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The Mystery Project: Part 4 (UPDATED 12/24)


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#1 Florent

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 02:27 PM

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So hello SSLF. You may recognize me as that one person that occasionally gets annoyed in the Star Wars or Game of Thrones topics. Well I also do productive things, y'know. One time I even inspired scorp to make a thing apparently. Basicaly what I'm saying I have a lot of influence and you should pay attention to my art.

 

I've been concocting a Mystery Project over the past few months or so, and now the first tangible or presentable steps have been made. It's going to be a stop motion short film based on a beloved property. What beloved property you ask? Well if I told you it wouldn't be a Mystery Project then would it? If you can guess, I'll tell you. Though I'd be really surprised if anyone got it from just this first post. I'll maybe post an update here once a week or so, depending on how the progress is going. It's been a pretty slow process so far, so at this rate it could take months or even up to a year. I'm committed to it though, and I'll see this thing through unless some unforseen issues prove to be impassable. I may or may not forget that this thread exists, or forget to take photos of the process, so no promises on literally anything. I know I just said I'm committed but I'm really bad at commitment. Sue me.

 

So here we go. Step one. I bought some armatures on ebay for cheapo (something like $10 each). I was considering (and still kinda am) using Hero Factory or Bionicles as the skeletons, but for a few reasons I decided against it. For one, they're just not articulate enough for me. They tend to be kind of stiff and their proportions are a bit... off. Just look at those feet and hands. Gross. I also have an aversion to permanently disfigure any Lego pieces (even Hero Factory) for something that isn't even related to a Lego project. One time I made a silicone mold and used some bricks as the casing, and I've never forgiven myself. The reason I'm still considering it though is because of the size. The armatures I got are something like 5" tall, which is going to be a pain to fill in with little details. Plus one of them (there will be two characters in the film) is supposed to be really big, like way bigger than the other. If they're the same size IRL I'm gonna need to do some fancy camera tricks to pull it off. Or I could just use a bigger skeleton and make it closer to the "real" size, which these Hero Factory skeletons are.

 

[Click on the pics to make them bigger.]

 

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Step two is to gather various materials from around the house. Most of this stuff is scavenged, but later on I'll need to buy a few things. At this point though it's been a total of $0 for everything except the armatures. If I can keep it that way I'll be pretty happy. Something that always bothered me about literally every action figure ever is the seams. The joints at the elbows, legs, etc where you can see where the two plastic parts fit together. I've always wondered why toy companies don't just put cloth over these sections to hide it. I'm doing exactly that. I cut up an old t shirt and glued it onto the figure's bones, about half an inch above the joints. Just cut it to size and glue in place. Not that hard, every toy company ever. Though I may find out why they don't do this. There could be some unforseen consequences to this method. 

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I guess I lied and said that I didn't buy any of the materials. I'm using milliput and greenstuff (that's what people call it, I swear) to build up a little bit of musculature over the skeleton. I already had this laying around from some old projects though, so I mean I didn't actually buy it for this project. I didn't buy the shirt for this either. Bam. I'm not a liar. You probably won't see any of this stuff on the completed figure, but it gives way more depth to how it'll look at the end if the cloth isn't just resting on bare plastic.

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Another major component is my favorite stuff ever. Styrofoam. I'd prefer to use polystyrene (basically the same thing but without the pebbly texture) but I don't have any of that laying around. I've got a 4x6 foot slab of this stuff just chilling in the basement though, so there you have it.

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I'm slicing little chunks out with an exacto blade and gluing them onto the armature to build up a sort of rocky skin texture and shape. I'll paint it to look really cool later.

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Step three is actually putting these materials to use. After building up the muscles with milliput, I'm gluing the cloth over the joints, then putting pieces of the styrofoam over the whole thing. I'm just using white Elmer's glue for this whole project. Maybe some superglue too, but for the most part this is a collab with my boy E.

