I'm making my first character on my own, so I'll post my experiments here.  This is a test to see how well I will be able to integrate a stop motion character into a live action film.  For my first exprience I decided to use clay, because I like how it looks and it's something that's easier to understand.  I know that clay is particularly difficult to animate because one always has to smooth out any changes for each move, but I figured I'd give it a try.  For the armature, I'm following both this tutorial: Stop Motion Tutorial: Making an Armature as well as follwing some instructions from the book "Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation" by Susannah Shaw--which is a really great book and one I suggest anyone interested in learning stop motion animation purchase.

As a side note: A lot of my posts onto this website will be from my first animation which I'm doing in conjunction with my friend Damon. I wrote the script and am directing, however Damon is a really talented stage desinger and for our animation he's making the sets and characters and I'm assisting him.  So, for this post I'm showing only what it is that I'm doing on my own, this is not the same project as the one shown my previous posts and is not the same project that Damon and I are working on.

Thanks for viewing!

-Cait

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Here is the initial basic drawing of the creature.

Here is the creature upright with the layout of the armature along with the supplies I'm using.

Here is the wire armature with the epoxy putty "bones".

Here is the armature standing on it's own, now with feet and hands.

Here is the armature beginning to imitate the stance of the original drawing.  Now with hard styrafoam head.

More soon!

According to the book, it's best to cover the armature in masking tape so that the clay will stick better.  Here is the photo where I've done that,

Applied a base layer of clay.

Beginnings of detail work.

It's lookin' good!!! Love the fast-paced updates! 

Are you planning to use the styrofoam ball for the head armature? I wouldn't recommend that! I'm afraid a styrofoam ball will just get hollowed out inside when you try to bend the neck, and start flopping around. Ideally the neck wires should be a good deal longer to go well up into the head and give it something to really grip onto. I think if I were making this guy I'd think about stripping away the clay on the neck/upper chest, cut off the neck wires and wrap some new wires around the chest block to create a new neck. I don't think it needs to be as thick as what you've currently got there - clay puppets usually don't require the armature to be as thick or strong as foam puppets because the clay itself does a large part of the job of holding it's position, the wires are only there to add a little strength and keep it all from sagging. Usually clay puppets only seem to have 1 or 2 thicknesses of wire in the entire armature. But I don't really speak from experience, I've only tried to make 1 clay puppet myself. For clay advice AnimateClay.com would be a great source. Marc posted a link to his new website's temp address, it's http://animateclay.ning.com (for a few days anyway, then just animateclay.com once again I believe).

Actually you might want to try something like this for the neck/head: 

http://darkmattr.blogspot.com/search?q=empty+head+nickel+plated+nuts

Ohm an important point I see I didn't mention in that blog post - leave the outer surface of the epoxy putty shell really rough - in fact rough it up with some texture so clay will stick to it easily and not just slide off. 

Hey Strider. Thanks for the notes!  Yeah, I accidentally cut the neck wires too short after I finished the armature, unfortunately.  I figured for this version I'll just have this be a character who's head is right up against his shoulders.  Good idea about using less wiring(I was following a tutorial for foam puppets, but what you're saying does sound right). As this is one of possibly many prototypes, I'll try using less wire with the next one.  I'm probably just going to push through with the supplies I have now and just try out a walk cycle with this guy and see what I get from it.  Then I'll take some notes from the first test and then build up a new guy and try it out to see what the changes bring me.  I'm going to detail him some more, build the head(onto the styrofoam just for this test) and do a couple movement tests, then I'll map out a new version and add in the suggestions you gave.  Thanks again!

Ok, I said I wasn't going to make the changes now and then I checked out the blog link you sent and I made changes, haha.  

So, not wanting to undo all the detail work I just finished to the front of the character, I carved out a section of the back to make room for a "spine",

Then I wrapped the syrofoam in wire,

Here's the head with the epoxy putty "spine" attached to the back,

Then I covered the head in a thin layer of epoxy putty, sealing the wire and styrofoam together.  Here it is all together,

Surprisingly, this worked.  The length of wire is attached to the back now and I think the epoxy will make a neat little protrusion like a spine on his back.  The head is light weight and it can turn and bend easily.

Nice!! It looks pretty cool just like that - I like the color contrast. A little trick you may or may not know about, for making a thin sheet of epoxy like that I used a pasta machine, which is just a pair of rollers like those old laundry wringers our grandmas used to have in their basements (mine anyway - maybe your great grandma did.. ). Don't remember if I used 2 sheets of waxed paper to sandwich the epoxy putty between or just cleaned the rollers really well after - but another trick is to use a rolling pin or just a thick round dowel to roll it out. Oh, did I powder the epoxy putty before rolling it? Something like that anyway. But you can get a really thin and really lightweight skin of epoxy that way and waste a lot less of it. 

I also don't think clay puppets usually have any wire in the fingers - you could cut it off and just use clay fingers. That's how I did my one clay puppet attempt, and I got frustrated because the fingers kept falling off!! I don't know any tricks for that - maybe just some thread inside so if they break they don't fall off, you know? easier to fix each time. But then I'm a non-clay animator talking about animating clay... 

Head progress...

Good looking sculpt! 

I don't animate clay either, so I can't offer any practical advice.  Up to this point it's pretty similar to how I would be doing it, except I would make a mould from the clay, and cast it in silicone or foam latex for the actual animating.  And as Strider says, I think it's common to use less wire with clay than with rubbery substances, because the clay isn't trying to spring back to it's original position.

Yeah, that makes sense.  I'll definitely use less wires the next time around.  Strider was talking about not using wires for the fingers, but I've seen it done both ways(in the book I'm reading and different tutorials).  I decided to go with wires in the fingers because I was afraid of making them lose their shape altogether over time.  Anyway, hopefully I can get to animating sometime soon and see what I'm dealing with here.  Want to flesh out some more details first.

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