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Any Tips for a Beginner in Monitor Puppetry?

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by JimAndFrank, Feb 1, 2016.

  1. JimAndFrank

    JimAndFrank Well-Known Member

    Sorry if there is already a thread like this, but I was wondering if some of the well-experienced puppeteers on this forum could give me some ideas.

    I've only been teaching myself for a few days, so my performance is extremely weak. I use the counting exercise and read passages from my favorite books to get the lip sync as accurate as possible. I also place sticky notes on my monitor to create focus points for my puppet to 'look' at.

    Any tips on how to improve performance stamina or how to creatively make use of the arm rods would be greatly appreciated.
  2. ashkent

    ashkent Well-Known Member

    I know it always sounds like a cop out but the best thing you can do is practice practice and practice some more.

    There was a recent interview with David Goelz in which he said when he first started out his arm used to ache from holding the puppet up. I found a similar thing, along with problems with my tendons tightening to a point I could hardly move my hand at all for about half an hour. After a few months this all eased and now I don't have a problem with that part of it (which was mainly causing sync problems and the puppet kept dipping out of shot.

    Also for the lip sync, think of how your mouth moves. If you look at Kermit and co, there are times when the mouth isn't exactly in sync, but if you can capture the main open and closed movements then you are half way there. think about your own mouth saying the words and sync your hand to open and close in time with that. Slow it down if it helps until you have had a bit more practice time. do it in a mirror with just you and your hand. If you think of the numbers one to ten, there is only really seven that is different as it has two syllables. Sometimes it is as much about subtly moving the puppet's head or hand or body to distract from the fact it can only open and close its mouth and cannot move its lips (unless animatronic obviously). Again, referencing Kermit, there aren't many times when you see his head completely still and just opening and closing his mouth. His head is moving, his neck is moving. See what you can do to give your puppet natural movement. again, look at yourself talking - record yourself if you can stand it - and watch how your head moves while you talk.

    for the other things like focus, again it is practise. Make sure your puppets eyes are focussed when looking directly forward, then try the technique of standing in front of a mirror and have the puppet look at certain points. Or do it with a person. Have the puppet follow them around the room and get them to tell you if you are with them or not. If you can get it right that way, then with a screen should become simple.

    I think the trickiest part of the screen use is that you need to remember that it is like looking at a mirror image of what is going on over your head, which is why I found the mirror use very helpful.

    Hope some of that helps.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2016
    JimAndFrank likes this.
  3. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I think the advice to practice a lot is very important. Stamina with come in time.

    A good way to practice arm movement is to experiment with pushing and pulling movements (push away, pull towards, push down, push up, etc.) Have the puppet focus on an imaginary object that is below its waist. Reach down, pick it up, focus on an imaginary shelf above its head, and then place object on shelf. Repeat that routine over and over, like your character is working on an assembly line with varying speeds. When I teach workshops, sometimes I'll draw on a screen with a dry erase marker and create targets for puppeteers to "hit" too.

    Here are some good videos to watch that might be helpful, starting with a basic Eye Focus lesson:

    Basic Lip Sync Lesson:

    An excerpt of Jerry Nelson teaching a puppetry workshop

    Brian Henson's evolution of puppetry:

    I hope that helps!
    JimAndFrank likes this.

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