Sunday, 9 January 2011

Having it away with Coraline

Now, another post lurked on over at led me to pouring over some very revealing 'behind the scenes' shots of Coraline puppets- if I can find the link I'll also insert it here later- ah! there it is! The `Blog over at Scarlet stars studios! Take a look!
but among these wonderful photos, I spotted one that particularly fascinated me- Coraline herself without either parts of her replacement faces on- as in here!

( slight aside- Ken Priebe's latest book also revealed how the Coraline faces were divided into upper and lower sections, thus offering more potential combinations than a library of 'whole' faces- however, this then neccesitated a post production artist going through every frame and doing the old magic eraser/ clone stamp routine in photoshop to remove and camouflage the line between upper and lower halves. When I heard that, it suddenly made sense in terms of how 'digital' Coraline felt to view- if everyone of your characters needs to have photoshop trickery paint out an aspect at the DEAD CENTRE of the characters face, it should be no wonder that something feels 'not quite right' about the animation from a traditional stop motion animation point of view. Don't get me wrong, it set new benchmarks all over the place for smoothness of style and action- all respect to Laika and their amazing talent!

BUT I do think having to paint out this dividing line has introduced something 'unreal' that detracts from that sense we normally get that a stop motion puppet is a real object in a real environment- for me a vitally important aspect of what makes it beautiful and work.) RANT OVER!

So, what I saw inside the head was two universal joints, on which half round glass eyes were fixed- giving a free floating pair of eyes, able to float effortlessly into any position. Eyes are an area I had earmarked for development, so I thought about this for a while. I couldn't replicate the LAIKA design, and I couldn't do replacement faces- at least , not until I get me a REPRAP - the budget route to open source, affordable 3d printing- seriously, check it out!
(surely on the 2011 shopping list however- so replacement faces may be on the horizon next!)
But back to the kitchen bench version first!
I'd seen similar universal joints before, inside my Dad's remote control vehicles and boats- so I knew you could source them from specialist RC model shops. I went and bought a few. They weren't too much, about £5-6 for a pair.
They give you this column which can float over to 90 degrees in any direction- far MORE than we would ever need. The one disadvantage with RC sized designs, is that each universal joint is actually longer than needed- so I sawed each tube down until it was half the original length- and able therefore to fit into a shallower head. I then took 2x 8mm Glastil eyes, and popped off the rear of the eyes, so they were half rounds only ( only the front half of each eyeball).

These were glued onto the universal joints- please note, the image seen below has universal joints which have not yet been cut down in length like mentioned above:
When they were reduced in size, I fixed the universal joints to a plate, then fixed them into a ping pong ball 'skull' like mentioned in the previous post.
The eyes here are too big for the head itself, so I gradually built up the head with offcuts from other ping pong balls, foam core and lots of glue- the emphasis throughout though was on keeping the weight down.

Then I started adding Milliput and shaping the head/face areas:

The head is now at the stage of getting prepared to have features added- I think this head is going to be an old Gent, possibly on the slightly crusty side of things. The silver areas are wafer thin neodymium magnets, which I've 'secreted' into the face design to hold pipe cleaner eyebrows able to adopt different shapes.
And then the mouth are was built up with another neodymium magnet ready to hold replacement mouths that I intend to use with this puppet.
And that is as far as he has got to date- the eyes are free floating within the skull cavity, and seem willing to work really well. I'm hoping the magnetic areas are as good a choice. I'll keep you in the loop with how he develops- for now we'll call him 'Gus'- next steps will be to add ears and nose, and work out how to colour his skin- I'm erring towards just painting him with the silicone paint I bought along with a consignment of 'Dragonskin' Silicone - it needs to be very thin to allow the magnets to have enough 'grab'.

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