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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Editing Trick: How to have two puppets on screen at the same time with only one puppeteer

In Episode 3 – Crazy Names I needed to put two characters on the screen at the same time but all I have was one puppeteer (me). Now how do we accomplish that? Before I go into that, let me refresh your memory with these three screen shots, each representing one way of putting two characters on screen.

Three ways of putting two puppets on screen with only one puppeteer

There are three methods, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

1) One puppet in each hand:
How it works: By… putting a puppet in each hand? Simple enough. In fact, that’s how Episode 1 – Making a Podcast is done.
Pros: No tricky editing required, yay!
Cons: Talking heads only. There are absolutely no arm movements. Also, the character operated by my left hand (in this case, Bottle Monster) has worse lip-sync because I am right-handed.
How to recognize it in this video: Neither character’s arms are moving.

2) Using a green screen
How it works: Film one (or both) characters in front of a solid green background. In editing, all pixels that’s green will be removed and replaced with something else.
Pros: You can do this as many time as you want (meaning, you can have 100 characters on the screen at the same time if you want) provided that you can get the lighting right and bother to do many passes on shooting.
Cons: For something that’s home-made, it’s hard to have a green screen that’s perfectly lit (meaning, all the green background pixels are lit to be the same shade of green).
How to recognize it in this video: Mac and Cheese cast no shadow on the background but Bottle Monster does. Mac and Cheese didn’t blend with the background entirely due to bad lighting.

3) Do a split screen effect using a matte
How it works: On the first pass, we shoot what’s supposed to appear on the left half of the screen. On the second pass, we film the right half. In editing, we put these two halves together using a matte (mask) where we show the left side of one video, the right side of another video, and then blend whatever that’s in the middle.
Pros: This allows you to film the two characters on different passes. Perfect for two characters that occupy opposite sides of the screen.
Cons: Neither of the characters can cross the middle line, or the illusion will be lost. (If they tried to cross the middle line, whatever crossed the line would vanish.) Sometimes the background colors of the two footages don’t blend very well and require extra corrections.
How to recognize it in this video: Characters always stayed away from the middle line. In some shots the left background didn’t blend perfectly with the right background (which I paid more attention to in subsequent episodes but not this one). Bottle Monster’s dad’s fishing pole started to vanish a lil bit when it’s closed to the middle blending section.

While the first method is easiest to do, the second and third methods give the characters the freedom to have arm movements. Both the green screen and the split screen method take more planning and require two passes to film each shot. But hey, when you only have one puppeteer (or actor), you can still use these editing tricks to make two appear on screen.

Are you confused yet? 😛

If you are confused by the first method, hm… I don’t know what to say.
If you are confused by the second and third method, don’t worry. This is just an overview. More detailed step-by-step explanations will be posted in the following weeks. :-)

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