Sunday, November 1, 2009

Beware the Blunderblat!

One of my ambitions with posting films on YouTube is that I would get in touch with likeminded people from all over the world and even get to collaborate with them. This means exchanging footage without ever having met, and still making a film together. My first attempt at this was "Concerning Brown Jenkin", which I filmed and RavenOfPoe from Australia narrated. But now it's time to try and take things one step further.


One of my favorite children's authors of today is Englishman Colin West. I'm especially a fan of his nonsense rhymes and I had been wanting to do a little film based on his poem "The Blunderblat" for a long time. I finally contacted him and asked for permission to make the video and post it on YouTube. Colin gracefully agreed and disclosed that he (like most people, it seems) was a YouTuber as well.



I asked one of my YouTube friends Amanda, aka VanillaPomme, if she'd like to do the live-action part of the film if I provided the animation for the monstrous Blunderblat. Amanda thought this was a great idea and I mailed her my storyboards for the project. She's a crazy (in the best sense of the word) 13-year old with big acting abilities and ambitions, and perfect for what I intend to put together. So, the idea is that Amanda will play two parts in the story (something's she's vary apt at doing), film all the footage needed, mostly in front of a green screen, and upload it somewhere where I can get it. I'll animate the Blunderblat puppet in front of my blue screen and edit mine and her footage together. The finished film will be posted by us both (and by Colin, if he'd like to) on YouTube. There will probably be some technical issues with the US NTSC footage and my European PAL footage, but I know that they can be resolved. I'm really looking forward to putting this together.

Now; something about the Blunderblat puppet.



There's really nothing new about this puppet -it's made the way I make almost all of my puppets. But it does have insect wings cast in semi-transparent plastic, which is a first for me. More about those later. Basically all the parts of this puppet started as clay sculptures. The Blunderblat is very insect-like. An illustration by Colin West and the line "I watched it rise into the skies Like some colossal locust" seems to indicate this. So I made it as a sort of cross between a grasshopper and some kind of crustacean.


All the parts for the body were cast in latex from plaster molds. All the joints were made with braided aluminum wire and held together with the thermo plastic Friendly Plastic.


The tail and body latex skins were filled with hard, but light, expanding polyfoam. The excess material was cut and sanded down.



Aluminum wire joints to animate the mouth, eyes and mandibles were added to the latex head skin using Friendly Plastic as bonding "bone" material.



I did sculpt and cast parts in latex for the legs, but eventually they just turned out to be too bulky. So I re-did the legs by simply building them up in Friendly Plastic over the wire armature. It took a bit longer to do it this way, but the legs turned out much better.



Now for the wings. This is how I did them, but there are probably better and simpler ways to achieve the same results. I just couldn't figure them out. I started by drawing one wing on a piece of paper, and then traced the drawing onto clay by simply pressing the pencil hard on the paper. I then turned the drawing over and did another inprint in the clay to make a mirror version of the wing. This is how the tracings looked after a bit of clean-up.



I then did a plaster cast of the clay imprint and a silicone mold of the plaster cast. This finally yielded a mold to cast the plastic wings in.



I did two castings of each wing in SmoothCast 325. This plastic is a slightly milky transparent and quite perfect if you want something that'll look transparent, but really isn't. I couldn't make the wings totally transparent, as I was using a blue screen behind them. The wing castings were then pieced together using more plastic to make two wings.



Here's a wing after piecing two halves together and cleaning them up. I didn't mind the little imperfections along the edges of the wing, as that would be natural for a giant insect monster (I suppose). As you can see I've drilled a little hole at the base of the wing...



This is for attaching a bit of aluminum wire with Friendly Plastic. The plastic goes through the hole and really attaches itself to the wing, making the bond between wire joint and wing much stronger.



The Blunderblat has been pieced together and is ready for its paint job. The eyes are plastic beads and the teeth and neck skin are latex. The mandible claws are Friendly Plastic.



The Blunderblat was painted (as I always do) with PAX paint (a mixture of ProsAide glue and acrylic paints). The base is a dark brown with a mix of grey and gold drybrushed on top of it.



The eyes, teeth, mouth and some highlights were airbrushed with acrylic airbrush paints. They usually stick very well to the PAX mixture.



Along the back a pattern in yellow and bright purple was airbrushed on. It was inspired by markings on certain insects.



