Thursday, October 31, 2019

Baba Yaga's Hut part 2

After a bit of a hiatus, I return to finish my summary on the making of "Baba Yaga's Hut". I'm taking for granted that you've seen the film by now, so I'm not including a link to the YouTube video. Let's jump into the making of the film's actual star -Baba Yaga herself!

More than anything else I was inspired by Ivan Bilibin's rendition of the character, but at the same time, I wanted something more earthy and shabby, something that you absolutely wouldn't want invading your private space.

 Baba Yaga is essentially one of the classic mythical "hag" characters in folklore. She's often depicted as a monstrous old woman (she eats people for Pete's sake), but sometimes she can also be a powerful ally to the hero of the story. I went for trying to create a witch/hag that wasn't too cartoony, but not too realistic either. The only part of the character that was sculpted was the head down to the breasts. I used my trusty Monster Clay and tiny loop tools.

This sculpture was, of course, replicated as a latex skin from a dental plaster mold.

 To make the arms as thin and sinewy as possible I used cotton dabbed with latex instead of polyurethane foam. The yellow bits around the elbows are very thin foam, though. The eyes are plastic pearls and the tooth is made from cotton and latex.

 The rest of the body was padded with bits of soft foam. Since she would be wearing clothes of some sort I didn't bother that much with the details.

Her exposed skin was created with thin bits of latex cast in a wrinkly skin texture mold. The puppet is painted with tinted latex. I found that I didn't have to apply any airbrush work.

 Baba Yaga's hair is simple crepĂ© hair, i e sheep's wool. It's attached to the puppet with liquid latex. I attached thin aluminum wires to her scalp, so I could entangle them in the hair and make the hair possible to animate. To cover up the aluminum wires I didn't cover them at all, but threaded tiny acrylic pearls onto them, making them look like jewelry.

Some earrings were also made from thin wires and clamped down around the latex ears.

The finished Baba Yaga has clothes made from scraps of cloth. Her bone necklace was made from yarn dipped in latex. Leatherwork worn by her was made in latex cast in plaster molds from tiny clay sculptures. Her knives are made from Super Sculpy and hardened in my kitchen oven. Her sharp nails are bits of toilet paper dabbed with latex and cut into appropriate shapes. I mostly used liquid latex as a bonding agent to hold together her ensemble.

Baba Yaga gets around in a flying pestle, and she uses a broom and a mortar to propel her through the air. The broom is a stick I found in my garden and the bristles on the broom are yarn dipped in latex.

 The mortar is two wooden dowels glued into each other. The prop was painted with PAX paint (acrylic paint mixed with Prosaide glue).

The pestle was created from a cardboard cone used to hold yarn. I cut the cone around the middle and used the widest part.

 The bottom needed to be very strong, as it would hold the puppet aloft when it was animated flying around. The pestle would be attached to a flying rig, so I needed an attachment point at the bottom of it. I save all kinds of strange things I find, so among my collection of various bits of scrap, I found a very thick plastic lid. Into this, I drilled out a hole into which I could attach a wing nut. To make the nut really, REALLY stick I used a mix of super glue and baking soda on both sides of the lid.

The lid was stuck to the bottom of the cardboard cone with hot glue. The whole contraption was then painted with the same PAX paint mix as the mortar.

The puppet uses one more prop in the animation and that is a big ladle/siv, which was made from a very thin wooden dowel and some hand sculpted thermoplastic. She's using it in a scene where her dinner to be disagrees with her. That's my chubby arm reaching out of the pot.

Apart from me (or my arm) there are a few real people making an appearance in the film. I've probably had more questions about who the girl is in the film, than about anything else. I don't know who she is, apart from being possibly a Polish model. She appears in a bunch of stock footage clips I downloaded from, where I have a subscription. I thought linking a few of them together would create a nice framing narrative. The other people seen in my film are also from Videoblocks clips.

 I had to do very little editing on these clips. One thing I did do for the shots of the girl by the river was to cover up modern houses glimpsed on the other side of the water by using a smoke effect to create a layer of "fog" in After Effects.

