Halo 3 Hunter Hand Puppet


PlanetAlexander

Well-Known Member
Yea, I had a stupid idea. “Let’s make a Halo 3 Hunter hand puppet”. So I did.

This puppet is inspired by the works of puppeteer/puppet maker/song writer/comedian/singer/musician/story teller (oh boy I could go on), Barnaby Dixon. While I wait to begin work on my main project, the Halo CE Grunt Puppet, I thought I’d give some of the puppetry basics a try in the meantime. This project uses a bunch of different techniques, so I’ll be breaking up the thread into each of them and updating as I go along. This keeps things clean, which may help some of you learn some stuff, helps me reflect and makes it readable for possible future employers (if that’s you, welcome!)

One goal I had about mid production was to keeps parts modular, meaning I can take it all apart easily and work on or replace sections without having to deal with glued pieces. There are three different types of parts to the puppet; hard parts, which are 3D printed, wooden or resin cast, medium, which are foam, and soft, which are sewn and stuffed. The plan was to try and make sure none of these three different types were permanently attached to a different type.

As of the date of posting, here is my progress!
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PlanetAlexander

Well-Known Member
3D Printing

The original files came from models-resource.com, where I was able to download a H3 Hunter and import it into Blender. I started by trying to recreate each piece in 3D, then gave up. I then tried to unfold each piece and foamsmith it, then gave up. For some reason I was avoiding trying to split the model but in the end it was really easy. Because of how it’s made, I was able to select “groups” of faces in which multiples of these made up each part. I then separated them into individual objects and adjusted them to print nicely.

After that I added some modifiers. The first one was subdivision surface, to try and smoothen the blocky geometry. I added creases to where I wanted edges to be sharp. The next modifier was shell, which would thicken it but let it be hollow to slide the soft parts through. When a part was complete, I’d apply the modifiers and mirror it to make the other side.

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This Blend file seems to have some weird bug or somethin' that's making the models look jittery and messy, but they're all right.
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Most pieces were printed from PLA at 0.2mm, though some later on at 0.1mm. While most of the parts were OK from the start, some I reprinted at a larger scale (because I scaled them wrong), and some parts I printed so I actually didn’t have to cast them later. For the upper and lower leg pieces, I actually re-printed these with more detail that I added on. I was just going to paint it on but after looking at the Hunters in theatre I found these details were not, in fact, normal maps, but actual geometry. DEFINITELY worth doing.
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Pieces were hit with one or two layers of filler primer and most parts with body filler too. They aren’t without imperfections but that’s how I wanted it (battle damage yo). In fact, as you might see on the upper legs, shields and right shoulder, I added bullet holes with a soldiering iron.
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PlanetAlexander

Well-Known Member
Foamsmithing

The main parts that were foamsmithed are the neck and the stomach. The neck is pretty simple, it’s just a few layers of foam that were grinded into with a medium grit then stone grit sanding drum, which gave large then fine details. This made all the lil’ wormies!

The stomach had the same worm idea for the back. The front is a couple of layers of 3mm and 1mm foam, which I made a pattern for from duct tape wrapped around it. I carved details into the foam around the raised sides, though I might come back to them later with a hot knife to make them stand out. The pelvis area had a large hole drilled into it that would allow me to feed the sewn and stuffed legs through.

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To attach the helmet to the neck (while keeping it modular) I glued a couple of lengths of a wooden toothpick(?) to the helm and poked holes in down the neck, so the toothpicks would fit in. I am yet to figure out how to attach the big boy’s space diaper.

There’s gonna be some thin pieces of foam between the front, heel and ankle of the feet that’ll hopefully allow me to get a bit of flex between the three pieces.
 
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PlanetAlexander

Well-Known Member
Resin Casting

First off let me state that in the end, this chapter was just a mistake. Not horrible, mind you, but it would have been MUCH quicker, cheaper, easier and more accurate to just 3D print these parts.

For most of the gizmos on the cannon, the claws on the hand and the spikes on the back, I planned to resin cast these. All but the spikes were carved from hardwood, while the spikes were printed. They all got primed and sanded before being cast.

