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

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:


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:


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.

And you’ll get something like this:


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!).


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


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

Editing Tricks in Ernie and Cookie Monster Madoff Scandal Video

Yesterday I linked to the Sesame Street parody on Jimmy Kimmel Live in which Ernie and Cookie Monster explained Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme. It was done by dubbing over the original video. But of course, the original video does not show Ernie firing a gun at Cookie Monster. So how was that added into the video? Here’s how.

Note that I wasn’t the person that originally edited the video, so I don’t know exactly how that person did it; but here’s how I would do it.

Putting in the Gun

First I need to export a frame in which Ernie’s right hand is clearly visible (and looks like it can hold a gun). And then I’ll take this picture and crop out just the hand. And then I’ll add a gun to the hand. And then, I’ll need to find a frame where the right hand isn’t very visible like this first picture, so I can put in this new right hand to cover up the original.


And then after that, I’ll put the new hand into position. I’ll then move it upwards from behind the wall to reveal the gun. Now, since the hand will be in the layer above the original video while the hand really should be behind the wall instead of in front, we’ll need a portion of the hand invisible when it’s below a certain horizontal line. This is to make the new hand appear as if it’s behind the wall. A garbage matte effect would be a convenient way to mark which part is visible. That’s about it. And then after the gun fires, the original editor moved it horizontally backward and then forward again to show the recoil of the gun. I thought that was a nice touch.

So now we have the gun, next we want to have

Cookie Monster Flying Off the Screen

When a puppet character is shot, he/she usually falls down. However, Cookie Monster’s reaction to the gun shot was flying off the screen. This is easier to edit and it’s also funny and cartoonish. First we’ll need to create a background for when Cookie Monster flies of the screen. In the original footage, Cookie Monster is blocking the right side of the background. However, when he flies off, we’ll need to show that portion of the background. This is actually very easy for this video, because what’s behind the characters is nothing but solid blue. We just need to create a blue rectangle that matches the original background to cover up where Cookie Monster used to be. Here are two pictures for you to compare. The picture on the left is from the Madoff spoof, where the right side of the screen is already covered up with solid blue; the picture on the right is from the original footage, where Cookie Monster is occupying the right side of the screen.


After we have the background, we can animate Cookie Monster flying out. We just need the cropping effect to crop out Cookie Monster. And then we can shift it horizontally. He will start out where he was, zap across the screen and eventually be outside of the frame.


I thought it was a nice touch that Cookie Monster yelled out “no!” In the original footage, Cookie Monster was saying, “Now, there are really no cookies to count.” The word “now” was emphasized in the sentence and they dubbed it over as “no!”

So that’s how the editing is done. I find this kind of stuff fun. In fact, my first ever practice project that I assigned myself when I was learning to edit videos was similar to this. I decided to use some existing puppet footages (because I didn’t have a camera back then) and dubbed them over. I also used some blue screen effect to put things in the sky. I had fun doing that project too.

Related Posts:
Ernie and Cookie Monster Explains the Bernie Madoff Scandal
Editing Trick: Garbage Matte
Editing Trick: Cropping

Buddy Holly music video – awesome editing!

Have you seen Weezer‘s Bubby Holly video? If you haven’t, check it out. And let me tell you a little story on me and this video.

I first saw this video when I found it on my Windows 95 CD. It was either 1996 or 1997. I was in Taiwan attending middle school. I didn’t know enough English to understand what I was watching, but I thought it was a catchy song and a fun video. I had never heard of Happy Days. I couldn’t look up what it was either, because we had no internet. Ah, seemed like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

So who are the Weezers? (Instead of Weezer, because that’s what I thought they were called back then.) I thought of two possibilities: One, Weezers was a fictional band consisting of fictional characters on the show, or two, Weezers was a real band making a guest appearance on the sit-com. And then after I moved to the U.S., I realized that there was a band with the same name that’s still putting out albums. I thought that was just a coincidence.

Boy, was I wrong.

