Barry Leith at FilmFair Animation Studios (page 2 of 5)

We are using a Bolex H16R 16mm camera. We got a guy to build this electric motor on for us. It gives a half second exposure. It has got a clutch on it so that it free rides along there and stops the film being jerked. It’s an ordinary commercial motor.

Bolex H16R camera with single frame motor.

I wouldn’t say I was the best lighting cameraman in the world. I use things such as cut out shapes in front of a lamp to make the lighting look more interesting. It looks like the sun coming through trees rather than being splashed with light. They call them Acme boards but I can never remember why. That’s what I like about films, they have silly names for things.

Cut-out shape in front of light to give shadows like sun through trees.

Ivor Wood made the Paddington Bear puppet but I usually do the ones for the commercials, such as the Noddy ones and the monster in the Chewits commercial. I make the puppet’s heads hollow otherwise they get too heavy. I buy plastic balls of different sizes and cast them in plaster, half moulds, and then papier mache the insides. When it’s dry take it out and stick the two halves together so you have got a cardboard ball. I usually put alabaster over the top because then you can sand it smooth. I use a very thin sponge for the pink flesh colouring, pull that around and build up the nose, the eyes and the hair and slowly dress it up.

We did a lot of P.R. films for a company a couple of years ago and they wanted lip sync. To do it properly you have to build up a whole thing inside the head with wire in the lips and everything so that you can move the lips around. There is one really heavy problem with it, you’ve got to give it so much handling that no matter how clean you keep your hands you can’t help but discolour it after a while, so you have to keep changing the skin. For this particular job they didn’t have that sort of money so we arrived at using stuck on mouths. It’s like having eyes, nose and a blank with different mouth shapes in black stuck on in the right sequence. You can get the shapes out of Preston Blair’s book ‘Animation’. You have got to keep a good consistency in placing of them. Never use shiny material because you get light flaring on it and it looks wrong. I’ve used black paper with double sided tape on the back.

Most of the puppets that I make for commercials have wire skeletons. They only have to stand up to about thirty seconds of film but if they had to stand up to what Paddington gets, twenty six, five minute films, they wouldn’t survive. The wire would be in such knots it would be so much trouble to sort it out so we use ball and socket joints.

I use aluminum sculptor’s wire. I got this from Taranties in Goodge Place. It is very flexible and when you bend it there’s no spring in it, it’s totally dead wire. It stays exactly where you put it. The only thing is, like any other wire, you have to go round it now and then and feel for any heavy kinks in it and straighten it out. You can’t solder this wire so when you are making up things like a hip joint, you might make the hip out of wood. A centre hole is drilled for the spine to go down, push the wire through and hook it with a pair of pliers so that it comes back through another hole and then a blob of Araldite is used to hold it in position.

The ball and socket joints are specially made up for us. There are three component parts that are made from dyes. We don’t help the competition by telling them how or where, but if they sit down and think about it for five minutes they will arrive at the same conclusion that we have anyway. It’s a good system, the movement you get is nice and sharp; there is no springiness or pulling back.

The fingers are made with copper wire. I get quite a thin one, about the thickness of 15 amp fuse wire, put about six or seven strands together and spin it, sort of plat it and to take the springiness out you heat it up and run solder through it. The solder gives it that little bit of flexible strength.

Paddington will not survive twenty six films without some minor breakdowns. An arm will break or a leg joint will go. The fingers will be the first and when that happens you drop another hand in.

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