To cast these, I glued them down onto a thin strip of hardwood. I bunched them maybe a little too closely to conserve the amount of silicone I had to use. I then gave it a few layers, the latter ones thickened to add volume. Demolding was painful and even still, there’s half a broken spike left in there that won’t leave.


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Since I didn’t want to use resin (I ran out and didn’t want to order more without knowing when else I’d next need it), I tried casting with 5 minute epoxy. Using baby powder I dusted the mold to help make releasing easier (VERY important for a mold this badly made). For each “run” of these casts I made, I’d have to make up several batches of epoxy. Like molasses I poured the viscous epoxy in and made sure to lightly squeeze and tap the mold to get every part covered and release any bubbles on the surface.

Now, for the most part, this DID work, except there were quite a few pieces that never set properly and were very soft and bendy. So I ended up leaving this until I got resin in (for another project primarily) and ended up casting this properly.

Alas I could never cast the spikes and I was silly to think I could. The tips of the spikes are so fine, it’s extremely hard for the air down there to make its way out. The smart thing to do would be to make a channel that would allow air to escape from the tip, but I didn’t want to put all that effort in for something I didn’t know would pay off. And in the end that may be OK, because now I’m trying to figure out a way to make the spikes mostly solid but still soft and flexible under stress, because they may get knocked by my hands during puppeteering.

Even though I casted the claws on the ends of the cannon, recently I realised what I made was just too far gone from the actual model and decided to split, clean up and print those claws. Much, MUCH easier! Because there were some gaps between the resin parts and the cannon (which, by the way, is shaped from a few layers of wood), I added some gap filler to blend it in. With the parts, especially the claws and those tiny cannisters, being able to break off easily still (learnt that the hard way), I drowned it in a couple of layers of varnish to try and fill those gaps with what is essentially resin. Seriously, it was dripping, I wasn’t taking any chances. The claws on the left hand also got the same deal before both parts were primed black.

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Update 5/12/20

I've actually managed to casts the spikes from silicone! Well, I'm hoping it'll all come together, I'm praying that oil based paints actually will stick to silicone without cracking.
In Blender I made a mold of the spikes and, very importantly, included vents that allowed the air at the tip to escape. The first time I printed it was quite successful, the silicon got right up to the tip and the air bubbles made them unusable, but weren't terrible. Learning from that first mold the second one I made all the walls really thin (to crush it easily) and bought a syringe to inject the silicone in (though as the nozzle of the syringe was wider than the mold entry I suspect it didn't actually do much).

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This second cast of the silicone came out great, save for one little spike so for now I'm just using two left hand spikes on the shoulder (ssshhhh). The cons of this method are
1. In game the spikes are actually solid
2. There's very minor (1mm) layer lines because of the print
BUT these actually evolve into two pros
1. The bouncing spikes give it what I've heard referred to as "sympathetic movement", meaning they bounce and move without my input, help animating and giving it life
2. The layer lines should hopefully help the paints grip better

Since silicone only sticks to itself, I had to mechanically hold them in place. I drilled holes slightly smaller than the bottom diameter of the spikes and counter sunk them so the silicone wouldn't tear. This also means they are easy to replace and adjust.

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PlanetAlexander

Well-Known Member
Sewing

I don’t like sewing. That’s mostly because of two reasons; 1, I’ve hardly put in the time to learn about it and so I’m just bad and 2, holy cr*p sewing machines scare me! So for these soft parts, being the legs and arms, I hand stitched them, with the hopes of getting my seamstress friend to do it in the near future (if she’ll ever forgive me for using superglue while sewing).

I wanted to make the soft parts out of upholstery foam and wrapped in fabric. That way they would be soft and flexible, yet solid. I ended up finding some light packaging foam that I thought would work well. I rolled it into shape for the legs, tapering the ends so they would thin out, and made a pattern from some cheap black fabric. Long story short, the foam was too stiff (and too hard to skin with the fabric) and so I had to change course. Later I had the thought of using broken up cotton wool to stuff it with, which so far is working brilliantly! The legs weren’t too difficult to make, just took a few iterations. The upper legs are able to slip through and the ankles are friction fit (for the moment at least).

