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

Vietnamese Water Puppetry

Water puppetry is an art form unique to Vietnam. I found it very interesting because the puppeteers actually stand in water to control the puppets, and the fact that puppets are also standing in water gives it an interesting dynamic. I am not going to bother to explain in detail what it is because there’s an excellent article on what water puppetry is on the Puppets in Melbourne site.

For some reason, Vietnamese puppetry reminded me a lot of Taiwanese puppetry. In fact, I found a lot of elements in Vietnamese culture to be similar to that of Taiwanese culture. Maybe that’s because both are near the southeastern region of China and are influenced because of the geographical location. Both kinds of puppetry features wooden puppets dressed in clothes as opposed to foam puppets. In both cases the control mechanism are hidden under and beneath the puppet, as opposed to European marionettes and Japanese style Bunraku. In both cases the puppeteers monitor their own performances by watching from behind a curtain that they can see through but the audience can’t (because where the puppeteers are standing are darker than outside). The music also has some similar quality to it. But oh look, another big similarity that catch my eye: fire and smoke!

Apparently they enjoy these special effects as much as we do. It seems more difficult, because you do not want to wet the mechanism causing the fire and smoke effects to fail. At the same time, it’s probably also safer, since according to my dad, back when he was a kid a famous theater was burned down because of an accident during a puppet show. But either way, it’s very interesting to see them both utilizing effects to make the audience ooh and ahh.

What seperates this kind of puppetry from other kinds of puppetry I’ve seen though, (other than the water of course), is how the puppets are rigged to do specific motions. In many other types of puppetry, the puppets seem to remain more generic in terms of the range of motions they can have. For example, in Taiwanese puppetry, a puppet showing off his martial art moves would have the same control mechanism as one rowing a boat. In the case of Vietnamese water puppetry, however, the puppets seem to be more specialized for the motion they will perform. For example, the puppet with a fishing pole battling a fish would be rigged differently from the one rowing a boat. In one of the video, a puppet seems to be fixed onto the boat (of course, I’m no expert so don’t quote me on that) and that kind of rigging is something I don’t see as often in other kinds of puppetry.

It’s good to watch different kinds of puppetry and gain inspirations from them, but hey, it’s simply fun to watch them because they are entertaining! (Yeah, I do that.)

Editing Trick: How to Make Your Clock Go Crazy


In the last episode Godfather Nightmares, there is this part where Mac and Cheese’s clock goes crazy. Did I need to somehow hack into the clock’s computer and electronics to do that? No (although that would be a cool geeky project). It is done using some really simple animation. Here’s how:

1. Take a video of a normal clock and export the frame:

I use Adobe Premiere Pro, as usual. After putting the video footage of the normal clock in the timeline, move the cursor to the last frame. Go to File => Export => Frame, and save the file. This way, I know the graphic I got would be size 720×480, just like the resolution of the original video. And since it’s the last frame, it will connect well with the little animation that I’m going to make.


2. Make copies of the picture and start putting crazy text in them.

Hopefully, you filmed this at the right time when the clock was showing numbers that have both horizontal and verticle bars. You can now start doing some copying and pasting to spell out whatever you want. For example, I can’t spell out “today” because it’s too long, but I can spell out “2day”. Make some frames that have the clock displaying garbage so they can be used to show the digits being scrambled. And make some that spell out actual words. In this case, “you”, “die”, “2day”, and “LOL” (all real words) are the ones we spell out.

You don’t need fancy graphics programs like Photoshop to do the editing. All I used was Microsoft Paint, which came with Windows and is my favorite graphics program in the whole wide world. Here are all the frames I made:


3. Go back into the video editor and place them into the timeline.

From this picture of the timeline, you can see how long each frame lasts if you pay attention to the time code on top. The non-sense frames go by really fast, each lasting only a fraction of a second. And since they go by so fast, I can repeat each one and people generally won’t notice unless they pay really close attention. The actual words, though, will last longer so the viewers can actually read the text.


4. Watch it and fine-tune the tempo.

Adjust the length of each frame again to get the speed of clock change that you want.

