Today's post is dedicated to the process of making the head for the character 'Elle'. I feel this is the most important part of a stop motion puppet and the hardest to make. A characters face will be under the most scrutiny from the audience and manufacturing it to express a wide range of expressions requires a lot of problem solving.
Both Josh and I made the decision to make solid, plastic heads that will use a system of replaceable masks to allow us to change the characters expression. We were inspired by the stop mo film 'Coraline' which used a similar technique to make the title characters faces. Unlike 'Coraline' we will be sculpting each facial expressions by hand. (we can't afford fancy 3d printers)
I enjoy using the replacement animation technique as it speeds up the animation process. adjusting a plasticine face between shots can lead to the characters face going 'off model' and the clay tends to get dirty.
I will be using the same process as Josh used to create the Mail Man Puppets head. You can see his pictures on his blog here.http://joshua-flynn.blogspot.com/2011/03/puppet-head-sculpt-mail-man.html
I started by making a solid core for the rest of the head to be built around. Above you can see a Milliput cap that slots over the neck and into K&S. I will want the head to slide on and off the neck in order to change face expressions while filming. The K&S locates the head to the correct position.
Eyes and Eye Sockets
Earlier in this blog I explained how I moulded various sized eye balls to be cast out and used in this film.Link Below you can see some of the eyes I cast. At this point they still had the excess pour spouts attached. They will be cut off and smoothed away later.
To keep the eyes securely in place I have made silicone eye sockets. I was worried that the fast cast eyes would slide around or fall out of the fast cast head. The silicone socket grips the eyes and holds them in the head nicely. To make the socket, I sculpted the shape in plasticine with the eyes in place. I then poured a plaster mould trapping the eyes inside. When i flipped the mould and removed the plasticine it left the correct size negative space for the silicone to be cast.
Above is the silicone eyes sockets that will slot into the head core. The eyes still roll in the sockets and they are unlikely to slip during filming.
Sculpting the Head Core.
Next I started to sculpt the characters head around the Milliput head core. I'm using Sculpey firm. Usually I would need to keep the weight down by blocking out the head with balsa wood. As I will be casting this head in fast cast resin (Polyurethane), I don't have to worry about using heavy clay.
As you can see I have added a space for the eye socket to slot into. Also I have added a K&S rig point and gap at the back of the head for the hair to slot into. The hair will be a separate silicone component.
Above is the head with the eye socket. You can also see the circular space where the neck slots in.
The shape and finish of this is not too important as the facial details and overall shape of the head will be sculpted into the removable face masks.
After baking the head I roughly sculpted a thin layer of Milliput over the face. These act as a solid base for me to sculpt the face onto. The faces will be divided into two parts. Brows and Mouths.
I applied Vasaline between the two materials to top them from sticking. Once the Milliput was cured I removed them from the head.
That enough for now.
My next post will continue with the puppet head construction. More pictures soon.