Sunday, June 28, 2020

Xorg the Conqueror

I had wanted to make more retro-styled sci-fi after my project "Empire of the Robot Monsters", and this resulted in the all-puppet video "Xorg the Conqueror." It's also nice to intermingle the often dour Lovecraftian projects with some sprinklings of humor.

The character of Xorg is based on a drawing I did for a game project here in Sweden. It's pretty much the very same character.

The front of the head and the torso of Xorg were sculpted in medium grade Monster Clay.

As you might imagine with that look, Xorg's head was the most complex part of his body. The thingie on his head was armatured with aluminum wires, as were the snout-like mouths. The eyes were Photoshop print-outs attached to acrylic domes using Glossy Accents scrapbooking plastic as a glue.

The armature for the body is my usual aluminum wire contraption held together with thermoplastic. Strips of soft polyurethane foam were used to pad out the body. Like the head, the chest/torso area was cast in tinted latex. This piece was also padded with foam and attached to the armature using contact cement.

 Xorg is dressed in a nicely form-fitting suit, made by covering the foam and the wire-wrapped arms with patches of tinted latex cast on the smooth backsides of plaster molds.

Like all good space travelers, Xorg has a backpack. This was made from two magic marker caps (these markers were dried up, so no markers were harmed during the making of this backpack), two plastic balls, a glue bottle cap, and two bits of spring tubes.

Xorg also has a belt with a gizmo on it. Since I couldn't find anything looking like what I had in mind, I sculpted it in clay and made a mold quickly using silicone clay. The actual cast was made in latex backed with cotton fibers.

Lastly, Xorg needed a mighty ray gun with which to blast the poor populations he accosted. Almost all of this prop was made from this old ballpoint pen, held together with superglue and with additions made from thermoplastic.

So, here's Xorg in all his glory. A rather strapping chap, I hope. The tiny teeth in Xorgs mouths are simply tiny blobs of latex tinted white applied to the circular mouths with a needle.

Now for the hammer-headed monster that gets Xorg in the end. I mostly rely on old plaster skin texture molds when I create the flexible skins for my puppets. But for the hammerhead monster I wanted something new, and therefore I sculpted a skin texture with big, horn-like bumps, very inspired by the skins texture imprints found in fossils from the Ankylosaurs. This bit of skin, cast in tinted latex from the resulting dental plaster mold, goes onto the back of the puppet.

Apart from this skin I only sculpted one more thing for the puppet, namely the mouth with adjacent areas.

This is the armature for the hammerhead monster, and it's really simple as you can see. The black clumps on the legs are bits of seat cushions made from compact foam, put there to add volume to the legs.

The actual hammer was made from a plastic latex bottle, a cardboard tube, and a cone made by applying tinted latex and cotton to a clay shape. You can also see the simple foam padding here. This creature has a bulky body that doesn't have all that many toned muscle details.

Patches of cast latex skin from my old reliable skin molds cover the foam padding. The hammer is mostly covered by cotton dipped in latex.

To unify the whole look tinted latex was sponged on over the whole puppet. The eyestalk was added as an afterthought and is just a single aluminum wire covered with string and latex. The actual eyeball is another acrylic dome (used in scrapbooking, apparently) with some more Photoshop art attached to it.

This whole film is filled with candy colors, so the hammerhead was painted blue using tinted latex and a foam sponge. Teeth were made from cotton and latex, and the claws on the feet were latex cast in plaster molds. This creature also has a long tongue, but that's a separate removable piece, an aluminum wire covered with yarn and latex stuck into the jaw of the puppet very much like a pallet or false teeth are placed in the mouth.

Let's not forget our heroes of this piece, the natives of the planet Xorg invades. This puppet is one of the very few ones using replacement faces, and at that in the simplest way. The body sculpture was made to accommodate this. The smaller indentation is for inserting a tentacle.

Here's the body cast in latex with an aluminum wire tentacled added, but I've also added a clay face, as you can see. To make the replacement faces fit as well as possible into the body, I simply pressed some clay into the cavity reserved for the face and sculpted all the details.

The clay faces were then carefully removed and lined up on a strip of clay for casting.

The body was supported with thermoplastic and attached to a foot with tie-down. Each face has a flange of latex on the back which allows it to slit into the hole in the body.

