Claws, Jaws, Paws; Awes...ome.

POSTDATED - 04/04/12

After undercoating the claws in white enamel I cut slits in the toes and inserted the claws, glueing them in place with some super glue. The result was effective, with only a little bit of latex needed to fill up the gaps made by cutting slits for the claws. The only problem I found was the latex wasn't fully dried to the foot plate, so would need a little more time to dry up and then some glue would be needed to ensure the foot plate would attach firmly to the latex.
I then started painting the teeth with a final coat of enamel (lol?), some grey to lift out the whites, and then some muddy brown to add staining to them.
I then got to work on the other feet, sculpting up the latex to match the existing paw
While I was waiting for the latex to dry I decided to test what I was going to do with the fur, because I was planning to add something to is to make it slightly less freely moving, which would reduce boiling. I didn't actually want to eliminate boiling completely, because that would defeat the object of this being a stop-motion project, if I wanted sterile perfection I would be doing CG. I painted on some of the black acrylic/latex mix on to a patch of fur to see what the result would be. I expected it to make the fur look very matted, but whether this effect would be undesirable I wanted to find out. As my wolf puppet is supposed to be a wild animal it would actually add to the effect if he was a bit muddied up.


It Ends

POSTDATED - 03/04/12

Shooting at Caerphilly filled me with mixed emotions. We got some great footage, and even though the weather wasn't as clear as the other days we had filmed this wasn't a complete disaster because it sort of fit the storyline, adding contrast to the dreamlike portions of the story in Puzzlewoods. However, though we paid to be allowed to film at the castle, we had to keep the hall open, and so had to endure clueless tourists taking photographs with the flash on while we were in the middle of a shot and at one point about 50 French kids stormed the place and started messing around with our props so I had to put on my big man voice and shout at them in French. In fairness, they stopped immediately and apologised. But between that and the whole wedding bumping fiasco, wasn't too impressed with being charged £150 for the pleasure of having our filming delayed to another week; not to mention being charged an extra week for our props. They shall be hearing from our legal team (I've asked my daddy to use his actual big man voice with them...).

This is the make-up for Lady A's arms, which was some sort of vine-like growths on her arms with petals growing off them. I'm still undecided as to whether these look cool or just a bit weird. I don't think it's the make-up that needed improving necessarily, I think that anything growing off the skin was bound to look a bit weird. They were only in-shot for a little while anyway, so hopefully they won't detract from the coherence of the storyline.

One last sneaky peek at the live-action footage from our last day of shooting. 


POSTDATED - 01/04/12

No sweet April Fools pranking action for me, I've got wolf paws to be making!

I started by stripping back the foam on the paws. I had been a little over-zealous on my armature slot-making so there were gaps all around anyway, and I figured making the whole paw from latex would make it easier to sculpt if the texture was uniform rather than some areas being foamy underneath. I added little plasticine plugs to the John Wright armatures to ensure the latex wouldn't gum up the Allen key tightening mechanism. Though they shouldn't need any adjustment because I tightened them up as much as should be needed.

Using the Ray Harryhausen build-up method I shaped the cotton wool soaked in black acrylic coloured latex to make the paw shape. After doing the initial wrapping of cotton wool strips around the armature I did a combination of shifting and poking with my custom built sculpting tool (the sharpened end of a plastic paintbrush) and snipping with my ever-faithful nail scissors to create the toes. This was quite fiddly work so I only managed to get one paw finished, though I expected the subsequent ones to go along quicker after initial one. It also gave me an opportunity to see if the latex would dry out overnight and whether they would need any jiggering after they had done so.

Working 9 to 5! Because uni is only open for those hours on the weekends...

POSTDATED - 31/03/12

Starting to get finished on the padding out section of puppet making and moving on to some of the details I started by finishing off the foam sections of the skull

I made a selection of smaller and larger claws for insertion in to the paws which I'll be starting next.

I painted up the eyeballs. I wish I could have spent longer making them look nicer, adding some iris details and whatnot, but at this stage I needed to get things moving.

Cheers Ears

POSTDATED - 30/03/12

So what with filming at Caerphilly castle being postponed to Tuesday I got back in to the studio to spend a bit more quality time with my puppet. I started on the ears;
Triangles of foam to get the basic shape, and some UHU por to glue it into place.

Using my trusty nail scissors I cut the ears to the right shape.
My puppet needed ears like he needed a hole in the head. Actually... he needed both.

