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Member Since 19 Feb 2011
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The Mystery Project: Part 1

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.