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

Jingle Bells! Merry Christmas!

Here’s a little “Merry Christmas” video from me. Enjoy!

Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, hey! 😀

PS. And this is the first high definition video I’ve posted publicly. I am very happy with how well it turned out!

Patron me, maybe

Here’s a video we made about two weeks ago. I am the $5 sign, $10 sign in the beginning and the green puppet. Enjoy!

This is a little online commercial for the drama/theater program at a local high school. This kind of program, contrary to how it might have been portrayed on TV shows like Glee, actually has no fundings for their productions. Instead of having the kids sell necessary stuff like candies, the teacher, Leah, decided to start a patron program.

The shows are normally $5 per person at the show. But by joining the program at the $5 level, you get two tickets to the show instead. And for $10, you get a pair of tickets to every single one of the seven shows throughout the year. It was quite brilliant, I thought. It raises money, and at the same time brings more people into the theater. Subscriptions and the season pass model have worked well for many professional theaters and apparently it can work for school too.

So Leah, a fellow graduate of Puppet School, gathered several fellow alumni to put the video together. She’s the orange puppet, and we have Josh (purple), Jenn (pink), and Ray (gray) on this project as well. It was a fun collaboration. We all contributed ideas of what the shots should look like and how to accomplish them.

As puppeteers, we are all looking at a monitor to see what’s being filmed. Usually, looking at the monitor is what the director does, while the human actor doesn’t get to do so. So in puppeteering, it feels like you are half directing and giving the actor (your arm) notes while the filming is going on. So what a shot should look like becomes a collaborative effort, especially on a small project like this.

And I had never imagined that sticking signs into shot to give a puppet something to react to can be so much fun. 😀

I am on TV!

Ah, that was fun.

The KTLA Morning News has this feature segment where they regularly send a reporter out to local events and establishments and broadcast from there. Two Fridays ago, they visited Puppet School! As Puppet School alumni, we got to be in the background with puppets as reporter Allie Mac Kay interviewed our teacher / master puppeteer Michael Earl. Though I had to wake up at 4am to be there for the news that’s live from 5 to 8am, it was a totally fun experience. And yes, Allie is like that on and off camera. One of the student in the background is a huge fan of KTLA Morning News and Allie, so she was so excited to be doing this.

We got a puppet version of the meteorologist Henry DiCarlo, and a puppet version of Allie. And many more puppets in the background. After several years of classes and three different stage productions, we’ve certainly accumulated quite a few puppets. I ended up grabbing a different one for each segment. (And they all happened to be green. I realized that just now.) You can see me as the camera panned across. You should be able to pick me out. I am the Asian one. Haha.

Click here to watch the videos on the KTLA Morning News site:
5am Segment
6am Segment
7am Segment

Les Miserables – One Day More (One Man, Many Puppets)

I made a video of me singing the song One Day More from the hit musical Les Miserables. It’s entertaining. You should watch it. 😀

I fell in love with the music when my summer school English teacher played it in class as a listening practice. The music was just so… epic! I had the pleasure of seeing it live back in 2003 (while it was still on a revolving stage!) and although my comprehension for English at that time wasn’t good enough yet to catch all the words, it was still a moving experience. It was also my first time seeing a live musical by a professional company (rather than my high school classmates) and what a great introduction!

Recently I watched the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert (multiple times) on PBS. What a massive production and many great singers in it (Alfie Boe, especially). And then when we started rehearsing for Puppet Jukebox, which required me to sing, I ended up using the Les Miserables soundtrack in my car as vocal warm-up (which is great for that purpose, by the way). For many weeks, every time I am driving, I am singing Les Miserables. I got almost the entire thing memorized by now.

So when Center Theatre Group announced that they were having a Les Miz Obsessed video contest for Les Miserables tickets, I thought, “Obsessed? That’s me! I should totally make a video! With puppets!” So that’s how the video came to be.

What surprised me was that the video reached 1000 views within the first day. That left me a little puzzled. I was wondering whether it got digged or stumbled. And people started mentioning Matt Lucas in the comments, which left me scratching my head. Finally I figured it out. It turned out that Matt Lucas, who was Thenardier for the 25th anniversary concert and will reprise the role at West End from June 23 to September 10, actually tweeted my video!

