Tuesday, 15 February 2011


I decided to cut the last robots blog in two- no, not the last blog 'spark and the studio', but the one before- ROBOTS 3 - just because it seemed to take too long to load on my computer, which is basically HAL 9000 with a less engaging personality- so I think there were too many pics in one blog for most people. So here's the second half again, and I'll go back now and chop the this section out.

 I went back to basics also with the hand, and took it totally apart- I had another set of palm plates built, and they looked to have better registration than the last hand. I took the last hand apart, and checked each finger for wear and tear- I also filed each finger down significantly- they had been a bit horribly blobby with JB weld- I filed them flatter, and repaired where neccessary.
 This is the basic jig my Dad was kind enough to knock up in the shed for me- saves a bit of time and effort, for creating palm plates, and the finger plates- we can improve this further yet.

Below you can see the finger joints in their various states, and the raw barbells they were built from- the balls are 3mm diameter, and they are fiddly to cold weld- they also require a specific 'bar' that is smaller than all other body piercing bars- which is a bit of a pain- and a shame you can't vary the length of the bar. Lighter shown for scale.
The hand once assembled again, and all the fingers sorted out - I actually decided to put another bolt into the palm, and it made a big difference to the finger tension reliability.

The entire hand arm once reassembled- once again, I'm much happier with this- my only concern is the extra weight I have added to the arms.

Rig gets his new shoulders put on first- with the new allen key screw fittings...now, where did I put that Allen Key?

 The gun arm goes on next.

 Then the 'hand' arm- immediately I can see the shoulders are going to be much more expressive, and less of an obstacle to have to work around- during the corridor test shots I'd found I had to cheat with perspectives a bit in order to make it look like the two arms were in the precise position for the 'story'.
These will be much better, as long as the weight isn't too much of an issue.

 Stick 'em up!

 A few more bits to share with you- the 3 various metalwork boxes I keep to hand- there is a lot more metal than this sorted into plastic drawers too- but these bits get used a lot, so they stay near to hand. First box contains all the balls I've got to hand- most of them are body piercing barbells, ranging from 3mm diameter, all the way to 10mm I believe- some brass threaded balls too. All discovered thanks to threads on stopmotionanimation.com
I haven't yet had the chance to braze these balls into place, but when we get into the studio I'm going to look at moving that way- there are various people there in the building with vast experience of all kinds of welding, so that should be easy enough. I bought in bulk from the body piercing suppliers, so consequently I've got loads of them...

 Half assembled armature components, and likely bits and pieces
 This box is meant to be about plates and rods, K&S tubing etc- but various other bits end up in there too.
Ok that's all for now, but v also check back through the earlier blogs, I'm going to put a few more pics in I've taken. Peace out!

Monday, 14 February 2011

SPARK and the studio

Ok, welcome back, been a really good week with progress going on all over the place. My business working harder with animation projects going on in a Southall school as part of the Olypmpic cultural project, and I'll be teaching animation to really young kids tomorrow. Stop Motion Pro have decided to support this, which is also fantastic news...The street of plenty has been particularly generous yesterday, proving 3! heavy duty, metal topped tables, each about 1 meter x 1.5 meter, and with super solid legs giving 1 foot of clearance- absolutely perfect for the studio, absolutely free too...
I'll mention the studio too shortly, as it wont be long now before we are finally in there, and the game changes completely...
But for now, let's back track to the robots- as we left it I was unhappy with SPARK and his arms, so I decided to reconstruct here totally-
 I took the defunct elbow sections from the earlier version of RIG, and used these for the upper arm sections- dressing them with more springs from suspension systems off remote control cars.- I also built new forearms sections, these were built different, to imply some damage or missing facia from the arms. The new arms have not only better movement and greater range, but they also seem to suit his personality better.
 Next I took his head off and built a much better jaw support joint inside the head, as his jaw had been dangerously floppy at times during the last test shoot, and frequently had needed sneaky blu tack support during the shot- this is now replaced with animationsupplies.net 6mm balls- and consequently much crisper and reliable.
Lastly, I dressed the neck joint with a spiral of wire coil, to camouflage the joint and it also ties him closer to the design used on ROD'S Neck. This wire coil, by the way, was bought from Games Workshop, a war-gaming franchise shop over here in the UK- this was sold as 25mm figure set dressing- it is meant to be razor wire at that scale, so it has an extra texture going on to represent the razors- it all just helps light interact interestingly with the puppets to have lots of texture.
I'm pretty happy now with SPARK'S overall shape, I think he really just needs some decaling to finish him off. I'll show you that when it's done.

