Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Flies have it...

Craigslist yielded another cool gig for me this week: an up-and-coming young director posted an ad looking for someone to build a stop motion puppet of a fly for a music video. After sending him my reel and resume, he gave me the job and I started learning everything I never wanted to know about the common housefly:

I started by constructing the legs out of floral wire, wrapping them with thin strips of foam tape for bulk. I interwove some black nylon fiber to create the long hairs that cover the fly's body. The legs were painted with black acrylic paint and drybrushed with metallic copper tempera. A bit more glue was added and the legs were rolled in tiny bits of fake hair. The wings were cut out of acrylic sheet. I traced black veins on them, then went back over the veins with a bit of glue to raise them up slightly.

Once the wings and legs were done, I wired them all together to a floral wire "hub" that had loops on both ends to build the fly's head and abdomen off of. I mixed up some plumber's epoxy and formed it into the fly's three main body sections: head, thorax, and abdomen.

Now the fun really begins! Using Magic-Sculpt resin (a mainstay over at Robot Chicken and my new favorite sculpting medium) I sculpt the details of the main body sections onto the epoxy core. In addition to shaping these sections, I also start poking holes into the Magic Sculpt and inserting individual nylon fibers into the fly body.

Flies use these hairs to smell and taste their food, and if you study a fly closely (as I have the past few days) you'll notice the hairs aren't randomly placed: they're laid out in a definite pattern. I tried to copy my reference pictures as closely as possible.
I added the head details last, sculpting the fly's large eyes and pressing into them with a bit of fine steel mesh to give them that compound eye look.

As the Magic Sculpt hardens completely I start giving the hairs a trim. Once the resin is totally hardened, I give the whole body a paint job, let it dry, then add fine bits of hair all over. The last bit is to add the proboscis, the long tube that the fly eats with (Note: if you ever want to eat after seeing a fly crawling on your food again, I advise you NOT to research how the fly uses this mechanism to ingest its meal...)

Finished! The completed fly puppet with proboscis in place. This fine, furry fella is ready for his closeup...
At just 2.5 inches from nose to wing-tip, this is one of the smaller puppets I've attempted, and I'm really happy with the way he turned out considering the amount of detail I tried to get in. I decided to do a short test to show the director, converting the animation to black and white since the video will be shot that way. Enjoy!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey man,

What would happen if you only used one part instead of both of them? Would it still get hard, or would the putty/resin remain pliable?

10:16 AM  
Blogger Michael Granberry said...

The difference between the two compounds is the drying time...the plumber's epoxy hardens in like 4 minutes, so you have to work really fast. It's great for a solid base, and it holds all those wires down securely. The Magic Sculpt dries slowly over about 4 hours, and you can do some really fine detailing with it during that time. You could probably do the whole thing with just Magic Sculpt, but the legs and wings would probably tear thru as you were working on it. This way, I used only a little bit of Magic Sculpt on the surface of the epoxy core and it was a LOT easier to deal with! :)

8:21 PM  
Blogger jriggity said...

wow!! excellent job Michael!!

really great puppet! and great animation too.

I am really impressed.


3:19 AM  
Blogger shel said...

hey michael,

great fly!!!

really cool puppet and anim.


11:45 AM  
Blogger Tennessee Reid said...


7:47 AM  
Blogger Ubatuber said...

Great work, man! I love it...will have to try out Magic Sculpt....

7:53 AM  
Blogger Sven Bonnichsen said...

Beautiful work -- and an excellent puppet fabbing tut! Thank you!

10:10 PM  
Blogger mefull said...

Really nice work Michael - well done!

8:36 PM  
Blogger Michael Granberry said...

Thanks for all the comments, guys! Will update more soon with some BIG news! Stay tuned...

9:55 PM  

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