Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Casting - Puppet Body

Now that I've finished making all the moulds for my puppet it's time to cast out all the body parts. To do this I suspend the wire armature parts inside the mould, and encase them in silicone.

Cleaning up the mould

The original Plastiline sculpture of the body parts are destroyed when they are removed from the mould. This seems a bit strange at first considering all the time and effort that was put into sculpting them. But it's a necessary part of the process and the armature needs to be recovered.
Terracotta clay washes off the mould with warm water and Turpentine dissolves Plastiline. I use a stiff bristled brush to get into all the small crevasses.
After all the mould is wiped clean I inspect the inner surface for any air bubbles and imperfections. These are filled with Milliput and sanded smooth.
Above is the mould for the legs after it was cleaned up. It's very important to clean the inner surface as any dirt or imperfections will show up on the castings later. I test fitted the armature back into the mould to make sure they still fit into place. I also made sure no parts were touching the edges where they shouldn't be. Its a good idea to practise putting the armature back into the mould, because when it comes time to cast you don't want to run into any problems.
In the picture above you can see I've stuck some Cotton material to the upper legs. This is to help the silicone stick. Also I painted a layer of acrylic paint over all the K&S parts that will come in contact with silicone. I've hear that brass can react with some silicons and discolour it. The paint will act as a shield, just in case.

Casting
The Silicone I'm using it very soft and flexible. This is important because I don't want the silicone to fight back against the wire when I bend the puppet.
I pigment the silicone to the desired colour so that I don't have the paint it after casting. Painting silicone is difficult as most paint can't stick to silicone. Also the paint would have to be flexible and resist constant handling. Pigmenting the silicone is an easier option. To do this I add a small amount of oil paints. I try not to add more that 5% of paint to the silicone so that I don't mess up the chemistry. Adding too much could stop it from curing.
In the picture above I have painted the first layer of silicone into each half of the mould using a brush. I added white to the shoes and flesh colour on the rest of the leg. By letting this first layer set it will stop air bubbles from appearing on the outer surface of the legs. Also it will prevent the armature from touching the edge of the mould.

Above it the chest section of the armature resting in it's mould. Again the armature has cloth and paint applied onto it. Also I have wrapped cling film (saran wrap) around the ball and socket joints to stop the silicone from clogging the joint.
When casting I paint the first layer of flesh coloured silicone into both halves of the mould and let it set. I then top up the halves filling them all the way. While the silicone is still runny I slot the armature into one half of the mould causing it to overflow. This is good as it helps to reduce air bubbles. Its better to have too much than too little. 
The next step is to quickly sandwich the two halves together and squeeze them tight using clamps. In the pic above I've used two clamps to hold the mould together. They stay on until the silicone has cured.
When the silicone it set  ( roughly 4-5 hours) I gently open the mould using a screw driver for leverage.

Above is the chest section after it was removed from the mould. As you can see it still has the thin film of excess silicone surrounding it. This is cut off with a small pair of scissors. The seam lines will need to be cleaned up in a process called 'Trimming and Seaming'.( more on that later )

The same process was used to cast all the puppets silicone parts. Above is the mould for the Mail Mans hands with the armatures resting in them.

Here are the cast hands after I separated the two halves of the mould.

Above are the hands in the early stages of trimming and seaming.

Here are the Actresses hands after being cast. They were cast in the silicones natural white colour because the Actress 'Elle' is wearing elbow length gloves.


Finally here's a shot of the newly cast legs standing in front of their mould. They've had a little bit of clean up done but I will explain more about 'Trimming and Seaming' in my next post. Also I'll show all the parts assembled including the Hair.

Thanks for reading.

53 comments:

  1. hello from argentina! been following your posts for a long time and really really enjoying it. gonna be molding a character soon and Id like to know about the type of silicone u are using here. I made a few pieces in common silicone sealer (fake human parts for horror films) but don´t know of any other kind of silicone to use.

    thanks for all the information you are shearing here nathan. really apreciate it :D

    Javier

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  2. That is looking wonderful. I can't wait to see the puppet fully assembled! Thanks for sharing your work in progress photos.