This will probably neccesitate a trip to one of my favourite shops in London, the fantastic www.comet-miniatures.com/ in Clapham, who for any sci fi obsessive are basically a vision of heaven- they have everything and more, and scratch build, cast and release impossible to find model kits. Honestly , you name it, they have it- probably in 2 or 3 scales!!
The guy who runs the shop is an old RAF boy, who built scale models for the RAF, and was sucked into VFX from there- He worked on the AT-AT's for 'Empire' - what more recommendation do you need?

So I should mention the studio as promised- Well, I have a studio space elsewhere in London, which has been being slowly converted from a bare section of an old box factory- when the conversion is finished I'll have a vastly bigger section of space to work in, and the kitchen bench may finally be somewhere my Missus can actually cook on...currently it is a nightmare of bits and pieces.
 This was how it looked on my 2nd visit- You'll also spot Oska 'Mini-Me' H propping up the wall- that's my Boy. This was when the corridor was just that, a corridor- and not much more- note the long skylight which will have to be blocked out for shooting, but which will be lovely when the workshop is being used to build in.
 The same view, without mini-me. The furniture is not mine, but there is lots available for anyone who wants it- the studio of Plenty! Actually, it really is, because as well as me in there, we have a huge set building company too, whose offcuts can easily be my raw material. Also lots of Photographers, artists, even robot sculptural engineers! How much more perfect could that be? Consequently it already has a huge metal workshop, with very experienced welders and metal workers nearby. But the crucial thing is the cheapness of this space- really, very cheap for London...

 Ok, so here we see the first dividing wall going up-  next door, doing most of this we have the Studio of Pete Santi, my mate and fellow skateboarder for over 10 years- we worked together on the 'Lab' animation for Channel 4 last year- Pete has a huge skill set of building and art abilities, he has been a full size set builder as well as property developer, and very wide ranging artist- It's great that we have adjoining spaces, for he will doubtless continue to be a powerful collaborator on emerging projects.
 Oh, the other side of my genetic tree, Gilly D visited on this day, and helped me clean up the place. It had black dust in there on all the girders, from 65 years of cardboard box manufacture. Danger Will Robinson!
The floor is wonderful old wooden blocking, but is uneven in places- we'll need to clean out any problem sections.

Cleaning- if you look at the green girders by the windows here, you see the  length size my bay will be- 2 sections of girders, approx 300 square feet- and with significant headroom. The plan is to mezzanine a section of the roof for additional storage- nothing too plush, just an elevated space.
 A few months later, and suddenly all the walls are up, clad in plasterboard, and ready for prep for painting.
 Looking from the far corner at the doorway arch. Plenty of room. And the mezzanine plan would also allow us to set up a scaffolding frame underneath the mezzanine to support lighting rigs, and possible camera rigs too. A thread this week over on stopmotionanimation.com has seriously made building a camera motion control rig seem do-able. This would have  massive implications for the ROBOT project.
The thread suggested using Arduino cards to control stepper motors from defunct Printers/scanners.
Here it is:

A seriously good idea.
 The view from just within the doorway- you can just see the triangular frame of the roof girders, which will support the mezzanine section.

Ok, finally, I have to get on with some animation today too, and so have quickly built a new section of set wall to create a corridor for ROD to walk down- mostly from CD Inlay trays, and old 2HD floppy discs- The central section is from the body of an old printer, I started taking apart for the motion control plan- actually everything inside the printer looks usable somewhere on the project. 
I'll dress this section even more later, but it'll do for a quick test.
This is ROD set up ready for a test sequence. There are small green LED lights set into the centre of the cd inlay trays and they look pretty cool when lit up, a gentle glow at the centre of the rings. You can't really see it well in this particular shot, but you will in others. Thee is also a 'hatch doorway I built very quickly at the bottom of the corridor, out of  the glass bed of the scanner. Again, I want more decalling and detail on this yet, but I think it adds a decent atmosphere for the sake of the test sequence.

