How to Pamplemousse: Puppets!

The Indiegogo campaign for Dominique Pamplemousse has been in full swing for almost a week, and we’re now up to $1821 — that’s 19% of the goal, with 24 days left to go. Pretty exciting!

Anyway, one of the things I’ve decided to do during this campaign and beyond is write some behind-the-scenes blogs about my creative process. Since this is a very unique sort of videogame in that it combines a lot of disparate art forms in unusual ways, I figured you fine people might be interested in how I’m actually putting it all together. So, without further ado, let’s get started with the first “How to Pamplemousse” article: puppets!

In very basic terms, there are two parts to a stop motion puppet: the armature, and the skin around it. The armature basically serves as a skeleton, and keeps your puppet standing up straight and in position. This means it needs to be rigid, but poseable.

There are a number of ways to make a stop motion armature, the most complicated of which involve sophisticated metal doohickeys with ball bearings, but I kept it simple and used aluminium wire held together with epoxy putty. To illustrate, the armature I made for Ms. Rathbone (AKA Dominique’s landlord) looks a little something like this:

Puppet Armature

You can’t see them in this picture, but under the feet, I’ve attached some small rare earth magnets that help the puppets stand up straight when placed on a metal surface. This also allows them to balance on one foot, which comes in quite handy when animating walk cycles.

After you’ve created an armature and it poses nicely and everything, the next step is to put some flesh around the bones, so to speak. This can be done with materials as simple as plasticine clay or as complicated as foam latex. I decided to use Sugru hacking putty for my puppets, which is a clay-like silicone substance that still stays flexible when cured. I also had some scrap fabric on hand, which I used to make clothing for the puppets.

Here’s the finished Ms. Rathbone:

Finished Puppet

And here are some more of the puppets I made:

More Puppets

Now it’s time to animate. I made myself a little makeshift stage using a cookie sheet for the bottom (so that the magnets on the puppets’ feet will attach to it), a bread tin to use as a webcam stand, and some cardboard and tape to hold it all together. Then, I used my webcam to capture each individual frame of animation I wanted. Here’s Dominique mid-pose:

Mini Stage

Finally, I take the individual frames, clean them up in Photoshop, and voila, I have sprites to use in the game!

Walk Cycle

And that’s what it takes to create the stop motion puppets in Pamplemousse. Pretty neat, don’t you think? What’s even neater is that you yourself can own one of these very puppets (as well as many other cool things) if you contribute to the Indiegogo campaign. Meanwhile, stay tuned for future installments of “How to Pamplemousse” for more fascinating insights into this game’s development!

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