Monday, October 4, 2010

Move, Armature and Visit to Special FX Studio

It's been a while since I posted to Miguel and El Frijole Magico because I've had my projects on hold because we've been planning our move to Norway.

But we're in Norway now and other than the rain and the food, I'm getting used to it.

Rather than wait around to get motivated, I decided to start talking to people around here about film making and animation and doing a bit of research as to who's doing what.

My first visit was to a town called Tonsberg about 1.5 hours south west of Oslo on the coast. There I met a fantastic guy named Steinar Kaarstein who does special FX for movies here in Norway. It's a tough business he said but he's really getting his name out there.

The cool thing is Steinar is the go-to-man in my area for hard to get stuff like latex rubber and casting supplies. It's not like in the states where I can have everything shipped for cheap. Nope, this stuff can cost an arm and a leg getting it shipped over here and he's a distributor so that helps out a lot.

When I was there we took a couple of pics of my daughter and wife with one of the costumes and another one of Steinar.

Steinar also was kind enough to give me an armature kit that he had purchased from England but said he probably wouldn't be using it any time soon. I've started to assemble it and it looks great!

We also went to look at my father in laws barn.  Upstairs in the barn is a lot of unused space.  This thing is just itching to have projects in it. We just have to put a floor down where the planks are, some insulation, some windows and away we go, instant studio!

On another note, I just decided also to start diving into learning animation on my own. I started looking up resources on Youtube and here's my first attempt at a biped walking, running, then jumping. Yeah, it sucks but it's a start for my first one so give me a break!  Any tips for free animation resources are completely wanted!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mission to visit Stop Motion Mission

Last Sunday on our way back from our vacation the family got to visit Justin and Shel Rasch's house in LA and check out the awesome work they have been doing on their latest stop motion movie called "Line, Space Dog against Space Flea".  The story is reminiscent of the never ending battle between dogs and fleas but the set in another galaxy and in space ships.
Justin and Shel are also the creators of "Geralds Last Day", a story about a pooch's last day in a pound and all the creative stuff he does to try to get someone to adopt him.
Although the visit was short I received lots of encouragement from seeing their studio and the progress they've made on the movie thus far.  I brought along Chris Bot and talked to Justin a little about what's motivating me to do stop motion or animation in general and got a couple of cool pics of Flea and Dober with Chris Bot.
Because of our move, we're going to be putting Chris Bot on hold until we can set something up in my in-laws barn.

Lily and Maia had a blast playing with all the toys, checking out the puppets and the set, and amazingly enough didn't break anything!!!

What's really impressed me the most about Justin and Shel's work is how they've balanced work, family, play time and animating.  Absolutely inspiring and amazing.

Here's some photos from the visit.

From Left to Right: Justin, Shel, Me (Miguel), Lily, Runi, & Maia.

From Left to Right: Flea, Chris Bot, Dober

Here's Justin with Dober.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bunny Test

In one of the scenes of the Chris-bot movie Chris bot encounters a bunny, the first of many subjects to photograph.  This is a test of the bunny which is made out of clay.  Here's the Youtube Link.

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Rig!

I've been having trouble making Chris Bot walk and so I badly wanted a walking rig like the kind that you can buy for 60 bucks from some animation pro shop that uses ball sockets and joints.  Well, cause this is ghetto puppet making at it's finest I always keep my eyes open for stuff that may help me in my endeavors.
Well I recently came across some cheap ball and socket joints at Autozone.  The were attached to small mirrors and extension handles.  So basically I bought six of these small mirrors (they were two bucks each) and took the mirror and the extension portion off and soldered it to some square tubing.  Using a piece or round stock metal, I drilled into it and epoxied the square tubing into the round stock and attached it to my puppet.  Here's a picture of the mirrors and the final product.  Not bad for 5 bucks.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Painting Chris Bot and Adding Hands

So my wife Runi helped me paint Chris Bot this evening.  She has a background in theater and was able to create a nice textured look like old metal on him.
Once the light is adjusted you can see his true color.  In the photo above he contemplates taking a photo of the flower.
Here's the link to the short Youtube Video.

You may have to see it a few times to get the hang of whats happening.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Woo hoo!
After 5 attempts we finally got the final cast of Chris Bot to work.
I had mentioned on a previous post that Chris Bot lacked the expression in his arms and so I moved his arms to the outside. Quite a simple fix but getting the foam latex to work was a nightmare!
So after speaking with Justin and Shel from Stop Motion Mission(Thanks!  You guys Rock) I got some good advice and basically baked the thing for 12 hours on really low heat.
I'm using a small oven, the kind you have on a counter top and so I believe what was happening was when I was baking it at the recommended temperatures the elements were causing uneven heating and causing steam pockets which pulled the casting from the mold.
By cooking it on lower heat for longer it prevented these pockets and viola, it worked.
So here's a photo of the finished cast along side the old one. BTW, I did a test paint on the old one and it looks pretty cool. I love the metallic paint. Rocks.
Chris Bot prior to being trimmed.
Chris Bot get's a trim

Monday, May 24, 2010

Christ Bot Take 2

Over the weekend I made a rig that would be more solid than the LEGO and clay rig I had set up before.  It consisted of drilling into a half inch thick piece of round stock steel, epoxying three strands of twisted aluminum armature wire, and then adding soldered square tubing with a counter balance to help keep Chris Bot up.
I then animated Chris Bot doing a quick walk and thinking about what he was going to shoot next.
The rig worked pretty well when walking but when I wanted to make Chris Bot jump he was too heavy to be picked up by the rig and so I had to hold him up with my hand in the shot.
Here's a video and a link to you tube of 5 seconds of Chris Bot.

