Brick by Brick

One of the materials that I've consistently been surprised with in terms of versatility in it's usage is foam. Using a fairly simple technique, I was able to create some realistic looking brick walls that definitely became useful during set construction.  

The type of foam I used for the walls are like the ones pictured above. It's a pretty common foam that can be generally found in most arts and craft stores. They come in a bunch of different shapes and sizes and since foam is a really easy material to shape your not limited in the range of things you can create.


The only two tools I used to create the bricks were a wooden sculpting tool and a makeup wedge.

 This was my process:
  1. Decide on what type of brick wall you want to create.
  2. Use the wooden tool, and a straight edge, to score the pattern into the foam.
  3. Give the foam a base coat of gray paint for the concrete, you can use a makeup wedge but a large paint brush is quicker for this step.
  4. Use the makeup wedge to add the final top coat of paint for the bricks. The imperfections in the paint coverage will reveal the undercoat nicely giving the natural illusion of the brick having multiple layers.
*DO NOT use solvent based spray paint on foam. It's corrosive to this material and will melt whatever beautiful creation you've made. Try using another type of paint like an acrylic, or Krylon H20 Latex spray paint as recommended by my good friend Brian Engh.

 Here's a detail of the first wall I made. You can see here how the gray undercoat really looks like concrete wedged between a bunch of red bricks. Another good thing about this type of foam is that it has a lot of rough texture that looks like rock. In stop-motion texture is a really good thing to try to incorporate into your set construction as much as you can. It make things look more realistic and much more imperfect, unless of course you story calls for something different where you want things to look very smooth and clean.

With the second wall I stuck with the base coat as an overall color but painted a few groups of bricks with the makeup wedge for variation. I wanted this wall to look like it was made out of cinder blocks as opposed to the red brick wall above.

Here are some roughly composited examples of how I ended up using the walls for the film. 


One quick word on using the right material for your story. As you might notice from the brick wall details above their textures are a little different. The red bricks are a little smoother and softer while the cinder blocks are more pitted and brittle. This was a happy little accident that happened mainly because I found these two unrelated pieces of foam in my garage. I didn't buy them at the same time so they weren't exactly identical in the way that they were made and I only realized this after finishing their construction. But it didn't ruin the shot in anyway, instead it greatly contributed to the right mood of the scene. The cinder blocks look more menacing and uninviting while the red bricks are a little more stable and peaceful. This made me realize that the choices of material you use to create an object can greatly inform it's character just as much as it's color or shape would.