Flying Puppet Shots

We wanted our puppets to do tricks that even the best snow boarders couldn't do. We wanted them to do 720's, flips and other great stuff. We shot jumps from one bump to a landings on the other side in 3 separate shot. The take offs were pin animated (pins under the board into the set) up to the lip of the jump. Then the puppet was rigged from behind and above with the rig removed later in post. The puppet's armature was gripped by clamp around the waist of the puppet. This allowed the puppet to spin and the rig hid behind the puppet and covered in front by the puppet's jacket. Our mini grip equipment was crucial to position the puppet. See Unique Grip Equipment in this section.

Wide shots of the puppets doing the whole lift-off, flying trick and touch down in the same shot was a challenge. The puppet was flown on a dolly just out of the top of the frame on an arm down to the puppet. The rig needed separate vertical and rotational movements.

For close-ups of puppets doing tricks in the air we attached the puppet to an arm attached to the camera so that the puppets were always in frame and focus. The arm which moved up and then down in an arc, as a real snowboarder would, was attached to the camera on a free head. The arm was linked to a push rod linked to a dolly with lead screw drive. It made it easier for the animator to move the whole device accurately and easily. The background was blue sky with trees going by to give a feeling of motion. This could be done by moving the trees in the background against a static sky, but getting the appropriate motion of the trees through the frame was critical to appear believable.

It helped rod removal if the trees were below the rods to be removed. Removal of the rods is much easier against blue sky than other objects moving in the frame.

Circle rig

We had two "Hula Hoops." One Hula Hoop is a 4 foot 1" diameter tube ring just like a Hula Hoop. It was supported with bearings like those for a dolly track. It allowed the hoop to spin. Attached to the hoop was a rig to which the puppet was attached. The rig allowed the puppet to be rotated around the center of the hoop and stay in frame. With a combination of rotating the puppet and spinning the hoop the puppet could do tricks no snow boarder could ever do. The 4' diameter allowed the puppet to enter and leave frame. The shot simulated what a cameraperson would shoot of a real snow boarder. The second hoop was a bicycle tire rim 26" in diameter for closer shots of the puppets. It spun in grooved skateboard wheels and skate board bearing. The tire stem hole was used for attaching the puppet rigging.

© Copyright 2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.