June 2012 archives

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June 9, 2012

armatures 101 - part 2: how to make a wire armature

by sven at 9:42 pm

Here are videos from three well-respected StopMotionAnimation.com members, each describing how to build a basic wire armature.

(Click on name to go to their website.)


Nick's puppet-making series:
Make a Buildup Puppet
Tie-downs Tutorial
Stop Motion Puppet Heads Part 1: Latex Build-up
Stop Motion Puppet Heads Part 2: Mouldmaking and Casting in Silicone Rubber

Marc's puppet-making series:
How to Make Wire Armatures for Stop Motion
Stop Motion Puppet Construction 1st Edition

Richard's puppet-making series:
Building a Stop Motion Monster: Making an Aluminum Wire Armature (1 of 4)
Building a Stop Motion Monster: Making the Latex Skin (2 of 4)
Building a Stop Motion Monster: Padding the Body (3 of 4)
Building a Stop Motion Monster: Finishing the Puppet (4 of 4)

posted by sven | permalink | categories: stopmo

armatures 101 - part 1: wire vs. ball & socket

by sven at 5:06 pm

[Today StopMotionAnimation.com got a major overhaul and years of archives disappeared. I'm doing some writing to help repopulate the site with info useful to newcomers.]

There are two main varieties of armature: wire and ball & socket. Here are the pros and cons.

1. Price
Wire armatures are inexpensive: ~$20 for materials. Ball & socket armatures are expensive: ~$150 for a humanoid kit, ~$500+ for something custom-built.

2. Time Spent Building
Wire armatures are fast to make (1-2hrs). Ball & socket armatures take a long time (30hrs+).

3. Durability
Wire armatures break. It's not a question of if—it's a question of when. A well-built wire armature can hopefully last for 5-minute film. A well-built ball & socket armature will never break; however, screws that keep the joints tight can become loose and need re-tightening.

4. Spring Back
When you bend a wire armature into position, it will "spring back" a little. A ball & socket armature won't spring back, and thus allows you to put a puppet into a pose more precisely. If you use framegrabber software, you can compare frames and compensate for spring back—so it's not such a big problem nowadays.

5. Hinge Motion
When you make an elbow using wire, the joint bows rather than hinging on a precise point. If you try to narrow the length of wire at the elbow joint, risk of breakage increases. With a ball & socket armature, you can make a joint that bends at a single, precise point.

6. Flexibility
It's a simple matter to make a tentacle using wire. It's very difficult to create enough ball & socket joints to simulate the same thing.

7. Limited Range of Motion
In ball & socket armatures, range of motion is often limited—especially at the shoulders. It may be difficult to transition a puppet between certain poses. For example, many puppets will lock up if you try to move from arms down at sides to arms up at sides to arms outstretched in front. Wire armatures, by contrast, can give you an unlimited range of motion. Constrained motion can sometimes make your job easier while animating... However, extra range of motion can also be very valuable. It might allow you to cheat your way out of a problematic pose on set.

8. Professionalism
There's a misconception that professionals only use ball & socket armatures. Not true. Most puppets made for TV use wire armatures. The expense of creating ball & socket armatures is usually only justified for feature films.

Bottom Line
Animating a well-made ball & socket armature is like driving a Porsche. It's a pleasure to work with, and you get the very best results. Expect to spend extraordinary amounts of time and money for that experience, though. A bad ball & socket armature is miserable to work with, and worse than a typical wire armature. You'd be wise to start off your animation career by learning to do good work with wire.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: stopmo