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After attaching the bits I coat the whole thing in glue to fill in the gaps and seal it from the stress of existing. I don't want any little chunks of styrofoam to fall off, so I'm literally just gluing it all together to make a homogeneous piece of plastic-like skin. I know what I'm doing. I think.

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This is what I have to show after about 4-5 days of work. It's been slow and I'm figuring out as I go, and most of my day is spent just waiting for the glue to dry, but I'm really happy with how it's coming along. Everything has been going to plan.

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As a little bonus, here's one of the many funny poses I put this guy in to keep the glue from dripping into the joints. I could make a whole post with just these funny lookin photos.

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Well there you have it. If you have any guesses as to what this is going to be based on, let me know. If you have any experience with stop motion (especially things like lighting, forced perspective, and what camera/lenses to use) or armature building let me in on the secrets. This'll be a long term project and I have high standards for myself. I want this to be as good as I can possibly make it. Also if there are any classical music nerds who want to do the music for this thing I'm totally looking. I have no musical knowledge or skill, but there won't be any dialogue in this thing. It'll just be sfx and an orchestral soundtrack. I'm looking at Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungs as inspiration, if that means anything to anyone. 

 

Maybe you'll see an update here next week. Maybe. Motivate me to keep taking these photos and writing about it, if you want to see more. Otherwise I might forget to document the process lol.


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#2 Saber-Scorpion

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 03:20 PM

Something that always bothered me about literally every action figure ever is the seams. The joints at the elbows, legs, etc where you can see where the two plastic parts fit together. I've always wondered why toy companies don't just put cloth over these sections to hide it. I'm doing exactly that. I cut up an old t shirt and glued it onto the figure's bones, about half an inch above the joints. Just cut it to size and glue in place. Not that hard, every toy company ever. Though I may find out why they don't do this. There could be some unforseen consequences to this method.

 

Ever looked at "Hot Toys" action figures? They have a rubbery skin-like material over pretty much the whole figure, with a jointed skeleton underneath. The quality is more than adequately reflected in the price tag though...

 

I was trying to guess what you're making, but... I got nothing. :P Need more clues. Sounds cool though - I always wanted to do some LEGO stop-motion, but never got around to it...


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#3 Florent

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 09:09 AM

Hey everyone didju forget that I've been working on a project cause I sure didn't. I got a jorb in this past month so I had to slow down for a bit, but the past 2-3 weeks have been super productive. Like, mega productive to the point where I'm actually getting close to something filmable. 

 

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I made some baseplates! Scorp rejoice. These are just foamboard with a couple coats of paint, There's a reason the one is a weird shape. I'll get to that in a sec. There's also a reason why they're different colors. The brow will be a cliff face, and the larger green will be a wooded area with trees and grass. I haven't added the grass yet, but it looks better when on a green floor than a brown one.

 

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This is kinda the idea I'm going for. There will be lotsa forced perspective in this thing, and I'm still figuring out the kinks. 

 

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An unforseen problem is that when I paint only the one side of these foamboards, the tension (I assume?) warps them all to heck. I'll have to use a heat gun to warp them back then glue supports onto the bottom.

 

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Here's just a lil detail on the edge of the boards. I just run an exacto blade along the side to give it a better, more rocky looking texture on the edges. Then just paint grey, give a little buffer zone, and viola. Done. Although this actually isn't done, I need to do another light/wet coat of black to make it look less artificial. The way I painted these was to prime them black, then do multiple coats of really really (I mean like really) watered down paints. Like, 5:1 water to paint. Just slap brown, grey, tan, and green on and there you go. 

 

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Speaking of multiple coats of paint and rocks.. here's what my art bench (which is just foamboard and a palette on top of my lego bins. Gotta make it work somehow) looks like right now. It's a total mess. Bits of foam from the trees (which I I just bought on amazon and stuck in pieces of styrofoam) and styrofoam chunks/crumbs are EVERYWHERE. I'm gonna have to vacuum my entire life to get rid of this stuff.

