Fun with construction projects!

So I’ve made some excellent progress in that last week  that’s been making me feel really good about my overall level of getting things done.

I got all the hands wrapped and completed and I got the four main puppet armatures for Randy covered with the polyurethane foam and the pre-wrap. Then this weekend I went a bought a ton of lumber and a drill press to build my segmented, adjustable, stage platforms for shooting on. It’s been a busy week, but with only two weeks left in the quarter I need to keep on pushing through and getting this stuff done.

The other really awesome thing about this past week was actually related to the buying all the supplies for the stage building project. I had something like 12 2x4s, 7 1x4s, and 2 full sheets of plywood along with a drill press that I had to lug up to my third floor apartment. Without the use of an elevator (though I did get help from my awesome husband). While this does not seem like a good thing and my muscles are still hating me for it, the great part about it was that, other than sore muscles, I’m completely fine. A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to make all those trips us the stairs and afterwards I probably would have been exhausted and feeling sick for days. This weekend, no reaction! Yeah my muscles are sore but there’s been no joint pain, no fatigue nothing! It’s such a huge step forward to know that I can actually push myself when I need too now. Just since the fall I’ve managed to go from being able to get through about 20 hours of work a week to upwards of 30 on a regular basis and I feel like as long as I keep up with the routines I’ve got from my physical therapist and keep the meds properly balanced (the doctor had me pull the medication that was messing me up before so that’s no longer a problem) I feel like not only am I in a much better position to bust out this thesis project once I start shooting, but that I’ll also be able to get myself to a place where I can compete at the same level as everyone else again within the year. You have no idea how awesome it is to feel like I’m getting back to being me again.

But on to the work!

The hands came out quite well. I spent more time on the wrapping with these than I did with the test hands, really focusing on cutting the adhesive bandage to more exact sizes for wrappings and making sure they didn’t start getting too thick in the middle.

Photo Apr 30, 6 24 33 PM

Behold! My glorious collection of miniature hands! Aww, look they’re waving. They must like you. =)

Photo Apr 23, 5 48 37 PM

So the first part of the hand wrapping was me covering the tips of each finger with a folder over piece of adhesive tape. This way, once I wrapped the fingers, I wouldn’t have small bits of the underlying armature visible.

Photo Apr 24, 12 09 26 PM

Next I wrapped the fingers starting from the tip of the fingers and working my way down to the palm.

Photo Apr 30, 5 48 06 PM

After that, it was just a matter of  covering the palms and back of the hands with a few flat layers and making sure it all smoothed down properly along the wrist joint.

The one thing I did find, along with the fact that cutting adhesive tape requires you to stop and clean your scissors with Gojo after every hand, was that the actual adhesive part of the adhesive tape, didn’t hold up well under manipulation.  After a short time the edges of some of the wrapped sections started to peel back on me.

Photo Apr 30, 6 25 32 PM

You can see it on the pinky finger in the above image. So, part of the process also involved letting the hands sit in their little tray for a few days, and checking on them periodically and using some regular glue to reattach any edges that started to peel off. Once they were re-glued, I didn’t have any more problems with the wrapping coming off, and the joints all move quite well. So yay, hand building completed! I plan to wait to paint them until I get all the heads carved so I can match the skin tone between the two sections.

I also finished off the foam wrapping on the four main armatures I was working on last week. I used some extra pre-wrap to soften the harder edges of the wooden torso and pelvis and to try and make the different sections blend together more realistically. I figure the closer I can get the puppets to resemble actual body shapes, the more realistically I can get the clothing to move when I’m animating the puppets.

And then there was the stage!

This stage building process has been a bit of a roller-coaster these last few days.

First, here are the sketches and plans I drew up for my segmented, adjustable stage sections a few weeks ago.

stage design001

stage design002

The idea behind the design is to allow me as much flexibility as possible in my shooting arrangements. By being able to lower and raise the set, I can make it that much easier on myself to animate without having to hunch over the sets too much and fold myself into strange contortions. I’ll still have to bend over and contort myself in some cases, it is stop motion after all, but I can at least reduce the amount that I have to do so, which can allow me to get the animating done more efficiently. It also allows me to save space in the room I’m working in. Several of the long street shorts in the film are going to require a very large stage to work off of. But others will have a solid camera placement that likely won’t even need more than the 3’x3′ square section. Having to always maneuver around the largest possible stage size would be detrimental to my attempts at making this as easy as I can so I can focus on the actual animating rather than the schedule. So, with all that in mind I came up with the stage designs above.

