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Model Making

Over the past week i’ve been experimenting with rig and model making. My initial aim was to make a rig out of wire that would act as the bones in a hand, keeping in line with my other recent animation attempts. I’d read up about what other animators use for small home-made rigs and most of them, it seems, use a soldering station that they can use to attach a small model to, and be able to move it freely and in all directions.

Use of Soldering Station

Instead of making a rig and a separate model, I decided to combine the two to make what looks like a hand attached to a very long wrist, attached to a weight. To make the rig, I used wire of varied thickness, pipe cleaners, cardboard, gaffa tape, hot glue and risotto rice.

Rig plan
Final Rig

I’m really pleased with this model, although it looks very handmade and quite disjointed, it has a unique look that reflects the main qualities of a real hand; like the wires as veins and the pipe cleaners as different sections of fingers and thumbs. However, as a rig, it doesn’t really work. All the elements are there, the moving fingers, the moving wrist and the weight of the box at the bottom to keep the model stable, but what is lacking is rigidness in the long wrist and fingers. At the moment, the model moves about on it’s own; one touch of the model and it springs back and forth, which is not something desired when trying to control motion and recreate it yourself. To rectify this, i would need to make the model again with stronger wire that would be much harder to move, but easier to control.

After making this model, and realising it wouldn’t work as a rig, I decided to hone in on a smaller model and try and make a moveable object to work with in an animation. Sticking with the hand, I used wire and plasticine to make a new model.

Plasticine Hand

As a means to recreating motion, this worked much better. Because I had scaled the model down to about 6cm, the thin wire I was using worked really well. I made each finger out of intertwined wire then wrapped it with plasticine. I then attached the 5 fingers to a bigger chunk of plasticine to make the palm and then shaped it to look like a hand. When going to animate the model, I could move each finger separately without the whole model moving out of place. For some inspiration, I watched some behind the scenes footage from Wallace and Gromit at Aardman Animations.

Reference at 6 minutes 20 seconds

The most influential part was at 6:20 where you see Nick Park, the head creator at Aardman and God of stop motion animation, acting out a scene so that the animators can reference his movement and replicate it in the form of plasticine. Taking notes from this video, I filmed my own hand making a fist, turning over then spreading out then recreated the movement using the model I had made. This process worked really effectively as I was able to see how one finger moved and how it would affect another. Really understanding movement and understanding what lies beneath the skin in order for the hand to move was really helpful. So, if I am to carry on making 3D models, understanding movement and how bones affect the body’s movement would be something I would like to research further as I think this would lead the way to a successful animation that presents motion in a realistic manner.


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