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November « 2008 « Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories
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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! (Even if you are Canadian and already celebrated it, or are somewhere else in the world where you might or might not celebrate it but I just don’t know about it.) I am writing this on Saturday. My excuse is that many of you are observing Thanksgiving and possibly Black Friday (which unfortunately have caused some accidents).

Many bloggers took the time to family and friends, etc. For me, I feel like some of that belong offline anyway, so I am just going to say thank you to some people that I’ve never physically met but had the pleasure of interacting with online:

Sarah, though our interactions doesn’t really make any business sense, you are simply a cool person that I enjoy talking to and I hope to keep doing so. Oh, and if I ever get filthy rich, I shall ask you to re-do my website, provided that you didn’t already get filthy rich and quit your job to live happily ever after on your private tropical island.

Naomi, your website is a wealth of information on puppet building and different types of puppetry. Thank you for introducing showing us how all these different kind of puppetry work and it’s always been fun to talk to you about puppets and stuff (lousy pun intended).

Paul, it’s good to know another person who’s also interested in working on learning the art of puppeteering and making short videos, and also don’t believe in puppet cursing = funny by default. Thanks for sharing your technical knowledges and feedbacks, and it’s simply encouraging to talk to someone that does similar things!

Mary, you are one fascinating person. I am a fan and I enjoy watching you create your world, whether through puppetry, fiction, voice work, or living life.

Derek, thanks for the chance for the guest post. I enjoy reading your blog and it’s been fun to talk baseball with you as well!

Michelle, thanks for sharing your stories and also your thoughts on what I write here on this blog. I wish you good luck on your (perhaps colorful) ventures.

Andrew, thanks for writing the PuppetVision blog. You introduced me to many opportunities of learning about puppetry, because I seriously used to click on those links on the sidebar of your site one by one to check them out. It’s always fun to read your updates on what’s out there.

Amy, though you sort of disappeared from your blog, the videos and exercises you put online certainly helped me when I started. Also, thank you for being such a warm person.

Darren, thank you for your generosity in sharing your wisdom about blogging and liking the picture of Bottle Monster holding your book.

Rita, although you don’t blog or comment here anymore (and seem to have just dropped out of the blogging world altogether), thank you for all the encouragements in all those things I do. I wish you luck in your offline life.

Jane, though what you write have little to do with what I write about, I enjoy reading your introspections and thoughts on the world. It does make me think.

Rubialala, you write stories in amusing ways and I enjoy reading them. Many of those were written when you were bored so I guess the lack of updates isn’t a bad thing? Good luck on your new job.

Wendy, who knew your little blog would one day become a blog network with so many authors, eh? Thanks for sharing your inspiring stories.

And finally, thank you for dropping by. I really do appreciate your visit and feedbacks, provided that you are not a troll (but elves, dwarves, monsters, knomes, fairies, Martians, Cylons, Leprecons, and Time Lords are welcome).

Review: Old Dirty Conservatories presents… Gratitude

Went to the sketch comedy show put on by Old Dirty Conservatories at Comedy Central’s Hudson Theatre stage last night. Old Dirty Conservatories is this group that consists of Randall Park, Dwayne Perkins, Rick Lee, Ray Lai, Matt Hill, and Johnny Skourtis. For this particular show, Matt was too busy to find time to rehearse and Rick was on his honeymoon (congrats, Rick!), so they had Marcus (I might have spelled that wrong) and Jade (not sure about that one either) instead. The dynamic was slightly different but it worked out well anyway.

I’ve been to several of their shows, and this one is funny and entertaining as usual. The theme is gratitude because Thanksgiving is coming. Sometimes they have sketches that have a point but this time… not really. It was pointless randomness that made people laugh and I happen to be a fan of that. Just to name a few things from the sketches in the show: a Thanksgiving dinner where people brought food made out of cardboard to share (and actually enjoy), an adult applying to sit at the grown-up table interviewed by his father, an old person who got mad after realizing his retirement gift for his 65 years of service was just a tote bag but then got happy again after realizing that there’s a can of his favorite stuffing in the bag. Again, randomness.

It’s always entertaining to watch the people you know perform, and it’s good to run into Tim whom I haven’t seen for a few years.

Video Chat

I bought a new toy – a new web cam! More specifically, a Logitech QuickCam Chat. And I went on my first video chat with my friend Walter whom I haven’t seen for a while. It’s nice to be able to see and hear each other even though we are not face to face. This certainly beats the telephone… of course, that is, when you don’t look like crap that day. But then again, I look fabulous every single day (okay, now that’s just totally not true).

I noticed something interesting though. Many youtube videos that involves someone talking into his/her webcam has this problem: They seem to be looking down instead of at the camera. This is because webcams are usually mounted above the monitor, so when the user is looking at the monitor, his or her eyes are looking below the camera, instead of at it. When I noticed myself doing that though, I quickly corrected myself. I guess that’s some sort of a puppeteer’s instinct.

