Puppets

The Five Year old Clanger

A short post a long time coming. 

It's taken the mammoth displacement activity inducing horror of apply to jobs for me to finally finish my very own knitted clanger (from the original 1972 Clanger pattern in the BBC archives). Five years it's been sat, half-socked, waiting to have life breathed into it. There are mistakes, two different colours of wool and bite marks (from mice of all things) but here he is, finally comitted to film.

Yes actual film, this also served at an experiment for my first ever animation on 35mm film. The camera wobble actually comes from having to scan in the printed pictures (as the processing service didn't offer a digital copy of my photographs! Unimpressed!) but I think the overall result is really quite charming.

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He is, of course, turning the handle to my recently purchased Bolex H16 camera, with which the original Clangers series' were filmed.

 

Technical deets:
This was filmed on a Pentax K1000 35mm SLR camera with Pentax K-mount 50mm f1.7 lens on Vista Plus Camera Film 200 ASA. There are 13 frames in the sequence. 

Puppets Pt IV – Two Sexy Frogs – “Beauty in the Beast.”

Long post today.

As January of 2015 rears its ugly head, amidst the cloud of graduate final project stress, who should approach me but the marvellously talented Mr Paige to ask me about making puppets.

More bloody puppets.

Well, puppets with a twist. I've never worked in latex before, not that I was going to let Ryan know that. What ensued were weeks of building foam and wire skeletons and trying to build something that seemed impossible.

The brief:

Two puppets of the same character (The letcherous frog) for a short 12 minute fantasy drama. He had to talk, smoke a hookah pipe and ride on another characters shoulder (whilst talking). Below are some clips of the finished frog in motion!

The finished result was something I was enormously happy with. The only thing I wish I'd been able to improve upon was having eyes that moved and blinked. However with the miniscule budget and time we had afforded for this project, simply redrawing the pupils on static eyeballs (ping pong balls) worked pretty damn effectively.

The film clips above were all filmed over a week of principal photography with a Blackmagic 2.5k Cinema Camera in Prores 1080p with Canon EOS lenses. I also puppeteered the creatures on set which gave me last minute fix and stitch time (A hot glue gun ever at the ready). Though incredibly other than a couple of tears at the shoulders the puppets remained undamaged by the movement and transportation the whole week.

Now for some build photos:

_Buildphoto_2_Firstly some eye tests from Kinder egg cores, it's unclear in the photo but these (albeit a little crude) mechanical eyes could look left and right, up and down, and later on even blink. The chocolate was necessary._Buildphoto_1Unfortunately the eyes were made more complex by the arrangement of the eyes on the Argentinian Horned frogs (of which this one's design is based.) 

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The sexiest of Frogs.

Unfortunately I've been disorganised and lost a lot of the photographs I had at that time, so only have a few of the fabrication process. 

The frog had a foam body, with galvanised steel wire for spine and arm / leg structure. It was held together with hot glue and the latex itself. To get the colouration on the latex but retain waterproofness (for predictable English weather) I mixed in paint with the latex itself, and painted the top layers in the recognisable frog pattern of the Argentinian horned frogs. 

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I began, like with all the puppets, with an all too familiar paper build.

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Translated into a foam prototype (Frog head A attempt 1).

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The foam head (and paper sizing up the body.)

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Alas, as I wrote, I seem to have lost a lot of the build photographs so longer am in posession of the foam stage of the finalised two frogs, but this was a stage where between Ryan and myself we really looked at the foam prototype, the reference photographs and worked out proportions, expression and movement.

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Does not appreciate travelling economy.

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Swaddled, ever the diva on set.

Really happy with the conclusion of this project. Here are the two next to one another for a direct comparison. I was pretty meticulous with the colour patterns and facial proportions, because I really had to maintain the illusion of one creature. The arms and legs I took a little more artistic license with because, frankly, the Argentinian frogs are so crazily proportioned anyway I thought it would be the least noticable liberty to take.

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Anyway I think Mr Paige was pretty happy with the end result.
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Frog in motion.

thumb_IMG_1139_1024A very concentrated expression from me as I practise the arm movement. (I had headphones with the pre-recorded frog lines which I would immitate from behind the stump. Ryan's voice was then later overdubbed, so while my voice was only a guide, it was important to get the pace and intonation / body movement correct with the lines.)

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Slombering up ready….

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Our sound man Joe looks truly disgusted by the kiss. 

Puppets Pt III – They Sing!

Here it is, and here they are: the puppets; walking, talking and singing at last.

This is probably the post I'm most nervous about because, in general, I was rather disappointed with the film overall. The dialogue and the scenes in between the muscial numbers lack pace and border on preachy and melodramatic. That said, the musical numbers themselves I'm actually reasonably happy with, so here they are:

Autumn Leaves

Singing in the Bathtub

Smile Darn Ya' Smile

 

“UnBEARable.” A grizzly little film about war.

Epilepsy Warning – This film does contain scenes involving strobing effects.

To begin with this film was not a University project but instead part of a great programme called the 'Open Brief' which my University ran to encourage creative experimentation. A rarity for sure. The Open Brief allowed us to write our own brief for a short film and book the department equipment for whatever project we wanted to make, so long as we produced a decent work schedule and risk assessment.

I'm not entirely sure where the idea came from to make a parody war film with teddy bears vying for best position in their owners bed. It did come about very quickly though in order to be able to film it within the short period of the open brief. 

Unfortunately I think it shows that it was written in a day as none of the characters go anywhere and, short of parodying the visual style of war films, there's little but surface similarities. 

It did however in a strange way inform a lot of the next year of University for me as, from modifying existing teddy bears to have moving puppet mouths and arms, it was a real prototype project for the puppet projects later on. 

The truck was built out of an old sketchbook hard-cover and some left over wood from making a desk, with £2 torches for the headlights and borrowed green hammerite paint from my sisters car! The set itself is sculped from chicken wire on top of a wooden pallette with earth spread over its top. I think all included the project only cost £200 to make, and that was almost entirely spent on the bears, fabric and wire.

We filmed this over two days – one for live action one for puppetry – on a Canon 5D, lit with ARRI 300w fresnel lights. The music was from www.audionetwork.com – where I only paid £0.83 for the student license!