The arms were quite a deal tricky, because of all the different sizes it has to take on to fit through everything. It once again took a few iterations to get right and still isn’t perfect but as I said, it’s temporary. Most of it’s the same deal but for the arm with the cannon (and likely the other arm in the future), to attach it I used a hook system. At the top of the cannon I drilled a hole and stuck in some wire I bent into a hook. At the end of the arm I sewed a hook on (though dumb ol’ me sewed it on inside out so I had to mutilate that side to reverse it). It’s a little fiddly but I can slide the hook through the shoulder piece and hook it through onto the cannon. I also made a small cone covering that would blend into the cannon and hide the shame (which slightly tore as I was getting pictures).

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Update 5/12/2020

No pictures, but my seamstress (@missymoo.creative) took the prototypes I made and sewed them up properly. Surprisingly, she didn't kill me for my terrible sewing knowledge or for using superglue - in fact, she was happy because it means "I'm useless without her". Like before I stuffed it with cotton wool and sewed it shut. I also ended up attaching a wire hook and loop to the shield arm.

The ankles were tricky to attach to the plush legs, and I tried many different methods, but what is working so far is a wire ring at the bottom of the ankle with a rubber band looped around, which then hooks onto the loop of the legs and pulls it in. Fiddly to get on, but at least it isn't glued.
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PlanetAlexander

Well-Known Member
Puppet Control

I haven’t got a solid plan for how I’m making the rods, or where they’ll be attached but I’ve still got some time before that’s important. Unlike the rest of the build these parts likely won’t be modular, so that they are well attached. I have been practicing hand positions for a while and I’m thinking my best bet is to hold it similarly to how Barnaby holds his bug puppet, but with my top hand flipped. I’ve found I can get some real convincing Hunter walking movement with my pinkie and pointer finger for the legs.

Update 25/12/2020

The basics of the puppetry mechanisms are pretty much done! Here is a video showing the hunter walking for one of the first times, like a baby giraffe. I still need to get use to the ergonomics of controlling it...

I really had a lot of trouble around all this. The entire puppetry process took a lot of trial and error (many, MANY errors), yet I knew if I couldn't do this, than I wouldn't be as competent about my grunt puppet. So I had to get it done. And I'm so glad I didn't give up.

Because the limbs weren't designed to let my fingers slip through, like I stated, I planned to use rods. The main issue was weight. For the shield hand and the cannon, I glued wire sticking out and attached them to my fingers with a ring of elastic. Problem is because of their weight, they flopped around a lot. I spent a very long time trying to figure out how to best control them, which in the end I settled for a grip with two swing-able wired coming out to join to the arms. Not as flexible as my original intention, but it was probably the best I could do with what I had.
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Another, probably bigger issue, was spine support. With a bipedal puppet like this, if you don't have something to keep the spine upright (AKA you're just holding the four limbs), it's gonna flop around, Weekend at Bernie's style. Again I went through variations of how to do this, which, again took A LOT of thinking, but in the end what's working is some wire stuck up into its body (like a spine) which comes out the back and allows me to grip it with the hand that controls the feet. This keeps it upright as well as leans it forward, which is how the hunter walks.
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The hole in the back of the diaper is from an earlier idea where I shoved a wire through and tried to hold onto it from there, but with weight, the whole puppet kept on popping off.

For the legs, I ended up settling with wire "hooks" that come out from the top of the ankle and allow me to hold onto it with elastic, like the original intention of the arms. The way it's shaped allows me to almost keep my fingers parallel to the ankle.

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Update 19/1/21

Not much has been changed with the puppetry, except for the feet. One thing I noticed while watching my video above was that the feet only sort of "stomp" and not very well even. I knew straight away what I had to do, and that was to make the feet more articulated. That was what the foam was for, but it didn't have enough room to move.

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What I did was add some vinyl tubing (like what was used with the arm controls) for the front section of the foot with a cut in the middle to add flexibility. This gives it a good amount of range to flex when pushed down, which makes the foot's profile adapt to the surface. The heel wasn't much of an issue so that didn't change. Oh, I also added plumber's epoxy to the wires at the top and to the vinyl tubing, to make sure everything was well cemented.

On the back, I replaced the wires with longer ones that would allow me to bend them up at the back. This allows me to push down with my fingers to flex the front of the foot, giving the illusion of weight. I also got some black elastic so it's not as visible when puppeteering.
 
