Hi there, I've been looking at animation supplies, and wonder about an animation stage and how it is used.
I know you could use this with screws or magnets to hold down your puppets, but how do you combine this with a set? I'm probably overlooking something here, but I don't quite get how you would hold down your puppets after building a set with a floor..
Couldn't find any info online so hope you guys can clear this up for me.
People usually drill holes in the floor boards. You can measure out the places to drill before you cover the floor with whatever. Or you can just give your puppet feet or shoes wich can cover a screw so you can drill spontaneously.
There should be plenty of stuff about it on this board, I see people talking about it all the time
You build the animation stage first - then you build your set on it. Because you need to be able to tie down the puppets securely. Nick did a film to demonstrate the importance of tie downs and how they're used:
Well, I was also going to link to my own little demo about hiding tiedown holes, made to supplement Nick's film, but it looks like StopMoShorts is gone now, and the images aren't loading on the cached Archive.Org version. Oh well, the text is there, and you can fairly well imagine what the pictures looked like. Here's a link to it, sans images: Hiding tie-down holes.
When I get some more time I'll pop back in and upload some pics to demonstrate.
For using magnets you need to use a very thin material for the floor - generally it's thin sheet metal. So you only want to do that if it's an interior set with nice smooth floors. You can cover it with something thin like printed paper or very thin fabric, so you can print up a high res photo of floorboards or tiles or whatever (if you search the internet you can find high res photos of just about any kind of pattern - wallpaper, flooring, etc). I think I mentioned in the article about cutting little X's with the tip of an X-Acto knife so you can put the tie-down screws through and the slits will (probably) close up afterward (that's for if you're using printed paper flooring with regular screw-type tie-downs of course).
I've never used magnet tie-downs, but people who have say they're not nearly as secure as standard screw-type tie-downs. What you do is put steel plates in the puppet's feet and use extremely strong magnets under the table - you can get rare-earth magnets in ring shapes which is what you want - use a little stack of them and you put a bolt through them - I think you glue it in to use as a handle because the magnets are so strong you need some good leverage to pry them off from under the set later. Don't put magnets in the puppet's feet or they'll either repel or attract each other and you won't be able to animate it effectively. If you had magnets in the feet they would also suddenly pull themselves down solidly against the tabletop when they're a half inch or so above it, so you wouldn't be able to animate a walk cycle, which requires you to move the feet incrementally through a range of positions getting progressively closer to the table and then farther from it.
Another issue with magnets is you can't have the puppet lean very far over - beyond a certain point the magnets aren't strong enough to hold him anymore and he'll just fall over.
Magnets are a benefit if you have smooth polished floors in a solid colour that you see in a lot of shots. It's hard to hide the holes with a blob of plasticine. But you may be able to paint the holes out digitally (as Strider's tutorial demonstrated). You do need thin sheet metal floors, and those need a grid of steel or timber underneath to support them, since if you have too wide an area with no bracing the metal will flex. That 612mm x 612mm "professional animation stage" is probably as big as you would ever go without some framing underneath, and I would have a support every 300mm. The drawback with a lot of framing is, sooner or later you will end up with your foot going down right above the frame, and won't be able to get the magnet there. (I did use a perforated steel sheet for one set, a spaceship interior, where the square holes actually looked good, But I still used bolt tiedowns.) You will see my usual type of animation stage in that tiedowns video - actually I have three folding rostrums like that which I can combine to support bigger sets. But the smaller unit that sits on top of an existing desk or table works too, you just need enough room underneath to reach the tiedowns with your hand.
A friend used rare earth magnets under the floor, and he had to keep the puppets fairly well balanced. Just like Strider said. They tended to take short strides. They had fairly heavy steel and brass armatures so that probably contributed to it. With my holes drilled in the particle board floor, and threaded tiedowns, I don't have to worry about that, my puppets can lean over as far as I like. The ones with wire armatures and cut foam or foam latex bodies are light enough they can easily support themselves by one foot, even if they are animated falling over and reach the stage of being completely horizontal but not quite touching the ground. The magnets worked on smooth surfaces, but adding 5mm of putty to build up a natural rocky texture on some steps meant they wouldn't grip. We tried putting iron powder in the resin and that gave back a bit of grip but it was not very strong, you really needed to keep to the flat steel with no extra layers forcing the magnet and steel puppet foot any further away.
I prefer the security of bolts as tiedowns, going through holes. With rough ground or splattery painted floors (which I mostly have) you can hide the holes with blobs of similar coloured plasticine. I also painted a bold pattern on one floor, with a grid of holes everywhere in plain view, but they were in the black parts of the pattern and you didn't see them.
You can also make hollow rocks with fibreglass and resin, or fibreglass and plaster, and put tiedown holes in them, if you are going with a natural landscape and don't want to be restricted to flat ground.
The simplest tiedown is just a bolt, with a wingnut to tighten up against the floor, and a matching nut epoxy puttied onto the top of a wire loop in the puppet foot. That can be done with no power tools at all, I got a class of 10-year-olds to make puppet armatures that way. You can also have a smaller hole. My T-shaped tiedowns do require a bigger hole in the floor, which can be more visible, but when animating they are less fiddly to line up with the foot.
Picking up on this thread from last year:
I've been wondering about similar issues myself, especially the possibility of using magnets rather than drilling holes for tie-downs. The accompanying photographs show an Armacreatures armature being held up by a single, flat magnet. Magnet strength is not a problem. In fact it was the armature that I was more concerned about, having had to tighten the joints with more force than I was comfortable applying to an M3 thread in order to prevent collapse.
In this example the magnet is not attached to either the plate or the armature. I plan to insert them only as required to avoid the problem of unwanted attractions (I should be so lucky).
'Animation Toolkit' in the UK supply tables with 1.5mm thick, steel tops perforated with holes. The material looks similar to the item available from RS Components linked below.
This looks like it be the best of both worlds, able to take magnets and M3 tie-downs (though larger holes might be an advantage, RS only have such sheets in 0.7mm thickness).
Does anyone have experience with using this sort of table? Does the need to place tie-downs only where the available holes are placed cause real difficulties? Do the perforations significantly reduce the strength of the magnetic hold-down? Are 0.7mm thick mild steel plates practical or will they bow too readily?
The cost of these plates from RS is surprisingly low, especially as delivery is free, a real consideration here in the remote depths of Western Australia. I plan to buy a square metre's worth of one or other thickness anyway but would be grateful for any comments before deciding on which to get.
If anyone is interested in using this type of perf metal material, you should look on the McMaster-Carr website. Type in "perforated metal" in the search bar and you can find a whole variety of sheet metal with different hole size and layouts and types of metal. Scroll down past the stainless since it is very pricey. For the U.S. this would be cheaper than having this shipped from England.
As well as the perforated steel floor I used once, I had one set with a 12mm particle board floor where I had pre-drilled holes in a grid pattern all over the floor. It was painted with a strong pattern to disguise the holes. I had no problems using the existing holes, when animating a walk there was always a hole close enough so it looked natural to put the foot there. I have had problems where I have pre-drilled a row of holes going in a particular direction, only to find that the puppet didn't want to follow that exact path - but the pattern of holes all over seemed to always give me a hole where I needed it. The perforated steel would have holes closer together than I drilled in my particle board.
I'm relieved that you found the pre-drilled holes close enough to be usable as I've gone ahead and ordered the 1.6mm thick sheets from RS. The 3mm holes should be ideal for the M3 threads in the Armacreatures' feet for times when the magnets cannot be used.