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

Episode 13 – Tis the Season to be Charlie

Episode 13 is here. The new puppet is still not named. Mac and Cheese and Bottle Monster suggests that tis the season to be Charlie. And they sing, cuz eh, it’s Christmas and everybody is happy. This introduction is not making much sense. If you watch the video, it probably will make slightly more sense. No guarantees though.

If you can’t see the embedded video,
Click here to watch it on YouTube.
Or download Quicktime movies here:
m4v format (40MB)
mov format (15MB)

The music is Deck the Halls by Kevin MacLeod. It’s licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. No, he didn’t write it but he did arrange and produce it. The music was made up by some ancient Welsh dude while the lyrics were written by me. Just look how stupid the lyrics is and you wouldn’t even think someone else wrote it. 😛

By the way, Kevin made a bunch of holiday sing-alongs. You can download them at his website Incompetech.

Oh yeah, here is Charlie the Unicorn if you haven’t seen it.

Creative Commons License

PS. I just realized that there’s a typo in the video, but, eh, too late to change it now.

Editing Trick: How to Turn Day into Night (by adjusting brightness and contrast)

I’m kinda behind on writing up these editing tricks, aren’t I? Anyway, here is one trick that’s useful when you want to film footage in daylight and then pretend it’s filmed at night or in a dark area. I’ve used this trick in both Obscure UCLA Facts You Didn’t Know, and Episdoe 12: Daylight Saving.

Let’s look at the before and after pictures. The one on the left was the raw footage. It was filmed in front of a green background because it was originally planned out to be a green screen shot. I later abandoned the idea. The one on the right is the finished product, as seen in the video.


The effect is done by adjusting the video’s brightness and contrast settings. I did mine in Adobe Premiere Pro, but most editing software should have this option.

First, in the Effects window, find Video Effects => Adjust => Brightness and Contrast. Drag it into the Effects Controls window.


And then in the Effects Controls window, adjust the brightness and contrast settings. I changed the brightness to -100 and the contrast to 13. So basically I dialed down the brightness and upped the contrast.


We are trying to make the image much darker, so we dial down the brightness. This will give you the picture on the left. Now, why did I turn up the contrast? This is actually not that important of a step, but I’d like to get more contrast between the dark background and relatively bright character to emphasize the idea that my character is in a dark room. When we do that, we get this image on the right. The difference is not huge but you can see the difference when they are side by side:


Now you can turn day into night (just like Mr. Burns)!

Related Posts:
Filming in the Dark or Filming in the Light
Obscure UCLA Facts You Didn’t Know
Episdoe 12: Daylight Saving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I came home and that was great. Sorry that there was no new episode this week. Between going to the LCC show: Enchant This! (which was a good show, by the way) and going home for Thanksgiving (and away from my video-making things), I didn’t have time to produce an episode. It’s alright. Just like NBA is not scheduling any game on Thanksgiving, most of you are probably going to be spending time with family and friends instead of checking this website anyway. (At least I hope that’s what you are doing, if you are in the U.S., which most of the readers of this blog are.)

That said, I did brainstorm up an episode. I simply didn’t have time to film it and edit it. I thought I’d put the script up here instead.

Abbreviations: (These are the standard abbreviations that I use in my scripts.)
Mac – Mac and Cheese
Bot – Bottle Monster
Bobby – Bobby… I could’ve used Bob but that’s too similar to Bot when I am reading quickly.
Moost – Moostifer

