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Practice 08

By Amy Harder

This article is 12th 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.

Boundaries: Memory Lane

For television puppeteers working with monitors, it is vitally important to know where the off-screen boundaries are AND be able to get there fast. This silly exercise helps puppeteers discover where this magic line exists and how to work around it. (By the way, the game was named after Gonzo’s classic Muppet Show performance of the song by the same name. If you’ve seen it, then you know what we’re going to be doing.)

Set up. For this game, you will need to set your camera at a fairly wide mid-shot. That is, wide enough for about three characters to be on screen and visible from their waists up. Unlike the last game, this is a solo exercise.

Action. Start with your puppet just off-screen to stage right. (Lefties should reverse this, sorry.) Have your puppet enter and walk across the screen from the right to the left. Don’t stop. Don’t focus. Just walk. Got it?

Now, once the puppet is no longer on screen, drop him down and repeat the same walking motion from off-screen-right to off-screen-left. Continue repetitions to learn where the boundary is. See how quickly you can repeat the cycle without letting the audience know what you are doing. (i.e. Don’t let your drop-outs and pop-ups be visible on camera.)

Variation #1. Now that you have an idea of where your boundaries are, zoom the camera in a bit… maybe to a 1-shot. See if you can find your invisible lines now!

Variation #2. It’s always easiest to do this exercise moving from our dominant side to our weak side (for righties, right-to-left). When you feel comfortable with the boundaries going one direction, try starting at the other side and moving across the other way. Tip: you might find the reverse direction works best when you turn your body away from the camera.

Wrap up. Did you find it increasingly easier to find your boundaries as you repeated this exercise? That’s because you’re training your brain. Whenever you go into a new shot, experiment with your new boundaries, see where your limitations are. It will get to the place where you need only a minute to quickly learn your parameters when faced with a new shot. You know what I say about repetition..?

If you’re ready, try the next exercise, I’m Invisible!!!


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