The wings also got a dash of paint to give them a bit more depth.



In order to animate the beast flying around with as little trouble as possible I attached a thick aluminum wire rod to the puppet. The rod was covered in soft string and painted blue, and stuck to the side of the puppet that isn't going to face the camera as planned. If I were to change that set-up I'll just flip the image in the editing and that should work out fine. I prefer to use a support rod to hanging the puppet from strings attached to an aerial brace, which can be a bit of a mess. You also have to stop the puppet from swinging every time you've touched it. When the puppet is attached to a rod it stays put. Sometimes you have to remove the rod in post prod editing, but it's worth the trouble.

Well, that's all for now, boys and girls. Hopefully the Blunderblat will make its YouTube debut before Christmas and you'll find out exactly what a Blunderblat does, why Amanda is cloning herself and how our collaboration worked out.

16 comments:

people in gorillasuits said...

What can I say that I didn't say before... you got your very own style of making puppets, they all look terrific ! And again, something I recognize among all your creatures: the 'I'm so weird/evil/strange/'you-name-it' I even can't stand myself '. I recommended your blog to some people again and again. Much to learn here. All the best for all your projects !
Lately I had a talk with a trainer (I'm currently in a new job-training) about my 'job future' and I mentioned you. Making props, working on so much different jobs and projects AND having fun and a view for surviving without any numbing job at the same time. It's possible. Thanks for everything.

Richard Svensson said...

Well, thanks! A pretty overwhelming comment! I'm not making a lot of money doing what I do, but I'm getting by. My conviction is that I WILL eventually make more money using my talents because doing all of this makes me feel like I'm "telling the truth" living. I never feel more true, honest and fulfilled than when I'm creative. This is what I'm put on Earth to do and if I stick to that conviction life will provide for me. It's as simple as that.
"The Big breakthrough" is important inasmuch as it will allow you to focus entirely on your creativity, not just trying to squeeze in your creativity between your getting-by-jobs. But I'm convinced that breakthrough will never appear if that's all you're focusing on. Your road to success is doing one creative project after another with honesty and integrity AND having a lot of fun while doing it.

colinwest said...

Fascinating stuff, Richard! Your Blundrblat is looking as I imagined it originally (although your version is still very much your own!). Thanks for putting so much hard work in to animating my little rhyme. May I also congratulate you on your English, which is better than many of my fellow country men's!

Richard Svensson said...

Thanks, Colin!! It's my total pleasure doing this, and I'd like to adapt texts from more authors if I only had the rights (I have done some films without any rights, labelling them as "fan films", which seems to be OK). Glad to hear you approve of my little Blunderblat!
And, well, it's good to hear from an Englishman that my English is good enough. I get by on it.

jriggity said...

Freaking so COOL!!

jriggity

Greg Stacy . said...

I think your stuff is just amazing, and I did a whole post about it on my site, www.monstersandrockets.com. Seriously, awesome work!

jalomeister said...

Hello Richard! What a great blog you have here, I really admire your skills! :) All the best & Happy New Year 2010

黃金獵犬 said...

累死了…來去看看文章轉換心情~ .........................................

毛衣 said...

.有價值的東西,都要付出代價。-..............................

陽明山花季 said...

Actions speak louder than words. ........................................

jose fuentes said...

This is some really great stuff, I especially think the blunderblat is stupendous! I got to say that your jabberwocky film as well as all your poem type creatures like this one about the blunderblat are very inspirational! I'm actually in the works of a film at the moment here's the blog just incase you want to check it out : http://kremoniconfilms.blogspot.com/
Can't wait to see your finished film!

castlegardener said...

the build up looks terrific...I use the same method usually... I like how many molds and casts you use to end up with the final product...the wings look really well done...I just finished a co op project with other animators like you mentioned above...my blog is here http://castlegardener.wordpress.com/
maybe one day we can work together...

明秋 said...

thanks................................................

mackt_gattis1115 said...

以簡單的行為愉悅他人的心靈,勝過千人低頭禱告........................................

惠佩政萍 said...

Hello~Nice to meet you~..................................................

Den Lilla Palentologen said...

Hej richard! Jag har stält frågor på ungafakta. Jag vill att du ska seja exakt alla förhistoriska djur arter du kan. mvh/joel