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PlanetAlexander

Well-Known Member
Painting

So far most of the pieces are just primed black. Because my airbrush puts the pain in painting, I’m gonna hand paint it all, which is what I prefer anyway. My plan is to paint all the blue parts a pearlescent blue to give it a bit of depth, and the rest I haven’t thought too much about yet.

Update 19/1/21
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I've now gotten most of the way through painting. The armour has been painted in quite a few layers of a pealescent blue paint, which gave a nice shine - until I varnished it. This is what I get for not testing things properly. On the left is before varnish on a scrap print, the right is after varnish on a final piece. Alas the lighting isn't too great so it's darker than it actually looks.
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On the bright side, the varnish actually did lighten the colour, so it's a bit of a trade-off.

As you can see in the first picture, I've added silver to the bullet scratches and grey to some sections. I also added black lines to certain parts to try and match references, but they don't show up very... well, not at all. My plan with the painting isn't to try and copy all the details like the H3 hunters have, because honestly, I think I'll ruin it. A lot of what I planned to paint in should have been printed geometry which I do partially regret not taking the time to do. So I'm going to keep the painting quite simple.

I've also painted the foam body and did my best to copy the worm colours with the reds, yellows and pale pinks. Soon I'll coat it with a layer of Mod Podge to protect the paint and give it some gloss.
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I picked up some oil paints to paint on the spikes, but even after cleaning the silicone, the oil paints don't stick very well (even after days/weeks of drying). I'll have to do some more experimenting with that, otherwise I'll have to buy some silicone tint, which hopefully it doesn't come to that (that's about another $30AUD).

Another important step is to make sure I varnish the heck out of all these pieces. Because they will be hitting when getting moved around, and if they aren't well protected, the paint will chip off.

Update 11/2/21
Woo, most of the painting is finished! I've still to wrap the arm controller in black tape and figure out how in the h e double hockey sticks I'm gonna paint the spikes. The main update is some weathering.

I finished painting the arms, including the shield and cannon. Nothing fancy, as previously stated, just basic colour matching.
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As you can see, I may have gone a little crazy with the shield's chipped weathering. It's at that point I decided to try and kick it back with some "mud" (AKA water, Raw Sienna and Mars Black). I liked how it looked so I applied it to the rest of the pieces.
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As you can (hopefully) see, I made the bottom of the boots extra muddy.

Here's the full puppet, first time assembled since painting (and first time in quite a few months)
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I'll take some better shots in the sunlight soon, as opposed to this shoddy light setup at my workbench. Also, don't mind the fact that the hook came off its right arm and isn't connected properly.
 
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TheRealVictor

Jr Member
Yea, I had a stupid idea. “Let’s make a Halo 3 Hunter hand puppet”. So I did.

This puppet is inspired by the works of puppeteer/puppet maker/song writer/comedian/singer/musician/story teller (oh boy I could go on), Barnaby Dixon. While I wait to begin work on my main project, the Halo CE Grunt Puppet, I thought I’d give some of the puppetry basics a try in the meantime. This project uses a bunch of different techniques, so I’ll be breaking up the thread into each of them and updating as I go along. This keeps things clean, which may help some of you learn some stuff, helps me reflect and makes it readable for possible future employers (if that’s you, welcome!)

One goal I had about mid production was to keeps parts modular, meaning I can take it all apart easily and work on or replace sections without having to deal with glued pieces. There are three different types of parts to the puppet; hard parts, which are 3D printed, wooden or resin cast, medium, which are foam, and soft, which are sewn and stuffed. The plan was to try and make sure none of these three different types were permanently attached to a different type.

As of the date of posting, here is my progress!
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Not a stupid idea in the slightest!! Super unique and I appreciate you sharing this with everyone :D will there be more puppets??
 

PlanetAlexander

Well-Known Member
In the wise words of the hermit that lurks around alot(Dirtdives2424 ), Pics, or it didn't happened
*ahem* Well, I was gonna embed the post from Instagram, but my usual method of doing so here ain't working anymore - Valve Art pls fix - so here's the link instead:

Here's some pictures but the post also has a video
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