Magnets and Stop Motion

Magnets can be very useful and save the time to tie down puppets if there is enough room in the puppet's feet for magnets and the feet are large or numerous enough to hold the puppet upright and allow animation of the puppets. The surface is very important. It can be steel plate covered with a thin surface or a surface thin enough to put matching magnets below. We were dealing mostly with snow on Styrofoam and that excluded using magnets most of the time.

Later in the show we could use magnets. I found some odd shaped and strong ones at and some very strong round ones 1/2" in diameter. Both would hold a puppet through a pane of glass or two sheets of Formica. We sandwiched two layers of Formica together with boat resin and fiberglass matting. It becomes very strong and is even stronger if there is even a slight curve to it. You want the surface stiff enough to not sag or move during a shot. Attach any panels for magnets securely to the rest of the set. It is best to place panels for magnets only in the areas needed for animation.

The magnets on the opposite side of a surface from the puppet were attached to keepers with the right polarity and a handle to hang on to. Some magnets are polarized end-to-end and some top to bottom. You must be very careful because the stronger magnets can bite (pinch fingers), damage sets, props and puppets and can break because they are brittle. We have yet to try them with clay figures like Gumby.

Puppets with magnets that are too close to one another can attract each other when you don't want them to.

For the snowboards we cast the magnets into the boards. For large groups of moving puppets magnets should be considered. We also moved puppets on blue screen surfaces with a sheet of steel below.

Most magnets are very hard, brittle and can shatter. They are very hard to drill. If you plan to cast them into things such as snowboards, make sure to plan for attachment to the puppets feet so you don't have to drill through the magnets. You can epoxy them to other surfaces. We covered some with Teflon tape (McMasters) to make them slide easier on a surface. In many instances we moved them from below with the keepers.

© Copyright 2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.