A cheeky bit of epoxy resin later and those are adjustable looking ears!

To cut a bit of weight on the wolf's head I decided to use foam for the rest of the skull, rather than using one massive block of Milliput.

It Resumes

POSTDATED - 29/03/12

This was by far my favourite day of filming. It was another perfectly sunny day, shooting began at 2pm, with only a few shots to do during the daylight, and then the big time-lapse shot to do from 9-11pm.
At one point we were filming a shot which rotated around Rosa (who was playing Lady A) so Scott and I had to hide behind some trees to be out of shot. We were lying in a warm, sunny field "working". Brilliance.

Below is a still from the time lapse from around 10pm. It felt very strange and mystical, with St. Lythan's burial chamber being a roughly 6,000 year old neolithic monument, and the full moon being directly above it. Especially since the surrounding area is so far out from Cardiff that it was perfectly dark around us. Made me feel all small and powerful inside at the same time.

Here's a quickly After Effects-ed shot from the day time. I was really pleased with how perfectly the masked off area worked, the milky lighting, the acting. Very pleased indeed.

Meanwhile, Back In A Windowless Room

POSTDATED - 28/03/12

Briefly back to puppet-making, and I realised that adding a second balsa wood section in the rear half of my puppet would stop it from sliding around while animating, as I was finding it's attachment to the spinal bar a little precarious. Also this would give me something else to grip on to while animating. Kind of wish I had thought of this before glueing the rear foam section back up though, but at least I made this realisation before starting animation. That could have been embarassing...

It Continues

POSTDATED - 27/03/12

The second day of shooting began with running a few errands that resulted in being delayed 2 hours. One thing I have learned about film-making is that whenever you have to physically get people and equipment from one place to another, or get people to do just about anything, it will take about four times longer than you expect.

Among the errands was picking up the costumes which my costumes designer had left behind the reception desk for me to pick up. I wasn't completely happy with the results, so it only required 3-4 hours of adjusting them. The blue tights for Cernunnos' goat legs didn't really work at all in the end so we worked around them, which was a shame because with some testing we may have been able to pull off the effect, but oh well.

Here is a selection of photos taken that day;

For some one who's speciality is camerawork, Aaron doesn't seem to have quite mastered the whole 'look at the camera when you're having your photo taken' thing...

The DVD cover, courtesy of Aaron. What a photographic champ.

Fixing up those hooves
The on-set cat, a valuable crew member. Seen here keeping some costumes warm.
Lovely Antonia doing my make-up

Just hanging out in the forest dressed as a Celtic god holding and holding a fog machine while stroking my fake beard. Wassup.

Here's some footage from the second day. The delays from costume adjusting pushed back our shooting schedule, so the strong directional lighting looked great in the silhouette. Here's Ky and me displaying our serious approach to acting.

It Begins

POSTDATED 26/03/12

Today was the first day of filming. And what a day. Beginning at 8am and ending at 10pm it was lots of running around, carrying heavy things and trying to ignore my dad being cool in front of my friends. At least the weather was glorious. Here's a selection of photos from throughout the day.

 Scott standing in frame to help Aaron frame up shots.
 Scott sorting out Ky's hair. Look at him, he loves it.
 Ky and Richard Roberts choreographing the fight sequence.
 Me showing Ky what direction to walk through a shot at sunset.
Richard Roberts sulking, maybe? Maybe.

 My favourite shot from the day's shooting. Sexy sexy darkness.

Costume Stuff

POSTDATED - 23/03/12

Today I picked up some costume props for my costume designer to work on. Below is the fur used for Cernunnos' goat legs, and a sample of the flowers for Lady A's costume.


POSTDATED - 22/03/12

Over the Wednesday and Thursday I have managed to rack up 19 hours work on finalising an animatic to be ready for shooting starting on Monday the 26th. Up until this point making an animatic had had been more or less a waste of time, because we hadn't settled on most of our locations. I did end up re-using some of the drawings from an animatic I had started earlier, but the drawings from Symond's Yat ended up being useless. The final animatic here is fairly rough, being limited by the images that we took and the length of the final film, but it works as a guide for the live-action filming.

Doing this project has taught me a lot about communication and working in a team. Having to explain my ideas to the film crew was helped a lot by my ability to draw, something that they are unable to do and so usually make do with a written shot list. By converting the animatic into a visual shot list we are quickly able to know exactly which shot we're talking about.