Whoa, definitely didn’t see that one coming! Matt Lucas approves. That made me really happy! 😀

Oh yeah, before I forget, if you enjoyed the video, please take a few seconds to vote for my video to win those tickets! You can vote for it once every 24 hours on Facebook:

Or if you prefer not to sign into Facebook for these things, you can just use this link:

Bottle Monster Unboxes an iPad

I got an iPad.

I bought it either because I had fun trying one at Best Buy, or because I am an iPhone app developer and need one for work purposes. It was probably a little of both, but anyway, I ordered one and got it in the mail last week. So, I proceeded to open it. But after I opened the outside packaging, I thought, wait, I should make one of those unboxing videos, like what you see many people unboxing the iPhone, XBox, Wii, etc. on Youtube. But my will have a puppet in it, of course! So here we go:

About the device

So, did I like the iPad? Yes, I love it. Even though so far I’ve mostly just used it to browse the web and watch videos (something that I normally do on my computer), somehow using a touch screen to do so is quite an enjoyable experience for me. The battery life is excellent. I got it on Monday and did not charge it at all until Thursday night. Of course, when I was watching videos instead of just browsing the web, the batteries would not last as long, but I could still go without charging it for the whole day. Compared this to my laptop that would only last less than two hours or so, that was pretty good and freed me from being close to an outlet. Also, it stays cool instead of heating up like my laptop, so I appreciate that as well. It is a little heavier than I thought, but is still significantly lighter than my laptop. Therefore I prefer using the iPad when I am in a situation in which I don’t have a desk in front of me.

Now, the downside. There is no multi-tasking so I will need to quit one app if I want to start another app. However, if the app is well designed, it will save its state before it exits so you can resume from where you left off. I mostly just use the web browser anyway. It just means that I won’t be checking my IM or Twitter all the time. I guess it also make you focus more on one thing instead of going back and forth. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a different mentality. Also it doesn’t support Flash. It means I will have to wait till I get back on a regular computer if I really want to see that content. As a computer programmer, I believe it’s a good trade-off. It makes the whole device more stable and keeps the battery from draining. The Youtube videos still work anyway, because they have their own dedicated app, and have recently switched to HTML5 for the mobile version, which is supported on iOS devices anyway.

So, overall, it’s pretty nice, but is still a luxury item, in my opinion. At this point, it cannot completely replace your regular computer, but maybe it was not meant to anyway.

About the video

I actually already cut the outside FedEx box open before I made the video, so I just taped it back. My camera isn’t high def, so you can’t tell anyway unless I tell you, which I just did. What you might be able to tell, if you are really observant, is that some parts of the video are fast-forwarded because the puppet hands are really clumsy at doing things. To remove the plastic from the box, I had already cut a slit on the back (hidden from view) so it’s easier to tear. I actually struggled to remove the plastic from the actual iPad, so you saw me bring it to the side of the screen. What I was actually doing was taking one hand out of the puppet so I could actually peel it. Of course, this was fast-forwarded because it took me a while. (I think that particular part was playing at 13x normal speed.) For the introduction where I had the puppet talking, I actually did several takes, but for the actual unboxing, I knew that I could only do one take (or make it an excuse to buy another one? Hm). That was interesting in trying to get everything right in one try.

New Video! (With New Puppets!)

And… here’s the new video! I built four new puppets for this project, so together with the old ones, there are 8 total in this video. This is a music video that I made in January to enter the Brad Paisley’s “Start A Band” green screen contest (which I didn’t win, but whatever, enjoy! :-) )

If you can’t see the embedded video, click here to see it on YouTube.

The premise of the contest was that they provided the green screen footages of Brad Paisley singing the song, and you can use the footages in your video any way you like. I was glad that I participated, because I’ve always wanted to try these things:

  1. make a music video
  2. purchase and learn to use a sewing machine
  3. build more new puppets
  4. build puppets that are humans (as opposed to “monsters” and animals)
  5. build puppets that have shoulders made out of foam and cloth them
  6. build puppets with hair made out of yarn
  7. try out new lighting set-up
  8. enter a contest
  9. overlay several different green screen shots

And somehow making this video has all those elements! Of course, that’s also because I consciously attempt to try out a new technique every time I make a new video, but so many of them at once? That hasn’t happened before. So yeah, it was definitely a good experience. And I hope you all have as much fun watching it as I have making it!

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