(Regular episode background)
Mac: Hey, Bottle Monster, we have a problem.
Bot: What is it?
Mac: It’s Thanksgiving, and I’d like to do an episode about giving thanks.
Bot: Oh yeah? Didn’t you assign that episode to Kelvin?
Mac: Yeah, but he said that he’s going on strike along with the other writers.
(Cut to: Kelvin)
Kelvin: I am not paid enough to write! I’m going on strike!
(Cut back to: Mac and Bot)
Bot: That’s a problem, but it’s not a serious problem.
Mac: You sound like you have an idea, eh?
Bot: Yeah, we should do an award show, because it requires a lot less writing, and we get the chance to thank people.
(Cut to: Mac in front of a red curtain)
Mac: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first annaul Not-So-Golden Globe Award! The Not-So-Golden Globe Award for Best Fur on Puppet Kaos goes to… Bottle Monster!
Bot: (with a globe in his hand) Wow, this is awesome. I am so excited to be getting this globe. I have so many people to thank. I’d like to thank all the people that’s been watching our Puppet Kaos podcast: Julia, Mandy, you are awesome. Thank you, Thomas, Theresa, and Alvin, for your continual support. And Andrew, thank you for including us in the Puppet Web Series Round-up week after week… am I running out of time?
Mac: Of course not! We have no writer, remember?
Bot: Awesome. We’d also like to give a shout-out to the Wippets. Barff, Spafford, Jimmy, Phil, and I think I should also thank Ron… is he the one that update the website for you guys? I’d also like to thank Beckie, Rick, Angel, Tran, Rex, and Myha for watching and giving me feedbacks… Wow, this is awesome, I thought I’d be cut off by some music at some point…
Mac: You won’t. We have no writer. Come up with as much to say as possible.
Bot: Oh yeah, I just got this note from Kelvin. He said he’d like to thank Janet for helping him make puppets.
Mac: Make puppets? What does that mean?
Bot: I don’t know, and he said he’d like to thank Kevin MacLeod for the music we used episode after episode.
(Bobby enters)
Bobby: Hey guys, sorry to bother you, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to have this curtain here.
Mac: Why not?
Bobby: Because Moostifer is here. You know what he does when he sees a red piece of cloth.
Mac: Uh-oh.
(Cut to: Moostifer charging towards the curtain, bump into the wall and fall, get up, charge curtain again, and repeat)
Mac: This is not doing so well, let’s get Kelvin back.
(Cut to: Mac in front of regular episode background)
Mac: Kelvin, we’ve decided to give you a raise.
Kelvin: Really? Then I might come back.
Mac: Starting today, we are giving you a 300% raise.
Kelvin: Yay! I got a raise. Woohoo! (Kelvin runs out.)
Bot: So how much was he getting paid?
Mac: He was getting paid $0, and now he’s going to be paid 300% more of that.
Bot: That means, he is now paid…
Mac: Yep, jack shit.
Bot: Oh okay.
(Cut to Kelvin)
Kelvin: But you know what? I’m still thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Okay, now you can use your imagination and watch it in your head. Don’t tell me that you don’t have an imagination.

Vintage Sesame Street Reissues – not for kids

My friend Jay gave me a link of an NPR (National Public Radio) article/interview about the early episodes of Sesame Street being released on DVD. They talked about how some of the things they did back then wouldn’t be shown on TV by today’s standards (for kids anyway). Oscar the Grouch lives in garbage and he never seeks help to get out of it. Cookie Monster is a compulsive eater. In some parodies he was even shown smoking a pipe (and ended up eating it too). These are the things that you would no longer see today.

Now I am only 25, not old enough to be growing up watching the vintage Sesame Street. I hadn’t checked out the DVDs either. I watched a bunch of classic Sesame Street stuff on YouTube though, so I know what the interview was talking about.

My observations are that, at one time, Cookie Monster is one of the most important character on Sesame Street, but now it’s Elmo. Cookie Monster even had a song about cookie is good for sometimes, but eating healthy is important too. Cookie Monster nowadays don’t do much other than coming out to read a letter but ends up eating it because the letter is written on a cookie. He’s certainly not as important as before. Oscar is a lot less grouchy. He is still not the nicest guy, but now we really only see his soft side. Now all he does is tell Trash Gordon stories to Slimey. Well, I do think Slimey is really cute, but my point is, some of these characters have all been toned down a lot for clean, family fun.

I guess it’s a fine line between being silly and being too adult, huh?

This also makes me think about my own writing a little bit. So far, all the episodes I’ve made are pretty kid-safe (except for those who think tooth fairies are real – oops). I was wondering if I will venture into issues that’s more grown-up. When I say grown-up, I don’t necessarily mean sex, but rather, topics including politics, society, etc. as well. Maybe they will start to say words like “hell” and call each other stupid more. I don’t know. Still something to think about.

One thing I am very against though, is people thinking that puppets cursing = funny. That gets old really fast, actually. Cursing is fine by me if they have a good story to tell, or good gag to present. Sometimes cursing is good for emphasis of certain things. But yeah, I’d like to tell them, if ou have to make a puppet curse in order to get laughs, I’m sorry. That’s simply offensive and not funny. You can do better. (If you cannot do better, then don’t do it.)

Most un-focused post ever…

PS. This week I’ve been going to the LCC show: Enchant This! that I mentioned earlier. And then I’ll also be going home for Thanksgiving, so I’m not sure if I have time to whip together an episode this week. I do have something already brainstormed but I’m not sure if I have time to do all the production work. We will see…

Video special: Enchant This!

This week, Lapu the Coyote that Cares comes on the show to talk about the upcoming LCC show “Enchant This”. Meanwhile, Mac and Cheese is on vacation leaving only Bottle Monster to host the show.

