Hello everyone, I am a complete newbie/novice to the stop motion world and recently ran into what I would consider a problem, but others might just consider part of the process? I made a wire armature, then covered it with some magic sculpt on the parts that I did not want to bend. So basically just left the joints uncovered. It seemed to come out pretty nicely, and felt pretty good. So I bulked it up with some foil and tape then put on some plasticine. I was playing around with him a little bit, putting him in different poses and whatnot, but then one of his arms broke at the shoulder area even before I was able to start trying to animate. I was wondering what I did wrong. The way i made the armature? The wire I used? Is there a certain type of wire that stop motion artists use that is perhaps stronger than regular armature wire? One friend told me that instead of twisting the wire together, If i just put them together then wrap them with string or smaller wire, then it would be stronger. I would really love to make a ball and socket armature, but feel like it is a little too costly for me right now so I am wondering if there are any other stop motion people out there that can help me with any tips to make my wire armature stronger and last longer. I am attaching a few pics of the character I made to show you how I did it and what might need to be changed. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Most of us on this site are into puppet animation rather than clay, except for Don Carlson, who is a wizard with the stuff, and maybe a few more who don't speak up very much. I've done just a little messing around with animating clay, but it taxed my patience way too much. Marc's site is the mecca for anyone wanting to learn about it. 

I would guess you're interested in using clay for the face of the marshmallow dude (is he related to the Stay Puft man?), but rubber for the rest? I can think of a few possible ways to do it that would result in the ability to get some good squash and stretch for the facial animation while retaining simpler animatability for the puppet in general. 

1. Replacement animation for the face. You could hide the seams either by putting some color-matched plasticine in them and wiping a finger over it to smooth it down, or paint over them digitally in post the way Laika does for their replacement faces. Of course making replacement faces is a heck of a lot of work.

2. Have the face itself be clay, and the rest of the body (head?) be latex. It would mean having a solid faceplate area on the front of the marshmallow to build the face on. 

3. The entire puppet could be clay - aside from the marshmallow head all you've got are arms and legs - in fact it looks like it should be a clay puppet - a little reminiscent of a dancing raisin or something. 

4. Or the head could be clay all the way around, giving you the ability to get squash and stretch out of it, and just make arms and legs with rubber. 

I have, but the ozone generator I have doesn't produce a high enough concentration of ozone to do much, not like in the video I posted. I use it to ozonate water to kill germs in a fish tank. For that - it works great. I might add that if there is any smelly process you use - such as baking latex, ozone can get rid of the smell in the air. Only ozone isn't great to breathe in. It's technically non-toxic, but your lungs don't have much in the form of anti-oxidants to counter the reaction. So you may cough a bit if you breathe it in.

Strider said:

Hey Marc, that is really cool!! Has anybody tried that on brushes that you know of? Not that I would buy a machine like that for cleaning brushes, just interested. 

Those shoulder joints are too small.  There needs to be more space between the chest and the upper arm.  The more wire that is exposed for a joint the better.  

Personally I have never had a problem with twisting the wires.  The only time I have had wires break quickly is because of small nicks that were made due to wire cutters. 

Ahhh i see i see. Yeah, the only thing that puts me off about working with clay is that fact that it needs to be reworked after nearly every shot. That's seems seriously daunting to me (as if stop motion isn't extremely time consuming as it is), but I love the look and feel of it SO much. It's definitely worth it to me. I will definitely check out Marc's site! Thanks for directing me there!

StopmoNick said:

Personally, I prefer latex or silicone to plasticine for animating, because I usually want textured surfaces like scales or wrinkles.  So I want a material that will flex, but preserve it's basic shape and surface details.  I tried animating clay dinosaurs as a kid, smushed away most of my carefully sculpted scales in the first 4 or 5 frames.  Not what I had in mind at all!  So now I sculpt them in clay, make a plaster mould, then cast them in something else.   Or do those simple build-up methods, especially for bodies that will be hidden under clothes.  There is no doubt that you can do a lot more in terms of changes of expression, or morphing the whole creature from one thing to another, with clay animation.  But you have to keep re-sculpting and repairing it as you go.  I'm a great admirer o great clay animation, like Wallace and Gromit, but it's not quite the style I am trying to do myself.   You should go to Marc's Animate Clay site if you want to explore the potential of clay animation more.  http://www.animateclay.com/

Marc, I never heard of oxidising the latex off like that!  Sounds pretty good.

Wow, again thank you SO much for all that info! Yes I think I would like to have my characters face/body made of clay and his arms and legs rubber. I don't feel like I would need to change those parts too much but definitely would like his face and expressions to change. I am very interested in the replacement animation for the face thing though too, and your suggestion about hiding the seem is something I was really wondering what to do about. i had only imagined hiding/painting over it in post. Thank you once again for the tip! I do feel like it will be extremely taxing on my patience as well but I am so drawn to it. Making a million different mouths sounds insane without 3d printing so I wanted to look into that as well. 

