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April « 2009 « 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

Voiceover Gig

So I just did the voiceover gig. It was fun for me. In fact, recording has always been fun for me. I remember recording myself (and the others) using audio tapes when I was little. That was fun. Recording in my voiceover classes and recording myself on my own computer is fun too. (Listening to myself isn’t as fun but the recording part is fun at least, hehe.)

When I arrived at the studio (early), the voice talent recording before me was just wrapping up. He was recording the same safety instructions, except in Japanese. After that, I went into the recording booth and the recording engineer Nick started setting up for me. We also talked briefly with the client on a conference call, since she wasn’t physically there. And then we started recording by reading each line several times (about five times, I think). After I did all the lines, I got out of the booth and started helping Nick pick out which takes to keep.

Since he didn’t speak Chinese, I gave more opinions on which takes to keep than I normally would. Sometimes we just picked one, and sometimes we couldn’t decide so we picked two and had the client choose it over the phone. While listening to one of the takes, I said to Nick, “Um, not that one, it was a little rushed.” And right after I said that, I heard on the recording myself saying “that wasn’t a good one, it was a little rushed.” I was amused by that. Apparently I agreed with myself from about 20 minutes ago.

I am not sure what it is, but every audio/recording engineer I’ve met, whether during auditions, classes, or this time, is quite laid-back. I don’t know why they all have this very relaxed attitude, but at the same time they are very on top of their tasks as well. When I told him it was a pleasure working with him at the end of the night, I really meant it.

So that concluded my first (and hopefully not last) paid voiceover gig. Yay! 😀

Booked My Very First Voiceover Gig

I received a call yesterday. I was at work at the time so I just let it go to voicemail. When I listened to it, I certainly raised my eyebrows because it was the talent management company telling me that I’ve booked a voiceover job. I sent out my recording for that particular job almost two months ago, so it was a surprise to even hear about it again. Anyway, extra income, yay!

So, I am going to be recording for them some bus safety instructions in Chinese. Basically I will be saying stuff like:
“Welcome to our bus. We hope you have a pleasant trip.”
“The fire exit is to your right.”
“Please ask the driver for the first aid kit in case of emergency.”
“The fire extinguisher is below the seat behind the driver.”

See? I don’t have to be a doctor to save lives. 😀

Cookie Monster’s Choice of Instrument

Animal plays the drums; Rowlf plays the piano; what does Cookie Monster play?

Why, the xylophone, of course!

I am amused. (via @bainelaker)

The Full Band in Start A Band Video

In the Start A Band music video, I have this shot where the full band of five puppets are playing together:

whole_band_final

But did you know this is done by just one puppeteer (me)? How is this done?

The short answer: Film all five puppets seperately in front of a green screen and composite them together.

The long answer: It’s possible to just film all five puppets together in one take, instead having one puppeteer do it five different times. However, to do that, I would need five puppeteers, and also a really long green backdrop which I currently don’t have. That’s why I decided to do it this way. Theoretically, you can apply green screen effects an infinite number of times, because the green parts are going to become transparent in post-production, and you can layer them however many times you want.

The order is important, however, because whichever footage that’s on the top layer will be the one in the front in the final video. And that’s why the background should always be in the lowest layer, as shown in this picture:

whole_band_timeline

From the top to bottom layer, we have footages brad play 2.avi, bot play.avi, mac play.avi, bobby play.avi, moost play.avi, and home2.bmp. So in this shot, you see Bread Parsley (the human puppet) in the front, and then Bottle Monster, Mac and Cheese, Bobby, Moostifer, and then the background in the very back. (Some of them don’t overlap each other, such as Bobby and Moostifer, so the order of those two doesn’t matter. However, if two characters overlap, such as Bottle Monster and Bobby, we need to have Bottle Monster’s footage in a video layer above Bobby’s to make sure that Bottle Monster will be appear in front of Bobby.) This screen cap, in which the green screen effeect is turned off, is used to show you that the five characters are from five different video footages and also to show you how they overlap:

whole_band_no_green

The green in the background is of irregular shapes, because I also used a garbage matte effect to cut out the unnecessary parts from the footage to make my green screen job easier. Without the garbage matte and green screen, this is what the original footage would look like after being shrunken to the sizes I want and layered on top of one another. Notice that you pretty much only see the character in the very top layer.

whole_band_no_matte

Is it a lot of work? Yes. Do I like the end result? You betcha!