One thing I noticed is that Chris Bot's arms are hard to use for expressions while he's walking since they stick out in front of him. And the fact he has no hands as of yet makes it even more difficult for him to do things. Chris Bot 2.0 (coming to a store near you) will have his arms shifted to the proper place, where his shoulders are at and will have the added advantages of hands and a remote control for this camera rigs.

This should help him as he takes photos and moves around.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chris Bot Lives!

So I couldn't wait to get the paint on Chris Bot and I just decided to start animating him.  After all, I mean, why not right?
So I made a rig out of LEGO and plasticine that kept Chris Bot standing and pulled out the web cam and started animating the guy.  The results can be seen on you tube and yes, I still have the trial version of Stop Mo pro but it's not that bad.  The rig wasn't removed because I think I can't do rig removal with the trial version, well at least export rig removal.
Anyhow, here's the embedded video and a link to the you tube video.  Once you viddie it, then drop me a line and tell me what you think!

At the end Chris Bot falls down but for some reason, you tube clipped the video.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Birth of Chri Bot

Okay, this video is pretty long (3.5 minutes) but it shows how I went about getting Chris-Bot out of his mold.
So the next time, I'll put prying wedges into the mold!

We'll see how the painting goes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Emo-Bot is my second attempt at casting a foam latex puppet. As seen in previous posts, the armature I created for Emo-Bot was originally thought to be for Chris Bot, after my friend Chris Schmuach, but unfortunately, I made the wrong robot. But Emo-Bot has two cameras like Chris although he's a little more shy about taking photos than Chris is.

The next step in the process is to paint Emo-Bot, a run down rusty old robot who goes around taking photos of things that don't quite work out. We'll see how it goes as I have a lot of cleaning up to do. If you have any tips on how to clean up the castings after they're done, I'd appreciate it!

Thanks and enjoy Emo-Bot!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

First Foam Latex Batch

Well today I made my first batch of foam latex for a puppet head I had made a couple of years ago of a coworker.
I had to do everything outside and I didn't have the proper temperature or humidity measuring equipment and the puppet head was small.
So what happened?
Well, I was outside, mixing the stuff with a hand blender (that is not recommended by the manufacturer) and as I was mixing, the instructions caught the wind and lifted up the cup of geling agent I had and it poured into the bowl and so my first batch was ruined.  It began to gel almost a minute later.  Of course, I was using a 50% ratio because my first mold was very small.
So I tried it a second time, this time careful not to have the gelling agent drop into the bowl and sort of winged the amount of time I was supposed to mix it.
I plopped the stuff into the mold as soon as possible cleaned it up and about a minute afterwards it began to set.
So now the mold is inside of a small toaster oven I have outside.  We'll see how that works out!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chris Bot: Making the Armature and Mold

At work sometimes I get a little bored so I drew up a character named Chris bot after my good friend Chris Schmauch.  He's a photographer and usually carries around two cameras when he's shooting. Chris Bot is a little round robot that has two cameras on his head which take multiple photos at any time.  So in my insanity I decided to make a real life puppet out of Chris Bot. Making a puppet from scratch from a drawing you made on the whim is pretty cool.  I'm excited about Chris Bot and looking forward to animating him.  It will be an interesting story that so far I've storyboarded in my head and doesn't have the big cast of characters Tamalco has.
The First part of the process is to make a wire armature.
Second, you put plasticine over that armature and put in whatever details you want to show up.  In this case, I left out the rivets because I'll actually drill them into the mold.
Then, you put a base down of regular clay (thanks Justin) and mold it up to halfway around the body.  You press in a ball halfway up to create a key that will make the mold lock in together when you snap the parts together.  This is the tough part and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to do this.  I thinking if I turn the clay into a thick slip that it may work better but will take longer to solidify.
After that you build up your walls, in this case I used LEGO because it allows for a perfect box.  I'm an engineer so I like square things.
Then you pour your plaster in and make one half.  After it dries, you pull out the clay, pour the other half and then you have a mold! 

This is a photo of the internal armature of Chris Bot.
This is a photo of the clay model of Chris Bot
The final puppet will have the two cameras mounted on itself and the appropriate rivets to hold him together.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The tiger and the Dog

So as I continue on my journey of exploration I have started to draw during my lunch time at work.  What have I learned so far?  Well, so far I've learned that you're not really drawing a character.  You're drawing a bunch of lines that eventually look like a character.  Each line in itself can't be the character.  When they all come together, you got your character.  So I really feel like I didn't draw a dog below, I feel like a drew a bunch of lines that resulted in looking like a dog.  So now, the dog has life.  Don't try to draw the dog.  Try to draw the lines that make up the dog. Here's the latest results.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

On practicing animation...

On Friday a buddy of mine from work lent me three animation books that talked about drawing cartoons and the steps an artist goes through to get from the beginning of an idea to the end.
In just a few hours of reading (yes, this is far more interesting to me than reading about soil bearing pressure) I gained valuable knowledge and insight as to how this things are drawn and how what movement looks like.  I immediately started doing some of the exercises in the books and remarkably could see some improvement in an hour or so.  The big secret I learned is that the stuff is drawn a lot bigger than it's printed.  So if you draw things big you can always shrink them down and they look real good.  So no more index cards for story boards, we're moving to 10X12 sheets of paper (with appropriate frame for aspect ratio).Here's what I've worked on thus far.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Sculpted Heads

So over the last two nights I've been practicing my sculpting a bit more. I've also been working on the Tamalco story boards, just moving forward little by little.  What I really need is to have a drawing of my character so I can then sculpt it.  Right now I'm just sculpting blind.Trying to get something that looks, well, decent.  Here's the results

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tamalco Story Boards!

So I've started crafting the story boards for Tamalco while I was in Norway. As you can see I'm still refining the details of what the characters look like.  Gotta start somewhere!  Comments appreciated!