Oh, and there is no relation between my dude and the stay puft guy hahaha. I have been more of a painter and sculptor so I created these characters called The Harshmallows which i make paintings and figurines for. They were born in the forrest as sort of a response to humans destructive ways. I think most humans are way to mellow and relaxed about that kind of stuff (among many other things, the destruction of nature) so these dudes are here to harsh that mellow. :)

Nick mentioned Marc's site as well so I am definitely going to check that out! 

Once again, thank you thank you thank you for all the info!


Strider said:

Most of us on this site are into puppet animation rather than clay, except for Don Carlson, who is a wizard with the stuff, and maybe a few more who don't speak up very much. I've done just a little messing around with animating clay, but it taxed my patience way too much. Marc's site is the mecca for anyone wanting to learn about it. 

I would guess you're interested in using clay for the face of the marshmallow dude (is he related to the Stay Puft man?), but rubber for the rest? I can think of a few possible ways to do it that would result in the ability to get some good squash and stretch for the facial animation while retaining simpler animatability for the puppet in general. 

1. Replacement animation for the face. You could hide the seams either by putting some color-matched plasticine in them and wiping a finger over it to smooth it down, or paint over them digitally in post the way Laika does for their replacement faces. Of course making replacement faces is a heck of a lot of work.

2. Have the face itself be clay, and the rest of the body (head?) be latex. It would mean having a solid faceplate area on the front of the marshmallow to build the face on. 

3. The entire puppet could be clay - aside from the marshmallow head all you've got are arms and legs - in fact it looks like it should be a clay puppet - a little reminiscent of a dancing raisin or something. 

4. Or the head could be clay all the way around, giving you the ability to get squash and stretch out of it, and just make arms and legs with rubber. 

Thanks Eric! 

Yeah, that's what Nick told me so I will definitely take that into account when building my next armature. Besides the area being too small, I'm pretty sure there was in fact some small nick in the wire where it broke. :(

Thank you for you help man!


Eric Sanchez said:

Those shoulder joints are too small.  There needs to be more space between the chest and the upper arm.  The more wire that is exposed for a joint the better.  

Personally I have never had a problem with twisting the wires.  The only time I have had wires break quickly is because of small nicks that were made due to wire cutters. 

Here's a thread from the old SMA message board where Sock Puppet describes methods for it: 

Replacement Heads

It isn't exactly the latest state of the art - the thread is from 2002!  But lots of good info to get you started on the research. Marc also has a really good thread (probably many) on his site somewhere about making replacement faces and parts, but in plasticine, from his Zombie Pirates film. Not sure if you can search the site and find it, but he might be able to give you a link straight to it. 


Konovision said:

Making a million different mouths sounds insane without 3d printing so I wanted to look into that as well. 


Hey Strider thank you man! The link doesn't work for me thought for some reason. I'll take a look some more around Marc's site!
Strider said:

Here's a thread from the old SMA message board where Sock Puppet describes methods for it: 

Replacement Heads

It isn't exactly the latest state of the art - the thread is from 2002!  But lots of good info to get you started on the research. Marc also has a really good thread (probably many) on his site somewhere about making replacement faces and parts, but in plasticine, from his Zombie Pirates film. Not sure if you can search the site and find it, but he might be able to give you a link straight to it. 


Konovision said:

Making a million different mouths sounds insane without 3d printing so I wanted to look into that as well. 

Weird - I just tried it and it works fine for me. Maybe this will work better?

http://www.vortex42studios.com/sma/?archive=forum&keywords=repl...

If it still won't work, here's the first post, with a lot of good ideas in it to give you some concept of how it's done:

Posted by Sock Puppet, on 2002-04-17 14:10:59

Replacement heads

x( I have made a couple foam latex puppets and want to make a series of replacement heads for them, mostly for dialogue, and a few for expression. In short you basicly sculpt your main head with a regular relaxed mouth and the expression that would be used the most. Usualy an ordinary walking around look. You then make a silicone mold of the head, pour melted clay in the silicone mold, and reproduce as many heads as needed to comply for all your expressions. you then resculpt all the heads into what you need, and after testing them to make sure they work by means of some sort of video reference like a video lunch box, you make individual silicone molds of each head. after this you can pour in resin and cast as many resin casted heads as needed for each head. you can also make slush molds(hollow) if you need the head to be lighter. Remember though if you do a slush mold you need to fill the cavity with cold curing foam or high density foam, so that you will be able to glue in a neck bracket like brass tubing for securing the head onto the body. Ok, this is a vague outline of how to do this. I have done diferent aspects of this process for other things but am trying to make a replacement head system for the first time, and i am having mega trouble. MY PROBLEM: when pouring melted clay into silicone mold, the clay's consistency is too thick, and it is hard to get it to pour into the mold smoothly or quick enough. the result is the head comes out with parts missing and detail lost, as well as a hole here and there and all the teeth missing. In order to make a successfull replacement cycle I think that when mass reproducing these heads, they should all look exactly the same from each cast before resculpting the mouth or whatever part you need to have animated. Am I doing this process incorrectly? should i melt the clay longer? should i thin out the clay with something? is it bad to have small details like teeth that stick out a bit, as they are too delicate to cast in clay? Is there another way of casting clay heads aside from plaster which i dont want to even think about as that would take forever. One solution that i'm not sure if it would work or not, is to cut the silicone mold in half like a plaster mold would be. the way it is now is i have cut a zig zag opening in the back of the head. this makes pouring in the clay hard and taking the casted clay head out hard. what if i cut the little sucker in half, and sorta just pour a massive amount of clay in and slam the other half on top. this sounds like a good way to burn the crap out of your hands. _josh PS - yes i am using mold release for casting the clay heads.

