The Wrath of Ranger X

The Wrath of Ranger X by Backyard Space Opera: Independent stop motion filmmaking

A first step towards our micro budget Sci Fi feature film “Lens Driver”, was perfecting the stop motion miniatures we planned to use. In the spirit of Ray Harryhausen, David Allen and The Chiodo Brothers, we envision our film being inhabited by fantastic creatures with that special look that only stop motion can create.

Dragon Head for Independent stop motion filmmaking,

Using a tutorial series from Stan Winston School lead by the Chiodo Brothers themselves, we fabricated our first characters. These included Ranger #4, Ranger X, a Dusk Walker Zombie, and a thunder lizard.

To Start, a wire armature was created using aluminum sculpture’s wire. This wire provided good flexibility and little bounce back while animating. The strands of wire that make up the infrastructure were lashed together with string to provide further strength and backup in case one wire breaks during animation.

The main body parts were created with Super Sculpy. This polymer clay comes in three firmness levels and hardens when baked. It’s easily sand-able and takes paint well. The soft aspects of the miniatures were created using a foam latex build up technique. This involved using soft craft foam in tiny pieces that were blotted with thin liquid latex (RG-407). The soaked pieces were slightly dried with a hair dryer until tacky and then mashed together around the armature. Finally, the figure was painted and given some (crudely) hand sewn clothes.

The filming process was done with work lights from the hardware store and diffusers made from card board and cloth. The miniatures were filmed in front of a HDTV that displayed backplates of forest as well as a green screen.

Dragonframe software was used in conjunction with a Cannon T2i camera. This allowed for much quicker and more accurate animation sessions. The potential of the software is enormous.

Stop Motion Miniature: Ranger
Backyard Space Opera: Independent stop motion filmmaking

After several weeks of filming and experimenting we had some nice shots and decided to further our tests by creating a super short prequel film. This allowed us to also try out rotoscoping techniques in photoshop. Lightning and laser effects were hand painted a frame at a time within the Photoshop movie timeline. This nicely recreated the old school look we want while still letting the computer do the heavy lifting.

Backyard Space Opera: Independent stop motion filmmaking

Our finished product, “The Wrath of Ranger X” was accepted into the Zedfest film festival and won a special award for outstanding stop motion.

Backyard Space Opera: Independent stop motion filmmaking

We’ve learned a great deal from making this film and continue to develop techniques to produce “Lens Driver”. Check out the final super short film below.

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