Fabricating the Stop-Motion Puppets in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Holochess animation Easter egg in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was truly a labor of love, and the team who made it used a variety of interesting technologies to create it. This week, we return to Tippett Studio to chat with this sequence’s art director, visual effects supervisor, armaturist, and head puppet fabricator (our very own Frank Ippolito!) about the fabrication of these stop-motion puppets!

Shot by Joey Fameli
Edited by Adam Isaak
Music by Jinglepunks

Comments (7)

7 thoughts on “Fabricating the Stop-Motion Puppets in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  1. Very nice guys, love the access Tested has these days. The holochess scene was a very nice callback to the original and it was awesome to see that Frank got a credit! Actually waited to see it in the theatre :).

  2. 4:34 “So… what’s in that room?”

    “Oh you know… the usual… full size Speederbike, full size Jabba, Indiana Jones costume, Max Rebo’s piano, Tantive IV, Naboo tank, Death Star on a matte board…”

  3. Damn, that some secret-keeping Tested! With all the PODcasts and video’s… not one leak… congratulations and thanks!

  4. I’m guessing something Hugely expensive. The process Frank used is interesting, and one I learned about during a molding/casting short course. I only have a cheap desktop 3D printer that doesn’t have a huge Z resolution, I’ve had great success in the past spraying the finished models with spray auto filler/primer and giving them a light sanding. The video talks about exaggerating the details, this is partly due to the 3D print resolution, the coats of primer you’ll need to apply, and also the detail from the cast/mold. By pulling out the details of the model and making them bigger, they will return back to normal after a few coats of spray filler. I say spray filler (or auto filler, or spray bog) as it has a very nice powder like coat and matt finish, it is also thicker than regular spray paint but dries almost instantly and baring heavy application won’t drip/run. Though I’m not sure what you’d call the stuff in America. A known brand that is similar but expensive is Games workshop skull white undercoat. Give the model several light coats every half an hour, and then sand it back. It’s then a toss between priming and sanding until you get the finish you want. On models that don’t have texture details, the several coats will smooth out the curves and blend the seams together nicely. I do have an example here, which should give a betting meaning to what I’m trying to describe:
    http://www.kaabaa.org/index.php?tid=caffeinator

  5. What type of tool steel is used for the armatures? What state is the material (full hard/tempered/annealed)? Is it heat treated after machining or do you work with the material pre-hard? Are the cups cut with a specialty tool or just a ball nose end mill? I really love this video and the insight into the construction of the puppets. I’ve watched it at least ten times since initially posted.

    Thanks!

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