Lastly, I want to do a shout out for the narrator of the film, the talented Libby Grant, a British actress who also does voiceover work. I'll most likely contact her again for future work, as I think her contribution adds quite a bit to the film.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Baba Yaga's Hut part 1

For years I've been thinking about making a film based on the legends about the Russian witch Baba Yaga. I always saw wonderful opportunities for stop-motion animation, both for the character herself and her chicken-legged hut. All my films are pretty short, but within the framework of these videos, I wanted to do something with the subject.

Let's start by talking about how the hut puppet was made. Compared to most of my puppets it's pretty big. I wanted that size so I could add details and textures that would look believable, at least within the context of my project.

Baba Yaga's hut is a log cabin, and I guess the right way to do it would be to create it out of real wood. But since I'm not a skilled woodworker I fell back on what I do know. I'm a decent sculptor, so I decided to make the logs out of clay. I used medium grade Monster Clay, and simply rolled long "logs" on a plastic tray.

I measured out a spot along all the logs where I would cut into them to make an indentation to interlock the logs.

I used a sharp loop tool to cut into the clay. This way I could place the logs over each other the way a big log cabin is built (I'm assuming).

So, here are all the clay logs laid out and ready to interconnect.

And here's how they look when stacked into a square shape. As you can see I've kept the rough ends of every log. I wanted them to look uneven.

I used small loop tools and pointy tools to carve details into the clay. A door frame and a window frame were also added to the outside of the cabin shell.

I will create a plaster mold around the sculpture, so I've covered the hole at the top with a piece of cardboard, and I'm building a clay wall around the cabin so the plaster can be contained and controlled.

The first layer of plaster is painted on with a sturdy brush, so air bubbles will be eliminated. I'm using hard dental plaster.

Another layer is applied with a spatula and when that has dried I'm adding burlap dipped in plaster. 
This will create a stronger mold, while allowing me to actually use less of the plaster.

Jumping ahead a bit, I've removed the clay from the dry plaster mold. I'm now adding tinted latex to create the first layer of the hut cast -the outside surface of the hut.

The latex layer is reinforced with cotton dipped in lates, which when dry achieves the feel of leather. After a couple of layers of this mix of materials has set I add a fast-setting plastic called SmoothCast 65D, which lines the inside of the latex skin. Now I have a "body" for the hut which is both durable and light weight.

I need more details for the hut, so I'm making a few more "wood work" pieces in clay.

Here's another latex cast made from a clay sculpture and a plaster mold. It's the tiles for the roof. This latex cast is also backed with cotton and latex, and attached to cardboard with contact cement.

The two sides of the roof are joined with hot melt glue and pressed together. You can also see that a wainscoted upper floor has been added, also attached to a bit of cardboard.

Here's another bit. This one will cover the inside of the outcropping roof section.

Like the other latex skin bits, it's glued in place with contact cement. Exposed bits of cardboard is covered with tinted latex.

Now over to the all-important chicken feet. They are constructed with three mm thick aluminum wires bundled together. A t-nut is attached to the underside of the feet to provide a threaded tie-down. The "bones" in the legs are created by lashing nails to the aluminum wires using soft string.

The legs are padded with polyurethane foam and then covered with bits of latex skin cast in plaster skin molds.

Claws made from cotton dipped in latex is added to the toes using liquid latex as a glue. Latex tinted light grey is then sponged on to create flexible paint covering the legs.

The legs are stuck to a piece of plywood using hot melt glue, and then another bit of plywood pressed down over the hot glue using a glue clamp.

More cotton and latex are added over the plywood square to make it look organic.

The plywood bit with the legs is stuck to the bottom of the hut using more hot glue, a LOT of hot glue, actually.

We'll have some nice decorations for the hut, of course. This is a moose skull, sculpted in Monster Clay rather quickly.

It was cast in latex, with cotton/latex backing, from a dental plaster mold (please pardon the blurry image).

The other bony decorations were made from Super Sculpy, a polymer clay hardened by heating it in a kitchen oven. They were created for a project many years ago but lay unused in a plastic bag in my workshop.

Additional details are a chimney, also cast in latex, and decorative barge boards cut from cardboard. I've added feathers to the legs, grouse feathers I think, by dipping the ends of the feathers in latex and pressing them against the latex skin of the legs. The door is also made from cardboard with aluminum wire hinges. The door handle is a bone made from thermoplastic attached to a screw.

That's it for the magical chicken-legged hut. In the next part, I'll talk about how Baba Yaga herself was made and also how the film, in general, was put together.