 

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Here's what a finished rock looks like though. Black, grey, dark grey, light grey. I can bang out about fifteen of these in an hour. Real simple, easy little props. I'm also getting a little annoyed at my phone for being useless at closeup images.

 

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I also made a little dying campfire out of toothpicks, Q-tips, and pieces of sprue left over from model kits. Glue em together, paint the middle yellow and orange, paint the outside brown, drybrush tan/grey/white. Bam. Camp fire.

 

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This one here is my favorite tbh. I'm worried it won't really be featured too much in the finished project but I really like how it turned out. It's just a dead tree I made from twigs I found in my yard. I apologize for how busy the photo is, it might be hard to make it out completely against the background, but it can't stand on its own and has to lean against something.

 

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Then there's this guy. Remember him? This is the armature from the first post. I've been working on it the entire time, but it's mostly done at this point. I just need to add some flocking (fake grass) and figure out how I'm gonna do the eyes. Hmm.emoji

 

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I'm honestly just super happy with how it turned out. I sculpted the left hand out of milliput, used some sprues for the stone-sword-arm, and again for the horns. The rest is just styrofoam and glue. 

 

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Here's a comparison with its skeleton. It can actually stand on its two feet without help but I kinda like the idea of it using the sword for balance. Unfortunately I botched the wrist joint, so it really is just an extension of its arm. Oh well. I still like it. 

 

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Here's a little forced perspective test shot that didn't actually work at all. I blame my phone and lack of knowledge and skills.

 

 

 

That's all for now, folks. I'll probable do these like once a month. That's the most comfortable for me, especially cause I usually forget to take photos of the process as its going. This is a good reminder for me. Anyways, any guesses on what it's supposed to be yet? I think you could probably get it from this post...


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#4 Florent

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Posted 23 November 2017 - 12:39 PM

Heyo all. Project update. Been kinda a slow month cause of work, but I'm getting to a point where hopefully next month I'll have some test footage to show off. We'll see.

 

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Here's that big 'ol baseplate I've been working on. It's finally done! I'm not super happy with how the trees turned out, but they get the job done in all of the test shots I've done. 

 

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Just a closer look at the creature (any guesses?) sleeping. He's probably been there a while. All covered in moss and flock now! He's done too. I never figured out how to do eyes, so I'll probably have to do those in post. Make 'em glow blue or something. IDK.

 

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Here's the little baseplate all done up and painted/flocked. Really like how it turned out, but I wish I had made it less of a rectangular shape. It looks pretty artificial, unfortunately. I may have to completely re-do this one. 

 

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I just like it so much though  :unsure: . Look at the darkened area around the camp fire! The dead grass still with the hint of color! It looks so good. I don't even care, I'm complimenting myself. It looks so great.

 

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As for who made the campfire, well just look here! This'll be the second armature, the little guy. sculpted the helmet and body mass with greenstuff and milliput again. Ignore the weird discoloration around the knees. That was from a failed attempt at covering the joints. Still figuring out that problem tbh.

 

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Here's where I'm at with Little Guy. did some touching up on the helmet before painting, sculpted the dagger, and gave him a couple coats of liquid latex. It covers the joints but can't be painted well (as you can see, all the paint has chipped off the joints). I may cut away the latex and just do cloth. Unsure.

 

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While brainstorming about the armature's clothes, I figured it'd be a good time to work on some background landmasses. These are polyurethane (spelled that correctly on my first try btw) spray foam. Y'know, that stuff in your basement. It's insulation foam you can spray around windows and stuff to keep the heat in. Well it also cures to have an extremely similar texture to my favorite thing ever, styrofoam. You can essentially pour (spray) your own styrofoam chunks. It's a great material. One issue is that it's really bubbly and uneven, so you can't really use it in its raw form. Making it useful is an easy process though. Just use a bread knife to cut away the very top layer and remove any big bubbles, giving it a more rocklike structure with flat planes instead of convex tube lookin' things. There's another issue though. The surface is too bubbled to ever look like a rock (unless you were making some sort of cratered moonscape... which I have also done), so you need to fill it in with something. I've seen people using bondo, wood glue mixtures, even down to sawdust and PVA glue mixed together. I took a different route and bought a big 10lb block of clay on amazon. Using just a little bit over the top to give it that rocky texture.