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  3. Thanks for the comments guys

    Tsunnamii -
    The silicone I use is a Platinum Cure (also know as Addition cure). This means that it comes in two seperate parts and is activated when mixed together.Unlike silicone sealer, which is air drying.
    For this puppet I'm using T20 Silicone from Tiranti.co.uk
    Anther alternative is 'Dragon Skin' made by Smooth-on. This is probably the best stuff and is used by all the pro companies. It can be a bit expensive but it's really good.

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  4. Excellent work! The details you provide are invaluable.

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  5. what silicone do you use? can you tell me exactly?

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  6. havingfun-
    I used T20 silicone from Tiranti.co.uk
    As I mentioned in the comment above, DragonSkin by Smooth-On is another option.
    I can also recommend Silicone Skin from AnimationToolKit.co.uk
    http://www.animationtoolkit.co.uk/products/Stop-Motion-Silicone-Skin-500g-%252d-1KG.html

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    Replies
    1. Hey it's me again (Ben) haha, I was looking through your posts again to make a list of materials needed, but I can't find the T20 or T28 on any US Websites, so the DragonSkin will be a life saver. As I'm looking on the site though, I see that there are 3 different types (10,20,30). Apparently only the 20 and 30 types are "Platinum Cure", but they both have different strengths. The 30 type's strength is "Shore 30A", while the 20's is "Soft Shore 20A". Which one is preferable for making puppet casts? Thanks again, you have truly been so much help!

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    2. I am also on Smooth-On looking for 'Fast Cast' Resins but I'm not sure if this one would work or not(I'm looking at the 300Q one) Thank you :)

      - http://www.smooth-on.com/Urethane-Plastic-a/c5_1120_1209/index.html?catdepth=1 -

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    3. Oh, and one more question (Last one, I promise!), I know I should use a Release Agent while making moulds, but should I also use it while actually making the casts?

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    4. Hi Ben,
      Isn't it frustrating when some products arn't available in your area. I have the same problem but with Smooth-On products. They have a great range of materials but their tricky to get hold of in the UK.
      I haven't personally used DragonSkin before for my puppets, but I've heard good things about it. The shore A hardness refers to the 'firmness' of the silicone. The lower the number the softer it is. For example a Shore A 5 = gummy bear texture, Shore A 40 implies erasure texture etc.
      Silicone used for puppets needs to be fairly soft to allow the puppet to flex, but not so soft that it squashes and falls apart when you touch it.
      The Silicone I used was Shore A 16. I'd propably go with the DragonSkin 10 with is Shore A 10. Also i'd suggest getting the slow version. That will give you a 45 minuet working time and 7 hour demold time.

      As for Polyurethane Resin, I'm not sure about the 300Q as its says it only has a 30 second pot life. That would mean you only have 30 seconds to mix the two parts together, pour it into the mold and try and remove any trapped air bubbles.
      I'd go for the 300 (with 3 min pot life) or the 305 ( with 7 min pot life). The extra working time would make things a lot easier for you. There's no need to rush :)

      I hope that helps with your decision making.
      I know some of these materials can be expensive and it's difficult to decide what's best to get.
      Fingers crossed everything turns out OK.

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    5. Ooops missed a question,
      No, release agent shouln't be necessary when casting.
      If you find that the silicone is bonding to your mold and causing problems then I suppose you could apply some release agent but I've never needed to use it.

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    6. Oh alright, I got it now. I'm still learning about the process and such, as you can tell haha. Thank you!

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  7. Hi there Nathan, I've been following your posts for a while now and I find them very interesting - they're a massive help to me. Could you tell me how you coloured the silicone please?

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  8. George- Glad you like my blog.
    To pigment the silicone I add a small amount of oil paints. I try not to add more that 5% of paint to the silicone so that I don't mess up the chemistry. Adding too much could stop it from curing.
    Hope this helps.

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  9. Thanks Nath,
    that information was really helpful. I shall be colouring my silicone all day long! :D
    George.