A little plastic pearl was superglued to the top of the body, a nice decoration I think. Using the puppet with replaceable faces I could create a bunch of natives, though this planet seems to be pretty sparsely populated. To animate the jumping motion of these creatures I simply bent the leg into a compressed shape while it was still attached to the animation stage. The actual jumping was achieved by keyframing the puppet moving up and down from the ground in After Effects.

By the way, the running of both Xorg and the hammerhead monster was achieved in similar ways. The puppets were attached to flying rigs covered in green screen sticky tape. The hammerhead had to be animated in a weird angle to make room for his tail.

The backgrounds were my usual collection 2D Photoshop cut-outs made from various stock images. Some of them, like Xorg's rocket ship, were animated using keyframes in AE. And then there's a bunch of explosions and ray effects that I've found on stock footage websites.

It looks like I'll be delving more and more into all-puppet videos. It's not because I can't get my friends to appear in films anymore, but the more I use puppets, the more I appreciate the freedom of animated characters. It won't work for all things, but it's perfect for some projects.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

H P Lovecraft's The Elder Pharos

I'm back with another hopefully delightful adaptation of a poem from H P Lovecraft's sonnet cycle "Fungi From Yuggoth." This piece of literature has provided me with quite a few subjects for films already, but I'm sure I'm not done pilfering from it yet.

This film leaned heavily on using stock images from The stuff I downloaded was altered here and there in Photoshop to suit my exact needs and ideas for the project. The light effects were stock CG animations from, somewhat altered in After Effects.

The shepherd was also a stock footage clip found over at (I believe) Though parts of this project had been brewing for a few weeks, this film was finished rather quickly, which is why I didn't engage any of my regular cronies for the non-puppet characters.

Speaking of puppet characters, there are only two of them in this film. Let's start with the one who appears first. This rather jolly-looking giant worm, lounging in a sea of skulls, was actually conceived for another project. I'm working on an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Conqueror Worm", and this was originally meant to be the actual worm. I eventually decided against that idea, instead designing a monstrous worm that'll look far more maggot-like and repulsively familiar.

I wanted the worm's body to be clearly segmented, and since I didn't already have a skin texture mold with that exact look, I made a new plaster mold from a Monster Clay sculpture.

The armature for the worm was as simple as can be. A single 3 mm aluminum wire was used to create the armature. It was attached to a plastic bottle cap, where the head would go, and a 4 mm t-nut  used for tie-downs was stuck to the wire using a blend of super glue and baking soda. The wire was then covered by soft yarn.

 A denser dark brown yarn was wrapped over the softer yarn to provide an outer surface which was sturdy. The tie-down hole was left uncovered, of course.

The head of the worm is actually a skull I made some years ago for a replica of King Kong. I never used it, and I thought I could press it into service to create a weirdly humanoid head for the worm. The knobs near the top of the head were supposed to move the eyebrows of Kong. For the worm, I used them as eyestalks.

the actual head was built up using strips of soft polyurethane foam, covered with skins of tinted latex cast in skin texture molds. The same soft foam was attached between the head and the body to create a natural transition.

The segmented skin was cast as two long bits of tinted latex, and attached to the yarn-wrapped body using liquid latex as a bonding material.

 As the worm was originally built to represent the ominous entity of the Poe poem it was colored red using tinted latex dry brushed on with a foam sponge. In this film, it was changed to a greyish green using color tools in After Effects. The four small black eyes on the stalks are plastic beads.

The Elder Thing inhabiting the ancient pharos (lighthouse) was said to wear a bulging yellow silken mask. This character was achieved by using several stock photos and computer-generated images blended together in Photoshop. The moving silk mask is a CG flag, waving in the wind, but here deformed using After Effects tools, and changed into a bright yellow.

We finally see what's under the mask, as a toothy mouth surrounded by writhing tentacles pops out. This stop-motion construction was simply made using 12 aluminum wires covered in soft yarn and dressed with scaly latex skins. The mouth is just an immobile hole decorated with latex and cotton, with teeth made from the same blend of materials.

 The tentacles are held in place with blobs of Polymorph thermoplastic. This also created an attachment point for the rig holding up the mouth.

The very simple rig was just a piece of wood painted with green chroma key paint and attached to an aluminum 90° angle profile, held down with a powerful glue clamp. A pair of screws in the wood allowed the mouth the be attached using more thermoplastic.

Making short films hardly using any actors and with stock images and clips for editing material is, of course, somewhat of an expression of laziness, but I like the results one can achieve with stock media. Also, in these times when we all sit isolated it's not easy getting around to shoot original content.