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Practice 11

By Amy Harder

This article is 15th 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: Everybody Loves A Parade

It’s almost time to move on to our next section. But before we do, let’s explore one more practice tool in this frame/boundaries study. For those of you that have actually followed these lessons sequentially, you’ll recognize this exercise as eerily similar to our previous game, Memory Lane. We’re going to take that basic idea and expand it–allowing you to play more with character and acting–while continuing to work on the core skill of knowing your screen frame boundaries. So, grab a friend and get ready to have some fun!

Set up. For this game, you’ll need to have plenty of room on the screen in which to move around. Set your camera to a wide enough shot that 4-5 puppets could stand side-by-side on screen. If you are in tight quarters, just go as wide as your space allows. You’ll need to work with a partner on this one and you’ll both need to work to keep the illusion alive through good puppetry and video skills. Here we go!

Action. As the name suggests, we are going to be creating the illusion of a puppet parade, with puppets walking across the screen from offstage right to offstage left. The trick here is going to be in making sure your puppets are spaced out properly so it doesn’t look like a pair of puppets then a big space and another pair of puppets, etc. (We’ve all been to parades that have big gaps between the floats and features… don’t emulate THOSE parades! Sheesh.)

Here’s what you do. Puppet A walks slowly, but happily from offstage right to offstage left, waving and nodding to the invisible crowd as he goes. Don’t be afraid to ham it up. Your puppet can blow kisses, throw beads, play instruments, juggle, whatever! Have fun with it! Now–when Puppet A is nearly to the edge of the screen, Puppet B enters, following A in like manner. As soon as your puppet is no longer visible on screen, drop down and reset OSR to continue the parade line. (Puppet A entering again as soon as Puppet B is nearly to the edge of the screen.) Keep it going and don’t forget your character!

Think you’ve got a good rhythm going? Great! Speed it up. I’m serious! Get those little puppet legs moving a bit faster… then faster… heh heh heh. See how fast you can go without losing the effect. OK. Take a breath. I’ve got another idea.

Variation. Working with your partner, perform the exercise again with one exception: do it backwards–as if you’re on a videotape being played in reverse.

Wrap up. This exercise (and the silly variation) can really be a challenge. Trying to remember the spacing issues and knowing the boundaries can be difficult enough without adding the characterization and acting skills on top. But excellent puppeteers need to be able to multitask and do things like they’re second nature. If you’re struggling, take it slower. Break it down. Try it without the characterization a few times to feel comfortable with the technical aspects of the game, then add the drama. Remember, learning ANY new skill is going to take time and require determined effort. If you’re serious about working in television you’ll need these skills, so you might as well have fun while you learn ‘em!

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little exploration into screen frame boundaries. Our final section is going to be a study about proximity to the camera–what are the effects, benefits, and limitations of being close to or far away from the camera.



2 responses to “Practice 11”

22 01 2008
Tom O'Lenick (16:27:12) :

Just wanted you to know how well done your site is. Great material and videos.
I’m a member of the Twin Cities Puppeteers (Minnesota) and a video producer. Your video clips are great and very well produced. Keep up the great work.
Best regards,
Tom O’Lenick

20 05 2009
Derek McCabe (17:03:04) :

I’m looking forward to the rest of this series while I gear up with some camera equipment. Thanks a bunch, Amy!

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