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  10. Hello there.What clothing and paint do you use on the armature before you cast?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Tommy,
      I used some scrap cotton fabric and stuck it to the armature with contact adhesive. The cloth absorbs the silicone and helps it attach to the armature.
      Parts of the armature were painted with regular acrylic paint. I was worried that the grey wire might show though thin sections of the silicone. It didn't in the end, but you can never be too careful.

      Hope that answers your question. :)

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  11. It did.Thank you very much Mr.Nathan.I appreciate it.
    And one last question if you dont mind.^^ You've placed nuts in the palms of the hands, but at the hands you cast they're covered with silicone !?
    Thank you again.I love your work and I'm learning so much from you and your brother.

    tommy

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome :)
      Im glad you find mt blog useful.
      When I need the puppet to hold a prop, I cut a small slit in the silicone that allows a bolt to be threaded into the nut. When the puppet is finished with the prop the slit in the palm closes up and isn't that noticealbe.
      I might make a second pair of hands without the nut in the palm for general use.
      That way I'd have one pair for holding objects and another clean pair for close ups.

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  12. Hi Nathan,
    I was just wandering how you supported the armature in the mould?
    Thanks, Toby

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    Replies
    1. Hi Toby,
      I use the k&s sections of the armature to hold them in the moulds.
      For example, if you look at the pictures for the Mail Mans hands you'll see that the K&S at the wrists slots tighly into the mould and suspends the rest of the armature.
      For larger armature pieces like the Actresses legs, I used 2 points to suspend them. 1 K&S at the hip and the wire of the heel at the other end.
      Hope answers your question.

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  13. salut Nathan tu ma beaucoup aidé pour mon film "Ponpon"

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    Replies
    1. Merci FLO
      Im heureux que mon blog était utile.
      Y at-il n'importe où en ligne que je peux voir votre film?

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  14. oui sur youtbe animation pate a modeler ponpon mais pour le film ponpon je vais faire des moules comme je savais pas comment faire .tu ma bien aidé merci encore

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  15. I am French but I try to translate. My English is not great but you advised me to buy Stop Motion Silicone Skin 500g - 1KG and Polyurethane Resin head 1KG Fast Cast Kit.

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  16. I'd send you pictures of my plates (scene)

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  17. Nathan hello to all the facial expression it takes for my film. Do I have decomposed the letter I wanted him to say? can you keep me informed
    bey

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    1. Hi FLO
      I Think your asking about Lip Sync?
      I found this image that shows a basic set of mouth shapes for stop motion lip sync.
      http://www.toolfactory.com/products_aux/prod_images/9206_s1_full.jpg
      The mouths represent sounds rather than specific letters. For example, notice how the sound 'F' and 'V' makes the same mouth shape.
      When breaking down audio listen to how the word sounds rather than how it is spelt.

      Planning your Lip Sync is very important.
      You will need to break down the audio using some editing software. Play the sound slowly and plan what mouth shapes are needed for each word. You will also need to note down the timings.

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  18. ok thank you of the information
    bey

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  19. I'm sorry to ask you so many question but what software you use
    and you have an e-mail I send you my picture of my animation to learn more and I give you my address later

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    Replies
    1. I use 'Adobe Premiere'.
      You might be interested in checking out 'Lip Sync Pro'.
      http://www.stopmotionpro.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=25&Itemid=61

      You can Email me at
      info@sculpt-double.co.uk

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  20. Hi Nathan,
    Firstly i want to say, that your blog is amazing. I´m student of film university and I study there animation technology and web sites like this is really useful. With my colleague we are preparing for shooting a stop motion animation film and we would like to do silicon puppets. I find almost averithing about it, but because silicon is expensive I wonder how much material I will need for one puppet. Thank you for all this information and have a nice day!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jan,

      Thanks I'm glad you like my blog.

      I can't say for sure how much you'll need.
      It all depends on the size and design of your charater. But to help give you an idea, I found 1kg of silicone plenty to make my puppet.

      I hope that helps and good luck with your project. :)

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  21. hello Nathant
    Foremost i want to say Thank you for the big help that you do for me and I have one question What do you use as silicone paint for your puppet ?
    Thank you
    Florian

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    Replies
    1. Howdy FLO.