 ROD , ready to go on this evening's shot- wish me luck- I'm going to try this position with 2 different lenses and see what difference it makes. I'll post the results soon.
 Oh! Lastly welcome to my latest blog follower, another stopmotionanimation fellow, Jon, whose work has been beautifully inspiring to me and others - Glad you've popped by. See Y'all soon.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Robots 3

 Ok, so where to start- well, last time we saw Rig he was armless- as he has continued to be...this blog will be mostly about his reconstructed arms, and will try to a little clearer about the whole process.

 So, here are his arms off, and some work around his head to close down the light leakage around the side of his head- milliput mostly, which still needs painting in silver.- I also added the 'yoke collar', which I think covers the neck area better, and will also have a plot reason for why it is there...
 I took off his face plate, and inserted some lighting gel to try and weaken the intensity of his lights- I used yellow lighting Gel as that seemed to have the greatest effect on the strength of the light- while I was doing this I also fixed a magnet to the back of his face plate, for easy access, and it also allows me to do tiny subtle angular shifts in the face for specific thoughts and emotions.
The face plate with the magnet gluing- don't know what this strange washer was for- I think I found it in the back of the kitchen drawer- again, I would like more of them!

With Rig's renovated face in place. Next I went to his gun arm, and decided to extend it- using a skateboard wheel 'spacer', and the camera lens of an old mobile phone camera- also a flint wheel from a disposable lighter on the side of the arm, as a kind of rotating barrel for extra animation when he fires the weapon. The arm had a better threaded ball added to it also. Come to think of it, I've recycled a lot of lighters and mobile phones on this project.

I ordered a load of new plates and ball components from animationsupplies.net

these were from the pro plus armature component range, including the new joints for the elbows which use one ball and one disc within the sandwich plate.

 This will limit movement to one point within the sandwich plate. I prefer the design aesthetic like this too.
 The raw plates and balls as they arrived from Andy- note the pro plates now use a star shaped allen key to tighten- much better design , and harder to 'thread' the surface- but please don't let me lose the key! You can also see the ball and the disc for the elbow sandwich plates in front of the last packet.

 I removed the first attempt at the new shoulders, because the balls for the pro plus armature were smaller than those I had used- start again- drilled the torso and put in one rod across the gap.
 That's better-  the threaded balls were added and cold welded in place. Now to start redesigning the arms - first the 'wrist section' for the 'hand arm'- aluminium tubing, with a full sized ball joint at the elbow end, and a 3mm ball joint to fit with the wrist cavity on the armatured hand.
 I decided to put this hex flange on the front of the forearm too, just to embellish the design.

 And this is the design for the new upper arms- trying to accent the hydraulic design and get it more cleanly achieved. The threaded rod runs all the way through, and is capped at either end with nuts holding it in place at the end of the tubes.
I used brass and aluminium tubes, trying to evoke pneumatic pistons.

 I also added this cap detailing towards the shoulder section- each upper arm is working to the same basic design, but slightly different- I feel you can get away with this due to the different purposes of the arms- hand and gun. Also you can now see the ball fitted at the front end, and the 'disc' for the new elbow section.
 I dug in the various metal and rubber stores I've got sorted out- and decided to cut down these small springs- I can't remember what they were from- it may have been clothes pegs- then fitted the yellow springs in place- where needed I found small thick rubber 'belt' washers to hold the yellow springs at the bottom.

 Two upper arms, and the wrist section- hex style cuffing on all, and a much better approximation of hydraulics on the upper arms- I distressed the black springs too with a file to imply wear and tear.

The gun arm all assembled- looking mean! I'm still thinking I may hide the plates at the elbows with some sort of elbow pad- but I'm torn- I also like the plate showing. I'll have to keep thinking about that.