 

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This is what it looks like after cutting and filling the foam. 

 

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After waiting about a day for the clay to dry this is what I ended up with. It cracked a bit more than I would have liked, but I can always add more clay to fill those. Or just paint as is, because nobody will ever see these in closeup. Only ever in the background. I bought some more miniature trees to stick on the top of these. Haven't decided if I want to put them on an angle and make this the side of a mountain.. might be fun.

 

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I started painting some of the smaller ones with a base of watered down black acrylic paint. I think they turned out pretty okay. I'll finish these two and if I like the results I'll do the rest the same way. 

 

 

Now.. I mentioned something about a test shot. Well here it is. Spoilered so that it's more of a reveal idk lol. This isn't forced perspective, but rather a composite of three different photos. One of the upper, smaller area. One of the lower wooded area, and finally a stock photo of the mountains in northern NY for the backdrop. I photoshopped them all together as a proof-of-concept for how I want this to work. I'm super happy with how it turned out.

Spoiler

 

 

 

That's all for this update! Hope you guys are enjoying this as much as I am. It's a lot of fun to document and commentate the process. Any guesses as to what beloved property this is inspired by yet? At this point I think it'll be pretty easy to guess... See ya guys in a month! (ish)


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#5 Dalton Westmoore

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Posted 24 November 2017 - 08:12 AM

Awesome! 

 

I love the idea of a giant, stone creature sleeping away as stuff grows over it. Reminds me of the Stone Giants from the Hobbit.



#6 Florent

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Posted 24 December 2017 - 03:20 PM

Hey guys, small update this month. Unfortunately didn't get much work done because of the holiday rush at work.

 

 

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I did manage to (almost) finish my second armature though! There are still some parts on the legs and feet that I need to touch up, but this guy in 90% done.

 

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I made the tunic out of a burgundy T-shirt I bought at Goodwill for .99c (second hand thrift store for my non-US peeps). The armor is painted cardboard from a cereal box and Greenstuff molded by hand.

 

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The belt/strap along his tunic is also greenstuff. I tied a string around the area but it didn't end up looking right. 

 

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Both armatures facing off. Reminder that the rock guy is supposed to be bigger. Like, much bigger. You'll see next month ;)

 

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His pants are liquid latex, which I painted on over a layer of clay that I put on the joints. Liquid latex is funky because it's white while liquid, then dries into a kinda gross transparent-yellow color. Thing is, if you add a couple of drops of paint to it while it's wet it can actually retain that color. I added grey, green, and black paint almost equally to get the.. well, it just ended up being gray but I kinda like the way it looks. I used plastalina clay, which is basically just sculpey that doesn't dry out or harden, on the joints. Just built up little "clothes" thickness so it doesn't look like his pants were painted on... which they were. then after a couple coats, I carefully peeled away the latex and removed the clay. The cool matte-gray color of his pants in the photos is achieved by turning the latex pants inside-out, so it still has a little bit of clay residue and texture that was maintained. It gives a neat look, IMO. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

 

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I kinda like how the lighting looks and reflects off the dirt and grass on this platform. I may end up using this angle instead of the 45° angle I was planning on. We'll see. Next month. I promise.

 

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Aaaaaaand because this is a progress update, this is pre-paint.

 

 

Unfortunately I didn't have time (or daylight, tbh) to set up any real test shots or animation. Now that all the prop/set/actor building is done though, I really have no excuse any more. The only thing left to do is start animating and shooting. Oh, also I have to paint a couple rocks. Please ban me if my update next month is just more painted rocks. See ya guys! Hopefully it'll be cool. It'll be great. It's gonna be great. It's gonna be great.


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