Okay so I'm very new to this whole thing and pretty inexperienced. I'm taking on a 5-10 minute project which I want to produce to a fairly high standard, but I have limited resources. At the moment I'm favouring working with an armature.
What I really want to know is how the whole business of "tie-downs" works. I understand that you have a little screw thing going on in the feet, which then gets secured through a hole drilled through the set. I'm wondering though, if you have a sequence which involves, say, the character running for some distance, would you need to drill a hole for every single footstep? Also how would one tackle the problem of the screws being visible in the film every time a foot is raised?
Is there another way to avoid my character toppling over? Any advice when it comes to doing running/walking sequences?
Thanks very much in advance!
If your new and inexperienced I'd try and keep your film closer to the 5min mark (or under if you can)!
With the tie down method you would need to drill a hole every time your character took a step, you can pre-drill them or carefully spin him/her on the foot that's tied down just before the step is complete. The tie down goes in from under the set and screws into the foot, every time the foot is raised you unscrew it so it's not visible.
Other methods are to use perforated steel sets and strong neodymium magnets, but that could be costly and your sets would have to be flat.
Or you use an animation "rig" like the one below (from "animationtoolkit"). You would need to place rigging points in the armature and the rig would need to be removed afterwards, you would also need to be aware of any shadows its casts as well.
Hope this helps.
This should help explain things (though Steve already did a fine job of it, consider this supplemental info):
Also, as an addendum:
And for erasing the flying rig (necessary for running, since most of running is actually jumping, with neither foot touching the ground):
The easier kind of tiedown is a screw. You can have a nut in the puppet foot, or you can tap a thread into a hole in a metal block. I like my T and Slot type because it is easier to get the T into the hole when tying down, you don't have to have it perfectly straight like you do to get a bolt started in the thread. But a machine screw and a wingnut so you can tighten it up by hand from under the set will certainly do the job.
As Strider said - If the puppet is running, both feet will be off the ground some of the time, so you will want a support rig as well as the tiedowns, for those frames. My flying rigs are usually just a bunch of strands of 3mm armature wire, attached to a base or up high above the top of the frame. I do have a ball and socket rig for heavier puppets.
Here is a puppet being made with a nut in each foot instead of tapping a thread in a block of aluminium. It is a basic wire armature, using the soft annealed aluminium armature wire, but using a framegrabber (Stopmotion Pro on my PC, Dragonframe on my Mac) to see how much the puppet has been moved, you can actually get smooth animation from a wire armature.
By all means use a ball jointed armature if you like, I just wanted to point out that there are simpler and cheaper methods if that is too difficult for you at this stage.
If you want to produce to high standard, with limited resources you might consider outsourcing the making of the puppet head. You provide the details of the character and in turn you get an easy to animate head with moving mouth and eyes, for a mere 100 pound UK.
Interested? mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gr. Johan (from Holland)
Yes, you are right, many companies do this with drills, meaning you drill a hole into your set and then fix the puppet there with the weight of a sandbag or something heavy. The thing is, you then have to fill each hole after each step, so that the camera doesn't see them.
I am currently working on a puppet animation too and we solved the problem this way: Our character has two holes in her feet, so tiny that only pins fit through. The underground of our set is made of softboard above which we glued cork tiles and above that we masked with paper the cork tiles, so that you don't see the cork. In this way we can very easily pin our (small and easy) puppet to the ground and she can stand on one leg without problem and can also run and you don't have all the work with filling holes again, since you don't see the tiny holes that the pins make. On bigger puppets I used nails, which make bigger holes, but that was ok, since they only jumped over the street (which we painted with coffee), so one does not see the holes either.
I hope this helped a little bit.
If you have limited ressources - do you talk here just about money or also time? -- think about making the film shorter and use lesser puppets since they can also break! Because I think that you might need 6 months to one year for a 5-10 minutes short. I made the same mistake, thinking I would make a 15 minutes short in one year and now I am working on it for 1,5 years and from that JUST animated 9 months - now starting my 10th month of animation and hope to finish the piece this August... so really be careful and don't underestimate the time that it needs to animate a puppet (like I did -- but I love it). ;)
Good luck! I wish you all the best.
PS: you can look here how we build our puppets and set -- if you are interested: https://www.facebook.com/SoleilsWelt
Thanks very much for all these great answers! Very informative! I'm still story-boarding at the moment but I like to know these things before I jump into filming. I have around nine months time but a budget of like £20. Thankfully I already own quite a few materials!
Or make a virtue out of a near-zero budget.... Look at the Japanese cardboard animation, use junk/found objects/toys. Imagination is free!