      Painting silicone is difficult because nothing sticks to silicone...except more silicone.
      This means you have to mix pigments into silicone to make your own silicone paint.

      I pigment the silicone with a small amount of oil paint.
      (the kind you get at any art supply store)

      when you're happy with the colour you add the catalyst, mix and apply. As you can see in the post above, I usually paint the silicone into the mould.

      Hope that helps.

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  22. Hi Nathan, these look great. Please could answer a couple of questions for me? I'm working on a dinosaur puppet and it's hoing to be made from a lot of pieces. Can you advise on a glue/solvent that can bond silicone to silicone please? Also can you advise the make pf silicone used for tje puppet please and what you use tp colour it please?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mark,
      Wow a dinosaur puppet. That sounds like fun.
      I tried making dinosaurs once using mosquitoes preserved in amber and frog DNA. The results were horrific. I suspect using silicone and wire is the safer way to go. anyhoo....

      The only thing that sticks silicone to silicone is...more silicone.
      If you google search 'Clear silicone adhesive' that should do the trick.
      Here's a link to a good puppet making silicone -
      http://www.animationtoolkit.co.uk/stop-motion-silicone-
      skin-500g/
      The base colour is clear and you can mix pigments into it to give it some colour before casting.
      ( I use regular artist oil paints )
      I hope that answers your questions. :)

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  23. hello Nathant
    I would like to know how do you preserve the terracotta clay?
    thanks
    Florian
    Florian

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    Replies
    1. Hi Flo,
      To preserve the clay you can spray it with water and cover it with cling film (saran wrap).
      That should keep it good for a few hours.
      If you notice the clay drying out again just spray more water and cover again.

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  24. How do you clean the silicone off your brush after use? Water? Turpentine? Detergent?

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    1. Hi Nicole,

      You can try to rescue your brushes by washing them with acetone.
      However after 2 or 3 uses it's best to scrap the brush and use a new one.

      I go through tons on brushes when molding and casting :)
      I recommend buying a multi pack of cheap brushes.
      Hope that helps.

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    2. Thanks for the info! Your blog is fantastic, by the way. Thanks for all the effort you've put forth to share your knowledge and experience with the rest of us. :)

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  25. Hello Nathan
    to accelerate the curing of silicone rubber that is possible to put in the oven?
    Florian

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    Replies
    1. Hi FLO,

      Yes, heat should help the silicone cure faster.
      You could put it in an oven on a low heat or a safer option would be next to a radiator.

      Be careful not to put anything hazardous in your kitchen oven.
      You wouldn't want your home meals tasting of burnt plastic. ;)

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  26. Hi Nathan ...I think the puppets , sculpting, and animation is fantastic! ... It's Lovely also to see someone sharing the process too . Just wondering if you could help me with a question I have please ? As silicone baby molding /production is such a secretive industry ...I have been searching now for months ,on what type of armature to put inside my solid silicone dolls mold, so that it can bend at the knee and at the elbow when required ...to pose it ? My worry was silicone clogging the joints if i use plastic flexi armature .. any ideas please , what would you use ? thanks ;0)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you very much! I’m glad you like my work.
      If you’re worried about silicone clogging the joints of your armature then you could try wrapping them in PTFE tape and then casting silicone around them. That will stop the silicone getting in and restricting movement. In stop motion we generally use Ball and Socket joints or wire armatures. Wire being the cheaper and less durable option. Another thing to remember it that when silicone is cast in thick sections it won’t be as flexible. It all depends on the scale of your project. For example, if you wanted a wide, chunky leg cast with a diameter of 3cm, you might need to bulk out the armature with foam/sponge and then cast a 3mm silicone skin around it.
      I hope that helps. ;)

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  27. What kind d of mold making material did you use?

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  28. Hi Nathan,
    Thanks so much for your blog! At what point do you join the two halves of the mold together, to make sure they stick together without one side dribbling out?

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  29. gracias por sus comentarios escritos y posteos, desde Santiago de CHILE, desde un studio de animacion, Hokidanock studios Animation- Director Ejecutivo sr Hudo Pardo Miranda

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