If you can’t see the embedded video,
Click here to watch it on YouTube.
Or download Quicktime movies here:
m4v format (52MB)
mov format (20MB)

When I was in UCLA, I joined a theatre company called Lapu the Coyote that Cares. It’s a student-run theatre company that produces their original shows. All the scripts are written by its cast members, and the directing and acting are all done within the group. I’ve seen many student theatre companies on campus but this was the only one that’s consistently putting on shows every single quarter. My college life would’ve been really different without LCC cuz it was such a big part of my college life. I love being silly and I love being creative. I have really random ideas that just need to go somewhere. This group certainly encouraged creativity, and I learned a lot about making visions come true. It taught me a lot about taking an idea and then somehow turn it into a project and then finally a product. The product might be good, might be bad, but what matters is, it gets done.

Up till the previous show, I was performing with LCC. This is my first show as “the wise alumni that come to see the show”. Who knows how the show will turn out to be? But that doesn’t change my love for student productions. Maybe I’ll write more about that later. For now, here’s the show information:

LCC presents…
Enchant This!
A night of drama, comedy, and improv.

Monday, November 19th and Tuesday, November 20th
Time:Doors open at 6:30pm, Show starts at 7:00pm
Location: Northwest Campus Auditorium (near Sproul Hall)
Price: FREE! Just show up! Bring your friends!

Filming in the dark or filming in the light

Some scripts call for things that happen at night. Sometimes I film them in the dark, and sometimes I don’t film them in the dark, but instead make the images darker in editing. So what’s better? Let’s check out my little experiments.

In Episode 12 – Daylight Saving, I experimented with filming in the dark for the power outage scene in the beginning. This is the outcome.

And in Obscure Facts about UCLA You Didn’t Know, we filmed the tunnel scene which takes place at night, but we filmed it in broad day light because we were there in the morning. So I had to take a bright and light picture and make it dark in editing. This is the result.

Now, which one is better? I’d say they each has their own pros and cons.

Pros for filming in the dark
In the first picture, the darkness is authentic because it was indeed filmed in the dark. When we are in the dark, we don’t see colors as well as we do in daylight. This is because we have two kinds of photoreceptors in our eyes, rods and cones. Cones are the ones in charge of gathering color information but cones don’t work well in darkness. Rods are the ones that work better in low light situations but they don’t gather color information. So in the dark, we see shapes and movements, but not so much colors. When this translates to video, it means you’d want to get a dark picture without so much color information. What the camera captured was similar to what our eyes saw in this case.

Pros for filming in the light
In the second picture, this image is done by taking a video in broad daylight and then digitally decreasing the brightness level in a video editor. Since it’s not filmed in the dark, there are more richness in the colors. Now, the richness in colors is good for a better contrast of the foreground characters and the background. This is good if you want to see more clearly what the characters are doing, and it makes the foreground characters stand out more. Sometimes, having some light in the foreground can be used as a trick to emphasize how dark the background (and hence the overall picture) is. This shot below is also filmed in daylight but darkened in the editor. You can see a pretty cool contrast between the foreground and background.

Cons for filming in the dark
If you watch the Daylight Saving video that the first picture is from, you might have noticed that Bottle Monster seems to come in and out of focus a lot. This is because I was filming in the dark and I manually dialed the exposure setting on the camera all the way down to get an even darker picture. This gave the camera’s auto focus mechanism a hard time to focus on Bottle Monster, because his color is similar to the dark background. This doesn’t happen to Mac and Cheese as much because he is yellow and bounces off more light. This problem can probably be solved by using the manual focus setting on the camera, but really, when you are filming in the dark, you simply don’t have as much control over the image because the camera has a harder time sensing lights, and you have a harder time looking at the camera’s LCD screen for what’s being filmed as well.

Cons for filming in the light
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s good for contrast between the foreground and background. However, if you don’t want that much contrast and color, and instead just want everything dark, then filming in the light isn’t a good idea. Also, any shots that’s manipulated in the video editor might come out having an artificial feel. It might not look as natural as a shot that’s actually filmed in the dark.

So which one would be a better choice?
This probably depends on what kind of shot we want, but in general, I’m not going to go for either extremes. In the future, I’m going to film something in dimmed lights where the brightness level is higher than that dark picture and lower than the daylight. This will give me a more natural feel to the final product while also giving me some control in terms of brightness and contrast with colors. Since that’s probably enough lights for the camera’s auto focus mechanism, I’m probably not going to use the manual focus. I’m probably not going to be adjusting the exposure either, but instead I’ll adjust the light level as best as I can. Filming in the dark can certainly be tricky, but the ones done well are certainly interesting to look at. :-)

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