The top sections are platforms made out of 1″x4″ lengths of wood, and the legs are the sturdier 2″x4″s. The legs all attach with a minimum of 2 diagonally placed bolts where the two sections are joined, but I’ve drilled enough holes to use 4 for the extra stability. The basic leg design is three feet high and has a piece of wood that runs along the bottom between the two supporting legs to keep them squared, add to the stability, to add weight (another stabilizer), and to give me an area where I can drop sandbags that is attached to the whole thing to add even more weight. I also have vertical bolt holes drilled along the lengths of the platform tops so they can be bolted together when I need either added length or width for the shots I’m working on. I also have 2″ extension section for the legs that allows me to raise the stage height as I need too. The extension are also attached with multiple bolts in more than one section, and overlap the lower legs for added support.

As you can see in the design, using the extensions causes the legs to shift outward in either one direction or the other. To prevent the stage from being off balance, when using the extensions with a single platform, I plan to have one shift forward and one backward to offset each other, and when used in combination with other sections, I’ll either continue to alternate the legs along both, or, if adding width, I will shift all the legs to the outside so that they create a buttressing effect and hold the platform sections together even more strongly.

I also plan to use the extra 1″x4″s as cross-braces when I’m shooting, to make these things as immobile as I possible can.

So with all that planning and measuring done. I heading off to frolic in the aisles of Home Depot.

Photo Apr 28, 7 31 42 PM

Photo Apr 28, 7 31 27 PM

I came back with lots of lumber, and my shiny new drill press!

Photo Apr 28, 3 26 29 PM

I’m thinking of calling it Raul ( I find it’s more fun to name your equipment because it makes for amusing conversations and feels more personal when you swear at a machine that’s giving you trouble). The drill press just made way too much sense to get for this project to let the price talk me down. I want to make sure that all the holes I’m drilling in the legs and platforms are at the exact same 90 degree angle so there’s no offset when I connect the pieces. Between that and the large number of holes I need to drill, this thing is going to save me a ton of time.

So I lugged all my equipment home and starting drilling the holes, and laying out the frames for the platforms when I came to a horrible realization.

It turns out that 2″x4″s and 1″x4″s are not actually 2 inches by 4 inches long. It’s sort of like the whole quarter-pounder thing at fast food chains where the weight is the pre-cooked weight. The actual size of a 2″x4″ is approx. 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. Some online site say the discrepancy is due to the drying process, while others just say that this is how they were standardized. Either way, it’s really, really frustrating when you spend an hour carefully calculating the lengths of the lumber you’ll need based on the idea of a full sized 2″x4″ and 1″x4″ and then find that a lot of your wood is not the size you thought it was, and entire sections of your cache of lumber are now at least a half inch too short.

I figured all of this out after several hours of clearing a working space, putting together the drill press, and drilling holes in all the 1″x4″ framing sections. Needless to say, I was pretty damn frustrated and just had to walk away for a bit.

But I decided to make the best of it, grabbed some other scrap wood from the studio and re-designed on the fly. I’ll still have to go back next weekend and get some more wood for the sections I just need to replace, and most of the support braces had to be hand cut so I’m not as far along at this point as I wanted to be, but the good part about being able to push a little is that I can put in an extra hour or two each day and hopefully get myself caught up by the end of the week.

But the top framing sections are done, and tonight I plan to get all the plywood top sections attached to them so I can move on to drilling the holes in the leg sections I can still use.

Here’s the pics of where they are at now.

Photo Apr 29, 6 10 14 PM

Photo Apr 29, 6 09 58 PM

Photo Apr 29, 6 09 51 PM

So, overall, a very productive week as we approach the end of the quarter. If I keep this up, I should be able to start shooting my first scenes in June like I plan. Yay progress.

Alright, I went way over my hour limit this week – bad blogger – and now it’s time for dinner. See you next week!

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