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Practice 01

By Amy Harder

This article is 2nd in a series on learning to use video monitors for puppetry. So if you’ve just linked in here, you might want to check out the Video Monitors lesson index to get the whole picture.

Reversed Image: Crossing the Street

OK. So we know that monitors give us a reversed image. It is SO important that a puppeteer learn to master this left-right reversal if he wants to have believable movements and interactions on the screen. Remember, this will not come naturally. It’s a whole new type of eye-hand coordination that will take time to get used to. Even if you think you’ll never use this particular tool in your video performance, take the time to play with it. This exercise is designed to introduce the reversed image and train your brain that when you turn your hand to the left, it appears opposite on the screen.

head shotSet-up. Here’s what you do. Bring your puppet to center screen in a fairly tight head shot. (This means, zoom in on your puppet so that just his head and shoulders are in the frame.) Why such a close-up? Wider shots will make it more difficult to sense the nuances of your performance especially in expressions. You want to start out by really seeing what you’re doing.

Action. Now we’re going to pretend that the puppet is checking for cars before crossing the street. Watch in your monitor as you make your puppet look to his left, then to the right, then back to the front. (Just isolate the head and neck of the character–don’t lean out of the shot.) OK. Do it again. Look left. Look right. Now back front. Rinse. Repeat.

Remember that repetition is the key to learning. Repetition is the key to learning. Repetition is the key to learning. What’s the key to learning? Repetition. Right.

mid shotVariations. So, now let’s zoom out a little to give yourself some more left-right space and headroom on the screen. Go to a wider mid-shot. Make sure you can see the puppet’s waist, but not your own head. (You might have to duck it out of the way.) Repeat the basic exercise, but add a slight lean into each “look”. Don’t lean completely out of the shot.

You can keep playing with wider shots and more comedic leans.

Wrap up. That’s basically it. Your first monitor exercise. (I know, you can’t contain your excitement.) Well, just wait until the next one… if you think you’re getting it now, let’s see how you do on the Color Test. Heh heh heh….


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