Fingers and foam – a continuation

It has been a crazy past couple of weeks.

Health stuff has been kicking my butt again. There’s always the risk when you try a new treatment that it’s going to make things a little worse rather than better. The new drug I’m on has some unpleasant side effects that kept me from getting my work done which in turn lead to a backlog of both thesis and project management assignments which caused me to put off updating the blog again. I also think that trying to update on Friday’s is a bad idea. All my assignments for Project Management are due on Saturday and so I tend to spend most of my time on Friday’s working on that – which makes the blog entries more stressful than they should be. So, I think I might try and make this a beginning of the week task. Try and make it a more positive -here’s what I’ve accomplished and what I’m going to aim for in this coming week.

So on that note – here’s what I’ve accomplished. =)

After having tried out my various hand tests, I decided to use the metal hand design from the third test hand – combined with the fingers from the first test hand and to add a washer to the middle for added stability. Over the course of the following week, I got those 4 pairs of hands shaped, and glued.

First I started by shaping the metal loop that would the base for the palm section of the hand, and then twisting the remaining wire together beneath it to act as a wrist segment that can be attached to the lower arm section once I’ve gotten the wardrobe on my puppets (that comes later).

Photo Apr 10, 6 22 39 AM

Once all eight loops were made I used some #8/ M4.2 washers to give the palm section some more surface area to grip when manipulating the hands, as well as to act as a tie down guide if I ever need to use the hands as a contact point.  I have no idea what M4.2 means in terms of actual measurements – but it’s what was on the label for the box of washers – so I’m going with it. I used the JB-Weld to attack the washers to the wire frame and let them sit for 24 hours to dry. After they had, set I flipped them over, and added some reenforcing epoxy to the underside of each of the palm segments, to keep the washers more securely attached. This of course meant another 24 hours setting period.

Photo Apr 11, 1 25 09 AM

Once the washers were firmly placed, I started using the 24 gauge wire to create the fingers. This time I worked from the center outward, looping the wire around the washers and the wire frame first, and then twisting them together to make the lengths of the fingers. This gives me the ability to then make the fingers longer than they need to be, and to cut them back to a standard length among all eight hands. It’s always easier to trim the wire back, than to have to redo the entire finger segment.

Photo Apr 11, 4 31 02 AM

At this point I also hit a snag in that I ran out of the 24 gauge wire and had to run to the store to grab some more. That also proved to be complicated, when it turns out that there was a package of 26 gauge wire on the hook where the 24 gauge was supposed to be, costing me an additional day of work. Note to self – always double check the label on the actual supplies before leave the store.

But once I had the proper wire in hand (no pun intended) I was able to finish up adding the rest of the finger segments to the remaining hands. This then led to another round of epoxy to make sure that the fingers would all stay in their proper spacing, and another 24 hours setting period.

Once the fingers were fully twisted and attached, I decided on the length of the fingers I would need. The test hands ended up being a little large, so I went with a slightly smaller size for the palms and finger lengths for the final puppets. After figuring out how long I wanted each of the fingers to be, I bent the tips of each wire finger inward toward the underside of the palm at that length, allowing me to leave a tiny 1/8 inch length to fold back on itself to create the tips of the fingers. I did this because just trimming the fingers to length would make it more likely for the wire to start to unravel. By folding some of the extra wire over, I can create a rounded tip that will make it harder for the wire to come apart, and it makes the tips of the fingers just a tiny bit wider than the rest of the fingers which tends to look more natural in animation – even though it isn’t factually accurate to how hands look.

Photo Apr 19, 9 39 06 AM

Photo Apr 19, 9 43 35 AM

Photo Apr 19, 10 17 07 AM

I then added more JB-Weld to the tips of the fingers to solid-ify them, and let them sit for another 24 hours to dry. Now all that remains is to cover each of the hands with strips of the adhesive bandage and I will have four sets of hands, ready to be painted and attached once the heads and clothing for the Randy puppets are done.

Photo Apr 23, 12 58 01 PM

Since there was a lot of down time when working on the hands, waiting for epoxy to dry ect. I also started working on covering the final puppets with foam.
This is to give the puppet a more realistic body shape underneath the clothing, which goes a long way towards making the puppets move more realistically. If the cloth drapes in such a way that you can see the fact that the stomach area has no filling or that the legs and arms are uniform plastic tubes, it can break the viewer out of the accepted world you’re presenting in your animation.

First I covered the areas that needed the most filling with blocks of solid polyurethane foam I bought at a craft store. I filled out the thighs and lower legs, as well as the stomach area and the gaps the joints at the shoulders and elbows. The foam is attached using rubber cement which is a dry stick adhesive. The way it works is you coat the two sides of what you want to bond together, in this case, the puppets lower leg section and one side of the foam block, with the rubber cement. You then let them sit until they are both dry (this only takes a minute or two). Once both sides are dry, you press them together, and they attach. You have to be careful with your aim though – it sticks very quickly and if you’re not careful you may end up having to cut the foam block off and get a new one because the placement wasn’t correct. The rubber cement actually bonds better when you let both sides dry out, than if you were to attach them when the cement was still damp.

Photo Apr 11, 3 35 11 AM

Once the blocks of foam are in place, I then move on to filling out and shaping the puppet by wrapping it with a thinner foam called pre-wrap. I actually discovered pre-wrap when I played basketball in high school, and had a tendency to roll my ankles when coming down from trying to grab rebounds. The school trainer had to wrap both my ankles in athletic tape before each game. In order to make the tape more comfortable and not have it stick to my skin, she used this pre-wrap foam on my ankle first. It’s essentially a very thin sheet of foam, that comes on a roll.

For the puppets, I bought some of this pre-wrap and cut strips of it to wrap around the puppet. By controlling how tightly or how loosely I pulled the wrap, I was able to round out the blocks of green foam and also create some tapering in certain sections of the legs. Because the arms are close to the width they need to be, I just wrapped the foam directly around the arm sections, layering more in areas I needed to be thicker, and less where I didn’t. The ends of the pre-wrap strips were secured with rubber cement, just like the rest of the foam. The end result, is a more human-like body shape for the puppets, that will look much better underneath the puppet’s wardrobe.

Photo Apr 11, 3 34 57 AM

Photo Apr 19, 11 47 28 AM

At the moment I’ve finished covering 2 of the final four puppets in foam. Though I hope to get the remaining 2 done tonight and get the hands wrapped and completed.

Once I have the foam covering and the final hands finished – I will have completed 6 out of my 8 project goals for the quarter which ends in 2 and a half weeks. The other 2 tasks I want to finish are building the stage sections I will need for shooting (I’ve already designed them), and finally finish the new animatic I’ve been working on in bits and pieces all quarter. My overall goal is to have at least one full puppet and set completed by the end of May – so I can start shooting a few scenes, while I finish off the other puppets and sets.

So that’s where I’m at blogosphere. Hopefully my health will level out a bit an allow me to make the final push for the end of the quarter and for the beginning of my planned shooting schedule.

See you next week! (I hope)


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