Hopefully you can get in and read the actual thread though, a lot of good stuff in the followup posts. By any chance are you looking at this on your phone? That might not let the links work. 

Hey, Strider thank you sir! I'm not sure what my malfunction is, but the link is still not working for me. I'm online here at work so perhaps there are some things installed to block me from seeing certain sites. I mean, I'm not trying to look at porn or anything sheesh. I'm gonna try again at home and see what happens. Thanks for the excerpt! I really wanna read more so hope it works when I'm home! 
Strider said:

Weird - I just tried it and it works fine for me. Maybe this will work better?

http://www.vortex42studios.com/sma/?archive=forum&keywords=repl...

If it still won't work, here's the first post, with a lot of good ideas in it to give you some concept of how it's done:

Posted by Sock Puppet, on 2002-04-17 14:10:59

Replacement heads

x( I have made a couple foam latex puppets and want to make a series of replacement heads for them, mostly for dialogue, and a few for expression. In short you basicly sculpt your main head with a regular relaxed mouth and the expression that would be used the most. Usualy an ordinary walking around look. You then make a silicone mold of the head, pour melted clay in the silicone mold, and reproduce as many heads as needed to comply for all your expressions. you then resculpt all the heads into what you need, and after testing them to make sure they work by means of some sort of video reference like a video lunch box, you make individual silicone molds of each head. after this you can pour in resin and cast as many resin casted heads as needed for each head. you can also make slush molds(hollow) if you need the head to be lighter. Remember though if you do a slush mold you need to fill the cavity with cold curing foam or high density foam, so that you will be able to glue in a neck bracket like brass tubing for securing the head onto the body. Ok, this is a vague outline of how to do this. I have done diferent aspects of this process for other things but am trying to make a replacement head system for the first time, and i am having mega trouble. MY PROBLEM: when pouring melted clay into silicone mold, the clay's consistency is too thick, and it is hard to get it to pour into the mold smoothly or quick enough. the result is the head comes out with parts missing and detail lost, as well as a hole here and there and all the teeth missing. In order to make a successfull replacement cycle I think that when mass reproducing these heads, they should all look exactly the same from each cast before resculpting the mouth or whatever part you need to have animated. Am I doing this process incorrectly? should i melt the clay longer? should i thin out the clay with something? is it bad to have small details like teeth that stick out a bit, as they are too delicate to cast in clay? Is there another way of casting clay heads aside from plaster which i dont want to even think about as that would take forever. One solution that i'm not sure if it would work or not, is to cut the silicone mold in half like a plaster mold would be. the way it is now is i have cut a zig zag opening in the back of the head. this makes pouring in the clay hard and taking the casted clay head out hard. what if i cut the little sucker in half, and sorta just pour a massive amount of clay in and slam the other half on top. this sounds like a good way to burn the crap out of your hands. _josh PS - yes i am using mold release for casting the clay heads.

Hopefully you can get in and read the actual thread though, a lot of good stuff in the followup posts. By any chance are you looking at this on your phone? That might not let the links work. 

What??!! Are you saying stopmo isn't porn for you? 

Hey, just a pro tip - if you type in the Reply to Discussion box at the bottom of the page rather than clicking on Reply under a post, then people don't have to see the entire text of the last post again. That really overloads a thread fast and makes it super hard to navigate. 

Or click on Reply but delete the quoted text. You can also delete most of it and just keep the part you want to respond to, which can help keep things clear and concise. 

I realize that thread is old but mold release isn't needed with casting clay in silicone. The oils in the clay should be enough. The mold can also be heated in a regular convection oven on low to help the clay later flow into the details of the mold. I heard Aardman does it that way with their press molds. If a simple plaster box is poured around the silicone mold you can even press the clay into details while it is warm but slightly firm (not fluid). Be careful not to burn yourself, melted and heated clay sticks to your fingers so burns can be very painful. The plaster walls prevents the mold from expanding outward. Without the plaster any part will be distorted from the original. Finally, if the mold has undercuts and you pull the clay out, all those details you captured will get ripped apart. Freeze the clay cast until it becomes hard as a rock and pull it out. Every last fingerprint and tiny tool mark will be preserved. When it cools you can sculpt it as you normally would.

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