Oh yeah, you thought this post is going to have nothing to do with puppetry?

When we puppeteer (and if there’s a monitor or the camera’s LCD screen), we are usually looking at what’s being filmed. Since we can’t really see through the puppets eyes, we pay attention to the monitor and tilt the puppet’s head to make it appear as if it’s looking into the camera. In the case of the video chat, I can see what the web cam is picking up as well, and I naturally tilted my head and looked into the camera. It’s like I am puppeteering myself. Hm, certainly didn’t expect myself to do that but it came quite naturally.

Ah, this is fun. Anyone want to do a video chat with me? Leave me a comment or drop me an email. :-)

Editing Trick: How to Pop a Screen in Screen to Full Screen

What a weird title. I don’t know if this effect has a real name, but you can see examples of it in the last episode: Chet for President. The effect goes like this: The characters are watching a web video on a computer screen. And then, to let the viewer see that video better, it’s popped out from that computer screen to take up the whole video that the viewer is watching.

Now how do we accomplish that? Of course, we need to film both footages first. On the left is 9.avi, which is Mac and Cheese and Bottle Monster looking at the screen; on the right is BubbleboyFilms.avi, which is the web video that they are watching.

As usual, I use Adobe Premiere Pro, but any video editor that supports video layers and basic video manipulations (size and rotation) should do the trick.

First you need to put the foreground video (BubbleboyFilms.avi) in the layer above the background video (9.avi). This ensures that the video that’s popping out will appear in front.

And then the next step will be adjusting the size and position of the foreground video to match the way it appeared in the background video. This is done by tweaking the settings of the video. In this case, I’m using position (258,249), scale 10.5 (about 1/10 of original size) and a rotation of -1.7. This matches the way it appeared in the background footage. The picture below on the left shows the perfect overlap accomplished by settings mentioned above. The picture on the right shows you what it would look like if you didn’t match the position and angle correctly:

When you change the size and position settings, you want to make sure that you are making the frame a keyframe. We want a smooth transition in terms of size and position from this small version of the picture to the full-sized one. So we use two keyframes. One to mark the beginning, and one to mark the end. In Adobe Premiere, you enable keyframes for a setting by clicking on the clock icon. Then you can click on the diamond to mark where keyframes are. The editing program will figure out what the frames should look like in between the keyframes, so you see a smooth, gradual change.

These pictures below show you what the effect looks like. I’m showing four different frames here. The first frame is the keyframe that you start with. The fourth frame is the keyframe that you end on. The second and third frames are two examples of frames automatically generated by the editing program. There are many of them generated in between the keyframes. I’m only showing two here:

And that’s how you accomplish that trick. Go ahead and try it out!

PS. To see what the video is doing mathematically to generate the frames, look at this picture to see the number settings that correspond to the four frames shown above. (Click to enlarge.)

Related Post:
Episode 17: Chet for President

Cool Links to Check Out (11/17/2008 edition)

Idea + Square = Origami

This video talks about the origami community is using math to help them come up with all kinds of new designs now. The basic idea is, since all creases around a point divide up the paper into angles that add up to 360 degrees, origami is simply the practice of fitting circles of different sizes into a square. And there’s a lot of studies done about fitting circles into squares in geometry. It’s interesting how they can just change one way of looking at things (origami) and suddenly be able to use all these researches from another field (math) to help it out. Also, origami, the practice of folding a 2-D sheet into a 3-D object, became useful in fields like space technology as well. With the right perspective, things that seem totally unrelated are not as unrelated as they seem!

The Eyeballing Game

This is fun. Ever wonder how well you eyeball things, such as how straight a line is, where the center of a circle is, and if lines are perpendicular? In this little game, you can do that and have the game check to see how accurate you are… I am below average. 😛
(via Fredipedia)

Winning and Losing

Research finds that people are not driven so much by the desire of winning, but more by the fear of losing. Hm, maybe before you know it, they’ll have another research that says the opposite.

Now That’s What I Call a “Cup” Cake

This tutorial shows you how to make instant chocolate cake in a mug using the microwave. Most of the people that tried it seem to say that the texture is quite strange. The video is fun to watch nevertheless. I am not about to make chocolate cakes this way, but man, chocolate cakes are good. I cannot resist the web of chocolatey temptation. (Yes, that was a VeggieTales reference.)

Fist of Oblivion Launched

As previously mentioned, a puppet series was being produced by Roman Coppola for Scion Broadband. It’s a series about an ex-cop, after serving time in jail for murder, started tracking down the evil kung-fu master that framed him for the murder. The website is up and running and I watched the first episode. Not bad. The production value was really good. It was only three minutes so not that much happened yet. (In fact, what I told you about the premise is from the trailer. The actual episode didn’t go that far yet.) I am looking forward to more new episodes.

Click here to watch it at Scion Broadband. (They might be using abbreviation F.O.O. instead of the full name.)

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