Thursday, 9 June 2011

Theatre Usher Uniform

In this post I'm going to be showing how I made the uniform for the Theatre Usher. The last time I posted about this character I described how I bulked out his armature using balsa wood and upholstery sponge

I the picture above you can see the bulked out puppet body laying next to a printed picture of the character maquette and some red material. I selected this material because its the perfect colour for the uniform. I also took into consideration the thickness of the fabric. Too thick and the clothes wouldn't be flexible enough to move with the puppet. Too thin and the clothes would move a little every time I position the puppet ( creating an unnatural 'boiling' effect in the animation)

As with the other puppets I've made, I used paper templates to help plan the shape of the clothes. I then traced the shapes onto the fabric and cut them out. It can be difficult getting the desired fit to a puppets clothing and there's a fine line between the puppet looking good and functioning properly. I often have to go back and make small alterations, that's why its useful having the templates. In the pic above you can see the puppet wearing his red trousers. If you compare his legs to Elle's It give you a sense of how bulky this character is. The puppets feet aren't seen much in the film so rather than sculpting and casting silicone shoes I used a quicker and simpler technique.

Using sharp scissors I cut some blue sponge to fit onto the armature feet. These where shaped to look like big blocky shoes. Next I mixed some black acrylic paint into liquid latex and painted a layer into the sponge. Above you can see the shoes after a few layers of latex. I left the latex to dry a little between layers. ( If latex is left to dry for too long the next layers wont stick and might separate.) After I painted the first few layers I started to dip the feet into the latex. This gave them a thicker coat and left no brush marks.

After about 5 or 6 layers the latex built up a shiny flexible skin over the sponge. Finally I stuck the sponge to the armature feet using contact adhesive and added black 'Funky Foam' souls. These feet will still flex at the toe so the character can be animated walking.  In the picture above you can also see a gold strip added to the trousers.

The gold trim is made from thin ribbon that I stuck onto the surface of the fabric. I use contacts adhesive to stick on extra details like collars, cuffs and buttons. Unlike superglue or PVA glue, contact adhesive doesn't soak through and stain the material. There are probably special fabric glues that would work but contact adhesive is fast to work with and holds up to constant handling.

Above you can see the sleeve of the uniform with added detail to the cuff.

Finally, here is a picture of puppet with an almost completed uniform. At this point I handed him over to Josh to continue with (visit Josh's Blog HERE). He'll be finishing the head first so that we can plot where to add the collar and finishing details like buttons. He'll probably want to post the details of how he finished the puppet so I'll leave it to him.

I think that's about it for puppet construction. In my next post I'll probably start talking about sets.
Thanks for reading.