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About Ball and Socket Armatures

"Ball and Socket" is a common term for a mechanical setup that has a lot of flexibility. It's used in a lot of different places including in automobiles.

It is also used in stop motion armatures. In this quick tutorial I will show you a typical ball and socket set up for the armature of a figure.



An Armature

Here is a complete Ball and Socket armature of a humanoid figure.

It is one foot tall which makes it a 1/6th scale. It would equal a person that is six feet tall.

One thing to point out in this picture is the modular nature of the armature. You can see that it is composed of a variety of parts that can be disassembled and reassembled in various ways. So, if you wanted to make a dog you could just reassemble it.


Closeup of the joints

This is a closeup of the pelvis section of the armature. It gives you a really good look at the actual ball and socket set up. See how each ball sits in a socket.

This is great but the real secret to a ball and socket setup is the fact that all the parts smoothly move. This way you can simulate the motions of a person. The ball and socket allows you to move the limbs and other body parts and the armature will stay in its new position.

There is enough tension so that everything stays where you move it. But there is not so much tension that you can't move things freely.

Tightening the joints

This picture shows how this tension is achieved. You use a small wrench to tighten the joints. It is very easy to get just the right tension so everything moves smoothly but stays in whatever position you set.

Typically, when I do an armature like this I put more tension on the legs than on the arms. The legs have to support more weight and simply be stronger.


Fleshing out the figure

Once you have your armature built and you have the tension the way you want it you can begin to flesh out the body with tape and foam. My figure has a few custom additions like the head and arms. The torso is just upholstery foam and the legs are a little bit of foam with tape.

This is to fill out the clothing so the figure looks like an average person.

One thing to think about when you are fleshing out the armature is to try to keep all the various screws accessible because over the course of time while you are doing the animation things are going to loosen up. You are going to want to tighten those screws up just a little bit to maintain good tension.


Thefigure is dressed and ready for an animation


And there we go. Our armature is completed and dressed and ready to be used in a stop motion animation.


Want to watch the animation with this character? I also have a whole bunch of tutorials on the making of the animation.




ModiBot Mo Action Figure Kit - Black

  • Modibot Mo comes with 19 interlocking parts, one un-assembled ModiBot Mo figure with 14 super-flexible points of ball-joint articulation.
  • Combine multiple sets to customize and create new figures.
  • Design and discover a huge variety of 3D printed parts in the Shapeways BotShop.
  • Colors: orange, black, white, citrus green, army green, blue, ice blue, red, pink, gray, tan, purple and yellow.
  • 5" assembled height.

Armature wire

Jack Richeson Armature Wire 1/16 Inch (.063) 32', Solid

Armature wire creates the structure that keeps a sculpture together and provides a frame upon which to work.

Wire armature

Jack Richeson 12" Figure Armature

  • Light Weight And Very Pliable
  • Non-Staining And Non Corrosive
  • Suitable For Kiln Fired As Well As Oven Baked Projects

Stop-Motion Armature Machining: A Construction Manual

Stop-Motion Armature Machining: A Construction Manual

Demonstrates the construction of the armature of stop-motion puppets and the technical aspects of how to machine metal into the desired shape. It describes the mill and the lathe, the two main tools used in constructing the armature, and how the anatomical makeup of the puppet determines design.