Related Posts:
Start A Band Music Video
How to do a green screen effect
How to do a garbage matte effect

How to Do a Green Screen Effect

I’ve already written a tutorial on how to do a green screen effect before, but I thought the example wasn’t the best because it wasn’t the best example since I was replacing the green with something that’s also green. So here is a better example from the last video Start A Band. As usual, it’s done in Adobe Premiere Pro but any editing software with chroma key function can achieve this effect.

Step 1: Film the Footages

First, you need to film some footage in front of a green background. In the picture, you see a puppet in front of a piece of green fabric taped to the wall. The more standard green screens are usually of a lighter shade. I wanted to give this shade a try, though, since I happen to have this piece of fabric in my room. Also, the editing will remove the green and show whatever background you put in, so you’ll need a background as well. In this case, I want the puppet to be in front of a blackboard so I drew one.

green_screen_originalgreen_screen_background

Step 2: Put the Footages into the Timeline

In the timeline, make sure the green screen footage (brad math.avi) is in the layer above the background (classroom.bmp). This is so the character appears in the foreground, instead of being covered up by the background picture.

green_screen_layers

Step 3: Chroma Key

In Premiere, it’s under Video Effects => Keying => Chroma Key. First, use the dropper to pick a shade of green that’s close to majority of the background. Ideally, a green screen should be lit evenly so it only contains one shade of green. However, my lighting isn’t that good at the moment, so it will requires more tweaking during editing. In this case, I changed the similarity parameter to get a wider range of green removed. If this value is too small, then some green will not be removed. If this value is too big, something that aren’t that green (such as blue) will start to be removed as well.
green_screen_chroma_num

And you’ll get something like this:

green_screen_chroma_key

Notice that some of the edges weren’t cleaned up that well (I pointed them out with those red arrows). There are certainly a few more things you can do to clean it up some more.

For example, you can use a garbage matte, which gets rid of those things around the edge of the video by keeping only the area you defined using a quadrilateral (Look! A math term! How fitting!).

green_screen_garbage_matte

And also I want to move the character to the side, so the math problem on the blackboard is seen more clearly.

green_screen_done

So there it is, a green screen effect. The next post will be about how to use this same green screen effect to accomplish the shot in the Start A Band video in which the whole band is seen playing together.

Related Posts:
Start A Band Music Video
How to do a green screen effect – the theory
How to do a green screen effect – case study
How to do a garbage matte effect
Using a garbage matte effect to put a character in a car

TweetDeck (Verdict: I like)

I’ve been on Twitter for more than a year now. I am following more and more people as days go by, and it gets more difficult to look through all tweets. I started wanting to have something that can divide all the people I am following into tiers, so I can just look at the top tier to see updates from people I care more about and let the rest drown out in noise if I don’t have that much time. So I tweeted @Sarahjbray to recommend something, and she said TweetDeck.

I downloaded and installed TweetDeck. I think having different columns is quite handy. When it was first installed, by default I get three columns: all tweets, direct messages and @replies. I got rid of the direct messages column because I receive those in my email anyway, and I replaced that new column with a new group that I created. In that group, I have people I know in real life, people I interact with more often, (people I have a crush on?), and people I simply care about more because they have interesting updates. So now I don’t have to look at a sea of tweets and try to fish those out. They are nicely grouped together. I still look at the rest of the tweets not in this group, but I’m certainly scanning them faster. I think it works pretty well.

I did run into a little bit of problems, but I think Twitter itself, rather than TweetDeck was to blame. I was trying to add people to groups, but then I realized I couldn’t find some of them. This happened during the hours when Twitter was showing “over capacity” so I guess the API wasn’t returning everything correctly. These people all showed up later in a few hours though.

Also, since I regularly use two different computers, I would like to be able to synchronize what’s read and what’s not read across the computers. TweetDeck cannot do that but that’s no deal breaker. I’ve actually been using just the web because I knew I would have this issue, but then with the new Twitter interface, it keeps loading and growing the page when you click on “next”, and eventually the web browser runs out of memory. Not sure if Twitter, the Java class (or whatever script they are using), or IE7 is to blame, but that problem is there.

So after one day, I am satisfied with TweetDeck. Hopefully I’ll continue to like it. And if you want to follow me, I’m @kelvinkao on Twitter. :-)

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