, but can be tediously repetitious with so many similar shapes. (But that's what animators live for, right?) The larger buildings required some internal bracing (again with foam core) to keep the walls from bowing inward. The buildings shown range from 12 to 26 inches tall.

The buildings look great, thanks for your reply!

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