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.


Scott halloween said...

Hello Bluworm,
I was just recently rewatching the H.P.L. historical society’s film “the call of Cthulhu “ (I’m sure you have seen it)
And got to thinking, the 15 year anniversary of it is coming up and perhaps they (hplhs) might want to release a special edition of it.
A special edition with new Cthulhu animation in it.
How hard would it be to extract plates from the video and insert new monster animation/ new scenes?
They could bill it as “ scenes removed from the film for being too horrific”
Now recently rediscovered and unleashed on an unsuspecting public.
Perhaps a new design of Cthulhu wouldn’t be out of line,...did h.r.giger ever design a Cthulhu?
I like your animation far more than the work in the film.
Anyway, one can dream can’t they?
Your pal
35 year paper and computer animator.

Richard Svensson said...

Hi Scott!
Thanks for your kind words, but I wouldn't presume on having the filmmakers replace their shots with new ones from me. Eventually, I'll do my own proper Cthulhu animation, probably not the Call of Cthulhu story, but another one where the monster appears.

Scott halloween said...

Howdy Richard!
(I promise not to make a habit of this, I don’t want to be a nuisance )
I jut read your whole blog and it was great, very informative.
One thing caught my eye, when you had your fingers in a monster face making its mouth move, it reminded me of a film called.. the mascot.
Have you seen it?
(Full film at the bottom)
This movie has some super creepy moments, strange actions and effects..for me the bit that fascinates is the shot where the devil is giving the tough guy a knife.
The tough guy chews his cigarette and smokes it ,in a disturbing fashion..later in the shot the speed he drives the knife in the devil is wild.
I assume these are somehow live action married to the puppet animation. I find those kind of shots supremely unsettling.
The kind of animation that would have titilated HPL.
If you haven’t see the film I recommend it.
If you have and like the effect, I would love to see it included in your filmmaking,it seems suited to your work and no one knows of it or it’s effect on a viewer.
I hope you do.
Your pal
Long time paper/computer animator currently semi retired and fascinated by puppet animation.

Richard Svensson said...

Hi Scott!
Yes, I'm very familiar with Ladislas Starevich's work, and The Mascot is one of my all-time fave animated films. I still have no idea how he created many of the shots in The Mascot, because, as you say, it certainly looks like live-action. At any rate, many shots in The Mascot have motion blur added to the animation, and how that was achieved in 1933 is another mystery. It's interesting, because Starevich obviously used techniques that nobody else knew about or considered. The animation in The Mascot's contemorary King Kong is undeniably dynamic, but cruder when the two films are compared.

I add motion blur to my animations using the Timewarp tool in After Effects, and hopefully that makes my puppets move more realistically, and as an extention, more uncannily. I think that's the extent of my animation experimentation. But should I come up with a way to mix puppetry with stop-motion I'll sure give it a try. The only examples of where I've actually done something like that is in my Azathoth video, where the babbling mouths of Azathoth are actually all of them just a single latex hand puppet filmed a number of times and edited together with stop-mo tentacles, and the Azathoth shot in my Lovecraft Alphabet is achieved the same way.

Always good to talk to you, Scott, and if you want to discuss anything you can always reach me at