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

6 Things I Learned from Filming Outdoors

From making last week’s video, I learned a few things.

1. It was fun: It was fun to collaborate with people and it’s just interesting to see these characters go into different environments.

2. Watch out for the sunlight: While the puppets won’t get any sunburn (which I did a few weeks ago), sunlight is something that you should look out for outdoors if you are filming during the day. If the sunlight is strong and you are facing it directly, the characters might appear washed out. Then again, you don’t want the puppets in the shadow either, unless that’s what you are trying to achieve. So it’s nice to be able to find a spot that has a lot of ambient light, but not under direct sunlight. Well… that is, if you are trying to see every detail of the puppet. Bad lighting actually adds realism to the video, in my opinion. I actually don’t mind it.

3. Watch out for background noises: It’s ideal if you have a boom stick, but if you are just using the built-in microphone on the camera like I did, then you want to watch out for sound levels. It might be good to film all shots in a continuous scene from different angles, but preferably from similar distance. This is because if you are near the camera, the microphone will pick up your voices well, but when you are far away, you’ll have a harder time for the voices to be picked up. And when you put these videos together, the change in sound levels of your voices and background noises can become distracting. Remember, audio is a very important part of every video.

4. Filming from odd angles can teach you interesting things: Well, not everybody does this, but I tried filming upside down and sideways for the Inverted Fountain and Sideways Fountain gag. When we filmed this, we turned the camera to the desired angle, and then I’d puppeteer upside down (well, only the puppet was upside down; I wasn’t doing a head-stand) and sideways. The result came out looking fine, except that the lighting looks a little odd. Why? This is because we normally see the lit part on top and shadows on the bottom (since the light source is normally above characters) and now it’s the opposite. It was especially obvious when you look at the shadow cast on Mac and Cheese.

5. Storyboard (or communicate thoroughly) if you have very specific visions: When you film outdoors, one-man-shows are hard to do and you will most likely do some kind of collaboration (it’s more fun that way anyway). If you are very specific about what your shots should look like, you should storyboard, or at least tell everyone in detail what you are trying to accomplish. Of course, in this video, I didn’t care about that. I like to see what other people come up with and give me surprises (preferably pleasant ones) since a lot of this is improvisation and I trust them very much.

6. Expect the unexpected: In this video, the wind was blowing and Bottle Monster momentarily lost control of the paper he was holding. I kept that because I happened to like that accident and how the character reacted to it. But yeah, sometimes things don’t go as you intend them. You’ve got to have a plan B or be willing to accept a different result (or do another take if you really insist).

Although I know I’ll film indoors more often, because outdoor filming takes more work to plan out, there are things that’s simply attractive about seeing puppets out there in different environments. I will definitely take the puppets outdoors again in the future. :-)

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