That said, I have realised that an animatic for a special effects film definitely requires a dedicated storyboard artist for a film of this length because of the constantly changing shots in consideration, especially if there were more special effects. As it is the number of animated shots is fairly limited to give myself an achievable workload and I was struggling.

Anyway, here's the animatic on a passworded vimeo account, so I won't have any problems with submitting it for festivals, hopefully. The password totally isn't widdershins1001.



POSTDATED - 20/03/12

After fixing the issue with the twisting ball and socket, I decided to split the foam body section into two pieces so that there would be a small gap in between, allowing the joint to move freely, which would be covered with fur later.

Open Art Surgery? Hahaha Lamest Blog Title Yet!

POSTDATED - 19/03/12

So of course, having completed the bulk of the foam sculpting, the first thing I did here was to hack apart my wolf with a knife.

The reason for this impromptu puppet surgery is because of something I overlooked in the mid-section. With foam being glued either side of the armature joint in the middle, despite being as tight as I could get it, the metal couldn't hold in position against that thickness of foam. The other problem was that whenever the joint bent one way, it wouldn't necessarily bend back into the same position when bent the other way, because it was a double balled joint; which meant the length of the spine wasn't staying straight and therefore weakening the joint's hold further.

To remedy these problems I bodged together a brace to hold one half of the socket in place. I would have locked off one of the balls with a brass stopper but I had run out of brass stoppers and no-one else had any brass stoppers. Dum de dum...

Nice Legs mk. 2

POSTDATED - 18/03/12

Finished off the front legs. Bosh.

Nice Legs

POSTDATED - 16/03/12

Today I sculpted the foam on the back legs, which actually took a lot longer than I thought it would, hence the entire day dedicated to them. Overall I think the result was good, although I found the similarities between dogs and cats meant that parts of the puppet ended up looking more like a puma than a wolf. However, I'm not too worried about this, because as the creature is based on mythology I'm quite happy to let it be it's own creature, developing the character design during the building process, as long as the main focus is towards a wolf.

I also added some slits to allow me to reach an Allen key into the John Wright armature parts.



POSTDATED - 14/03/12

Today I blocked out the rest of the legs and glued them in place with more UHU. Stupidly, I decided regular UHU would probably do the same job as the special por stuff. Turns out I was only half wrong, so the legs ended up drying a bit crusty; still work though, so whatever.

While I was waiting for glue to dry I decided to test out a method of applying latex that I learned about while doing my dissertation. During my research on Ray Harryhausen I read about a method of fleshing out puppets he termed the 'build-up method'. Here, latex was soaked into cotton wool and wrapped around the armature to make up the muscles - or for the bones of the famous skeleton puppets from Jason and the Argonauts.
I was originally planning to test this out by making a whole skeleton, but quickly realised that this method is whole lot more time consuming than I thought. It did, however, work excellently, with the cotton wool giving the latex some substance to hold on to, and the whole thing clinging to the armature nice and strongly. After drying though, I found the latex difficult to adjust with a scalpel so I found out that any sculpted details would need to be carefully added before the latex had dried. With enough time and patience, however, this method seemed fairly straightforward.

Snippety Snip

POSTDATED - 12/03/12

Today I cut the foam to shape using my trusty nail scissors.

 Look at that foam fly!

After I'd finished the body I started on blocking out the foam for the legs. Rather than making two blocks of foam and glueing it on both sides I decided to cut halfway down one block of foam and then cut out the armature shapes out so that the foam would fit snugly. This would reduce the amount of glue I'd need to use.


POSTDATED 10/03/12

Today I glued on the chest section with epoxy resin,
And began fleshing out the puppet by glueing blue furniture foam onto the body, neck and tail using a special version of UHU called UHU por, which is specifically designed for porous substances and dries flexible.

Hi Mom!

POSTDATED - 09/03/12

Today the M3 wingnuts I ordered arrived in the post, so now I can tie down my puppet,
 Just like this! Woo!

Also today my lovely mother came down to Cardiff to drop off the props, costumes and petrol generator that I'll be using to power the lighting during the night shoots.
 Look how happy she is that I'm taking her photo!
 Leaving petrol and expensive equipment with me is going to be fiiiiiine!

Check out my mum's buns

 Swords are kind of cool...
...I am not kind of not.