Friday, November 18, 2016

Carcosa Project: The Last Puppets

As I write this, my Carcosa film project, finally named "In the Court of the Yellow King", is actually finished. My top level Patreon supporters were given a premiere viewing of the film a couple of days ago as a part of their bonus reward. But I will make the film public on YouTube this weekend, and hopefully you'll enjoy it. Until then, here's some info on the last trio of puppets built and animated for this project.

I wanted to add at least one citizen of Carcosa, someone casually drifting by the camera, and came up with a VERY simply constructed character. Basically he's an unwrapped mummy, with his head on fire, going somewhere. I slapped together this armature out of thermoplastic and aluminum wires. As usual there are wing nuts in the feet for tie-down purposes.

The whole puppet was covered with soft yarn and cotton dipped in tinted latex. I basically let the materials create the textures, with some gently prodding from me and a pointy sculpting tool.

It wasn't really necessary, but I chose to cast some additional latex textures from old plaster molds, and added those here and there. More tinted latex was sponged on to make the colors more unified.

And here's our dapper chap, walking through the street of Carcosa City. I added the fire to his head by using stock footage of a burning brush shot against a black background, and superimposing it over the animated puppet, using the tracking tool in After Effects to make it follow the character's head.

Finally, finally, the main character (and we, the audience) reach the throne of Hastur; the King In Yellow. I decided to give him a consort; an attractive, but in some way weird lady. For a while I thought about asking one of my lady friends to portray her, but then I decided against it, thinking that I'd have greater control over the clothes she'd wear if I made her as a puppet. This character wasn't required to do much, just turning her head, actually. So I made a torso sculpt of a voluptuous woman in medium grade Monster Clay.

To this torso I added the skimpy clothes using soft Monster Clay, as it's a faster material to sculpt and smooth out that the medium grade variety. By now I had decided to slice off the top of her head and have nasty green smoke come out of her skull.

I also used the soft Monster Clay to create a dividing wall for the mold making. 

Here's the front half of the mold made out of pink dental plaster.

And here's the finished two-part mold, with the clay cleaned out. The string of clay smudges at the bottom of the left half are put there by me to cover some air bubble pockets that unfortunately slipped through.

All the bare skin parts of the puppet were painted in with flesh-colored latex into the mold using pipe cleaners, while the dress bits were painted a leathery black. After this initial latex layer had set up the mold was closed up and held together with straps, while more latex was poured into the mold and sloshed around to add a thicker skin.

Here's how the "queen" looked right after coming out of the mold. As you can see there is a fair bit of "flashing" where the latex has seeped into the seam of the mold.

To support the puppet a thick piece of aluminum wire goes front the feet right up to the top of the head. Armatured arms have been added and covered with soft yarn and tinted latex. The seam flashing has been cut, and the marks left by it have been covered with liquid latex.

Here she is with a finished paint job using PAX paint (Prosaide makeup glue + acrylic paints). The rings connecting her top with the skirt are bits of yarn dipped in latex and painted with metallic colors.

For the king I actually started with his throne. I made it out of old cardboard boxes held together with lots of hot melt glue.

It was a very quick build, and this is what I ended up with for the basic shape.

To give the throne a bit of texture I created a scaly pattern in soft hobby clay using one of my sculpting tools.

Over this pattern I added a layer of tinted latex using a polyurethane sponge, and reinforced the latex with tissue paper and more latex.

Thus the negative imprints in the clay turned into a positive latex cast.

The whole cardboard throne was covered with latex and cotton dipped in tinted latex. This added subtle organic textures to the prop.

Cotton and latex were also used to create other decorations, such as fingers reaching up onto the armrests from below, and a row of spikes on top of the back rest.

The armature for the king was super simple. No facial features and a very basic humanoid shape. I was going to cover up the puppet in robes with very little padding, but I also wanted his dimensions to be slightly distorted, hinting that it wasn't anything human at all under the clothes.

 This is the simple padding, using strips of thin polyurethane foam. I've covered the feet, forearms and head with soft yarn and tinted latex.

I chose a very bright yellow fabric for the robe, and again the shapes used to make the robe was very simple.

The finished robe, with a little waist cord made from thick yarn dipped in latex tinted yellow using Monster Makers´ latex tints.

In all stories concerning the King In Yellow he's said to wear a pallid mask. I decided to make my version of the mask eye-less, to further augment the character's inhuman features. I sculpted a simple neutral face in soft Monster Clay and cast a plaster mold over it. Tinted latex reinforced with cotton was cast into this mold to create a feather-light leathery mask.

Here's the monarch seated on his throne with mask on and some airbrushing added to his robe.

In the finished film I've added cgi stock footage of wiggling organic shapes over the yellow robe, and used the masking tool in After Effects and hand-made tracking to make the footage envelop and follow the robe. Just a bit of extra added weirdness. I also placed a rotating crown of fire over his head, using footage of a torch filmed against a black background and animating several layers of this torch into a "circle". The guard you might've read about in an earlier blog post is joining the king, and the queen has her column of green smoke added to the top of her head. The background is a digital animation of long ribbons running downwards and changing color.

All in all this has been a fun project, but lots more work that I had anticipated when I initially planned it out. More and more details were added, and every one of them ate up more time. I've learned a lot from doing this film, and in the end that's the big payoff.

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