Saturday, October 25, 2008

mini series 4: modeling and painting and ...TOX BOX

so much has happened since we've last spoken. i'll fill you in.
i ended up using the insulator foam spray to fill the holes in the foam, but i got a little carried away and sort of iced the whole thing like a wedding cake.
this stuff really expands and takes a while to set, at least a couple hours, so during this time i started submodeling, carving in details into the crater. At this point i'm not looking to drastically change the shape of the set, so i used the smaller tools available. the clay modeling tools and the pointy device worked well. After the spray dried, I spent some time picking apart the insulation foam because it got too bubbly, as you can see in this picture. I think there are better applications for this material.

I was getting pretty worried reading the warnings on the spray bottles, and I realized that I needed some serious ventilation. This sunday, my good friend George/Ben Conkin, and my new friend Alex Deschamps came over and helped me tear my room apart. Behold,... THE TOX BOX!

surrounded by trash bags and a plexiglass viewing plate, this is the perfect little fort for adhesive spraying and painting. the worker sits in the gap between the table and works while tourists can watch from the otherside of the glass. it's quite roomy, is it not?

I let alex handle most of the painting this time around while george and i worked on beginning another set. Here are some pictures in the process

for this set, i collected some sand from around the neighborhood to use that has a sort of brown coller and a fine grain. This was applied using the adhesive spray and alex did a good job building it up around where the white foam was to make it blend together. after this, spray paint of various colors were heavily applied. for the base color, spray directly straight on, but to get highlights on the edges, spray from the side.

this is the finished product. Although mistakes were made, I'm fairly happy with it. One thing we learned is that before applying sand grain, or whatever you are using, first put down a layer of acrylic paint directly onto the foam for a stronger color, then do your texture work on top of this. the inside of the crater has acrylic as the bottom layer and i think it somehow looks more convincing.

ultimately, i think we overworked it with the paint and ended up losing some of the nice detail that i carved. live and learn. in terms of our story, it is ok for this set to stand out as a bit different from the rest of our landscape, so i'm glad we did this one first.

did i mention that it has two parts?? just in case we want to get some panning shots on the inside and for easier transport. this concludes the basic process for building a crater. Big thanks again to alex and george. I will be posting much more about how to make cliffs, valleys and canyons, and hopefully a wrecked space ship.
it's almost like a trip to the zoo!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

mini series 3: building it up and carving it down

The first set i am building will be a giant crater where the bug lives. it is about 2 by 2 by 1 ft. This is a particularly complicated base because it has to be able to split in two so we can film the inside of the crater from the side.
Sorry i didn't take more pictures of the base building process, but i will try and fill you in. basically i took a square wood, and added some pegs for them to fit together. I then started glueing the foam blocks on, using the contact cement and a GAS MASK. I kept in mind that the set had to come apart but i also put a few blocks over lapping so that the set will stay together during the construction process. later on a will cut it apart. We will see if this was a good idea or not.
I cut some of these blocks with a saw just to get a very preliminary idea of the over all shape of the crater. The more of this you can do, the more economical you will be with your foam, however, make sure that the peices are really glued down solidly, and try not to have too many breaks because you will have to fill in these cracks later.

I let this sit over night with some books on top of it for pressure and to give it time to fully air out. the next morning i started so carve it out broadly, mainly with the rasp, and the stilleto knife. i am not looking for detail, i am still trying to refine the overshape.

more refinement. this process is surprisingly quick, and the blick foam will carve very easily so if anything, be carefull not to carve too much. you'll notice that the construction has a few little niches where the foam was put together. unless you want to waste a bunch of foam, this is unavoidable. perhaps i will be able to use the insulator spray or glue a little scrap foam on to patch it up.

now that its starting to look like a crater, take a couple photographs from the perspective shots that you will need in your film. if it is not reading, maybe you will want to exaggerate the shape a little. start thinking about foreground and background

mini series 2; supplies and facilities

...well, not quite yet. First and foremost, you need a good place to build all of this stuff. That means ventilation, and a place that is not going to interfere with other people. In my case, that happens to be my hall and my bedroom, haha.
Realize that the foam is going to get EVERYWHERE so have some sort of system of disposing of your carvings. in my case, i have one of those tables that expands from the middle, so i lined the gap with trash bags that connect to a bin under the table. that way i can brush all the extra stuff into the gap and it disappears!

