Thursday, 10 September 2015

Nausicaa Mark II: Planning is Important!

After sharing my work so far with fellow puppet makers (who also happen to be big fans of Nausicaa), it was brought to my attention that the armature I had made wasn't quite suitable for her character. I had been focusing so strongly on how to encorporate soft sculpture with an armature that I hadn't thought enough about her specific proportions, which are very different from the standard human skeleton.

Nausicaa has an oversized head, very large feet, a teeny tiny waist, extra-long lower legs - the list goes on. Despite my hard work on my first armature it seemed fruitless to use it for my Nausicaa puppet, and so I started re-planning. It began with going through the film and taking a lot of screen shots, my best reference material:

This is ther perfect front-on reference for her face and torso shape. See what I mean about the waist?

Then I began re-drafting my scale drawings, but this time starting with the 'finished' Nausicaa look and working backwards. That way I knew that the body beneath the clothes would have to be a bit slimmer, and the armature would have to work with the body shape.

So firstly the costumed layer is drawn. The tracing paper didn't like being photographed, but hopefully you can see Nausicaa is wearing a tunic with gloves, leggings and big boot covers.

From this I worked out the fleshed out nude version.

By doing this, I knew that the armature I designed underneath would fit the desired body proportions. As you can see, it's quite a bit different from my original design.

I did the same for all three layers for the side view. All the while I'm trying to keep my scale drawings as accurate as possible to Nausicaa in the film.

So it was time to build! I began by cutting and preparing all of the pieces I needed to make the armature and laying them out on my front-on armature drawing.

The new ribcage and pelvis are carved from blocks of plastazote foam, which is a very high density but also extremely lightweight foam. It was simple enough to carved with just a scalpel and mini files. I'm trying zote as an alternative to wire for soft sculpture, because its more accurate and less fiddly to shape. I also think the solidness of it will be more suitable for animating.

It was time to start glueing the pieces together. As you can see, the zote foam cores are sliced down the middle and hollowed out where necessary to accomodate the K&S brass tubing inside.

Putting the legs together is always satisfying.

I made the feet in the same way as my last armature, the copper toes secured with milliput and embedded with M3 nuts for tie-downs. I'm using a scale foot drawing to make sure that the toes are in the right position on the foot.

The final detail which I didn't get onto with my last armature are the hands. I'm using double ball joints for the wrists, because I want that twist so the hands can be positioned palm-side up or down. I'm using a double-twist of copper wire for the fingers, which is a bit stronger than aluminium but still holds its shape well.

The hand is made strong and secure with milliput. There are tiny M2 nuts placed in the centre of the wrists for potentially holding props.

I'm much happier with my second armature attempt. I think it will work very nicely for Nausicaa's proportions.

One last step was adding rig points to the pelvis. There's one in the front, one in the side and one facing downwards at the back so she can be slotted onto Kai's back.

Taking the time to plan very carefully is a valuable lesson learnt! Now I can get on with sculpting Nausicaa's head, Kai's feet and his beak.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my work again,  and look out for my next post soon!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Building Armatures: Kai the Horseclaw

Firstly, apologies for the lateness of an update! I've been suffering from an eye infection but am on the mend now, so let's carry on from where we left off: Kai's armature. Here's a reminder of this prehistoric looking bird's appearance:

I had already made a maquette from steel of the horseclaw which I was happy with the scale and proportions of, so rather than drawing out multiple angle scale drawings for the armature like I did with Nausicaa, I just made one of the side profile. This is my initial model; although crude, it has the desired shape of the bird:

It was important to look carefully at references of the film to check Nausicaa's proportions against Kai's. The Nausicaa puppet will be 15" tall, which makes Kai 18" tall.

I started off by cutting, filing down and sanding the pieces of brass K&S that would make up the legs and the pelvis.

In the same way that Nausicaa's armature was built, twisted aluminium wire protected by heat shrink tubing makes up the joints of the leg. There's a twisted loop at the bottom of the leg to create a base for the foot.

The toes were then created with four seperate pieces of wire, and glued into the loop for extra strength. The three front toes are the same length, the back one is shorter. You can see from this screenshot that when the horseclaws put down their feet the side toes are splayed right out, rather than being angled towards the centre front toe.

Here are the finished legs. The toes are made extra-secure to the leg with milliput, and M3 nuts are placed in the middle of the feet so they can be tied down. There are also little milliput blobs on the end of the aluminium to stop the armature from potentially damaging the skin of the foot later on. The pieces of K&S at the top of the legs that angle inwards will slot into the pelvis.

The ribcage is formed with a double strand of aluminium wire attatched with brass to the back of the bird. This will be suitable for the soft sculpture build up I want to experiment with.

The same is done for the pelvis shape. Once again, any joints that might not be strong enough with just glue are made extra-tough with milliput. At this stage the armature is nearly ready for the 'wrapping' process. The only thing that I forgot to photograph were the rig points added. There are rig points in both sides of the bird's ribcage should he need to be supported when animating. There's also one in the base of his back for Nausicaa to be slotted into when she's riding him.

The entire armature is wrapped in yarn so it has a sewable base for the wadding muscle to be built up onto.

I based this armature on a combination of different bird skeltons, looking at the leg shape of chickens and the ribcages and pelvis' of terror birds for reference. Ultimately it's been made to fit my scale drawings, and should be proportionate to Nausicaa's armature which I made alongside it.

Before I start giving this armature flesh I need to make the skull and the beak. The same goes for Nausicaa's head. Having the heads of my puppets on the armatures will help to keep the muscle build up even and in proportion.

Thank you for reading, do check back for another post very soon!