That’s it! Now you can make clocks display all kinds of things!

Related link: Episode 15: Godfather Nightmares

Cool Links to Check Out

I’m going to start including links that I found interesting that week every weekend.

Related to puppetry and/or video-making:

Digital Forensics: 5 Ways to Spot a Fake Photo
This Scientific American article talks about how to spot Photoshoped images. I found it to be quite an interesting read. The “send in the clones” section actually describes what I do at work all the time. I work as a computer programmer for cell phone games. On many occassions, I have been asked to port games from a smaller phone to a bigger phone. Without larger images provided to me, I often had to enlarge the images myself. A trick that I did many times was to enlarge graphics by drawing useless things in the extra space. I often do this by copying portions of the original graphics and blend them together. Yesterday I just created a forest out of a small patch of trees that was in the original graphic to fill up some extra space. Also this article talked about the lighting stuff. It also reminded me to be more careful when I’m compositing images in my videos.

Indy Mogul: DIY Film Making
This site has a lot of tips on video making and I wish I had discovered it sooner! It talked about many different things, like how to build stop-animation models, how to build a clapperboard (slate), and so on. I’m not going to actually make a clapperboard, but I’m thinking of including a sound effect that sounds similar to a clapperboard clapping when I do voice recordings, so it would be easier for me to synch video and audio after I film.

Muppetcast: Tribute to Jim Henson
Muppetcast is a podcast about Jim Henson’s work. Last month was the 18th anniversary of Jim Henson’s death. The Muppetcast interviewed Frank Oz to talk about Jim. What touched me most wasn’t Frank’s interview though, but the other people talking about how much their lives had been influenced and inspired by Jim’s work. He really did make a difference with his vision and charisma. A true great man.

Other stuff:

Cartoon vs. Man or Fun vs. None
This one is about coloring books. It actually made me want to color again. And the author is right. I wouldn’t want to color those “realistic” ones at the bottom. It just didn’t look right.

Episode 15 – Godfather Nightmares

In this episode, Mac and Cheese and Bottle Monster talk about the strange nightmares they have after watching the horsehead scene from The Godfather. If you don’t know what that scene looks like, you can look it up, but I will not be held responsible for any of your nightmares.

If you can’t see the embedded video,
Click here to watch Godfather Nightmares on Youtube.
Or download Quicktime movies here:
m4v format (23MB)
mov format (7MB)

The tracks used are Serpentine Trek and Mystery!, both by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

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

Creative Commons License

PS. I actually had some problems with YouTube this time. I normally upload the m4v version, which is 23MB in this case and takes a few minutes to upload. However, when I upload this file onto Youtube, the video and audio became all out of synch for some reason. So I uploaded the DV file, which is 422MB (!!) and took a few hours to upload. The video did come out better though, so I might do that again for future epiodes. I don’t like the black bars at the top and bottom though…

Some Links:
Episode 14: Tofu
Epiodse 13: Tis the Season to be Charlie
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Back from Pittsburgh

Just got back from visiting my sister in Pittsburgh. I might upload better quality pictures onto my Flickr (which is now empty) one of these days, but for now, here are some pictures from the trip. Click on the thumbnail to view the bigger picture.

This is the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning. It’s a library that’s a really tall building that I can’t fit into one picture. So here’s one for the top half and the other for the bottom half.


And there are nationality rooms, classrooms that’s based on classrooms of different cultures, in the Cathedral of Learning. Here’s the African room and the Russian room.


This is from the top of the building overlooking Pittsburgh. I think it’s from the 36th floor or so. There are a few historical buildings around here so you see those school buses taking kids here.


We also went to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden. Here are some random pictures featuring plants, fake flamingos in rainboots, and elephant watering cans washing their cans.


And here’s a view from Mount Washington. You take a cable car up the incline and then you can see rivers, bridges, and buildings.


On a totally unrelated note to this post (though more related to this site than this post), a new episode of Puppet Kaos has been completed. Now I just need to compress the video and upload it. Check back tomorrow for the new video!

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