SUPPLIES: I got all of this stuff can be bought at home depot.

Your sets will need a firm base. I used a big peice of plywood maybe a half inch thick.

Foam: I bought some fancy blick carve foam, which makes it very easy to carve and has a sandy look, but insulation foam is just as good, much cheaper, and sold at HD.

Also, I found this blue foam in a dumpster. It is much more firm and will make good rock cliffs.

Gas masks: i have two, one light weight one for carving so that i do not inhale actual foam particles, and one more expensive one with carbon filters for when i am using chemicals. also have glasses and latex gloves.

-contact cement or pva wood glue. this is used to glue the foam to the base and foam to foam. I used contact cement, which is the white tin can. this stuff is really toxic so make sure you do this in a ventilated room and give it time to dry.
- spray adhesive: usefull for adding sand and texture. i used the number 77, the second highest strength. next time i will get 90.

spray paint: get a couple colors, they are cheap and fun.

insulator spray: this "great stuff" is really great stuff. you spray it out of the can like cheese whizz and it hardens. you can spray paint it while it's still wet for a sort of sulfur type of look. i have yet to use it to its full potential but hopefully we will be talking more about it. thanks to alex for the tip.

TOOLS: a normal saw, hammer and screwdriver etc will come in handy. the stilletto thing i think is a plaster knife, and the cheese grater thing is a rasp. sandpaper is usefull too. other than that, most of these tools can be found in the ceramic area at pearl paint. that everything is covered with foam, this stuff really is messy.

ok, we're ready to begin, I hope...

mini series 1: reference and conceptualization.

Before we begin this exciting magical journey, it is good to know what you want your sets to look like. Actually visiting such places first hand is the most beneficial, but photographs and concept art can work just fine. What is the mood you are trying to set? What is the scale of the landscape? A trick to making great foreign environments is taking elements from our planet and altering them to suit your new landscape. The best concept artists are able to strike that great balance between familiarity and alien-ness. This link below has some of the strangest looking things on the planet.
here are some pictures of when i went to the grand canyon and death valley:

Simultaneously, it is good to think about what kinds of organisms are going to inhabit the landscape. How are they going to travel across the terrain? What elements will they utilize to live in, hunt for food? In our case, we have a giant bug that lives in a crater, stalks his prey by emanating a poisonous toxin that draws them towards his nest. okay, i could go on and on about visual reference and building your visual library, but at some point we have to begin. So the next thing to do is carefully storyboard your film so that you exactly what shots you will need. This will save you time. Instead of building one massive set with everything inside it, you can build multiple smaller sets that are custom built to fit your shots. for instance, if you have a closeup of a guys helmet on the ground, you would want a seperate set with a larger grain so that it looks very close.
Next it is always good to draw your landscape a bunch of times to see what kind of basic shapes you are looking for, and to work out composition and color. Check out the work of the evertalented Sparth.
it is great to look at professional's work to see what they envision, but at some point you should draw it yourself to get specific to your own needs and to have your vision. You may be a fantastic carver and a poor drafter, yet i still believe that the cognitive process of drawing will inform your carving.

Ok, enough said about that. On to the actual building....

a new mini series

hey yall, so most of you reading this probably know that i am spending most of my time building miniature sets for an alien desert valley this semester. well, recently it dawned on me that it might be helpful to other aspiring set builders if i started posting during the process.

unfortunately i decided this a little bit late, so i will have to fill you in just a bit. So here we go.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

miniature miniatures

these little tests are only a couple inches big because i have no idea what i am doing.