Since I am someone that listen to music without bothering to figure out what the musicians look like, I didn’t know this shocking fact until I got curious and looked up information about this video:

The video was made in 1995 with Happy Days footages edited into the music video, and was not part of an actual sit-com!

Okay, for those of you that’s been there and paying attention, that was nothing, but for me, that was “wwwwoooowww”. That was some awesome editing!

How awesome is it? It fooled me for 13 years!

The band part, of course, was filmed in 1995. The reactions from various characters were from old sit-com footages. And Fonzie’s parts were a mix of sit-com footages and newly filmed footages with a body double. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that when the band was in the shot, it’s newly filmed footage from 1995. This Fonzie was a body double so all you see is his back. And then the shots without the Weezer were from the sit-com and showed the face of the real Fonzie:

There was actually some discontinuity too, if you look very closely. Note Fonzie’s location: he should be to the front and right side of the stage, as seen in this picture. And I’d also like you to pay attention to where the stage and the piano is. (These two pictures are roughly from the same angle, but you could see the second one better because there was no crowd blocking the set pieces.)

Now, since Fonzie was facing the stage, then behind him should be the tables and booths. But let’s look at this next picture: In the background was the stage, and there was the piano that was supposed to be in front of Fonzie instead of behind him. Also, there’s a mysterious man sitting at the piano, the stage was of a different color, and there were musicians on stage that wore a different outfit and clearly weren’t the Weezer.

But of course, that was just me scrutinizing. I stare really hard at videos nowadays. There were some discontinuities there but most people wouldn’t notice it, and noticing it actually made me appreciate even more what a good job they did. The footages wouldn’t match up perfectly since they didn’t film the sit-com expecting it to be used in the music video many years in the future, but they did a great job in making the discontinuities so subtle.

What awesome editing. I used to just appreciate how much fun this video was, but now I also have new appreciation for how much work is put into making the video look smooth and good.

P.S. Besides matching up Fonzie, they also match up the extras perfectly. Many of the extras from the new footages have clothes and hairdos that looked just like extras from the old footages. They sure did a good job matching things up.

P.S.S. And here’s another video that was also on the Windows 95 CD: Edie Brickell’s Good Times, Bad Times. Ah, good times.

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

Editing Trick: How to Make an Object Hover (Garbage Matte)

Last time I did an experiment to make an object hover in the air using an editing trick, specifically, garbage matte. And now I’d like to share how it’s done. This following video roughly shows the raw footage that I started with, the garbage matte process in between, and the final product, with details to follow.

(If you can’t see the embedded video, see it at

Step 1: Get the Raw Footage

garbage_matte_raw.jpgFirst, start by filming an object attached to a stick or string. In this experiment I used a bamboo skewer and Scotch tape. No good reason other than that they happened to be sitting on my desk. garbage_matte_background.jpg Once you have the footage, import it into your video editor that has a garbage matte feature (I use Adobe Premiere Pro). Once you imported the video into the video editor, find a frame of the video that doesn’t have the object (probably at the beginning or end, before the entrance of the object or after the object exits) and export that frame. In Adobe Premiere Pro, this is done by going to File => Export, and then choose to export only a single frame instead of the whole sequence. We are doing this because we would need this empty background for Step 3.

Step 2: Garbage Matte

Garbage Matte is a tool that you can use to preserve an area of the picture that you want, and crop out the rest. If you are unfamiliar with it, read about it in more details in my previous posts here and here. In this case, since the object is constantly moving, the matte’s size and position has to be changed constantly as well. This results in a bunch of keyframes in the timeline.

Step 3: Fill the Background Back In

In Step 2 you are working to isolate the hovering object, but this leaves most of the background empty (black). This is when the empty background we grabbed in Step 1 comes in handy. Simply put that static picture in the layer before the object and matte and we are done with the hovering object project. In several parts of the video, you can see something a little odd looking where the stick originally connected to the object. This could be fixed by being more careful with the positioning of the matte. I just didn’t bother because this was only an experiment.

The music in the video is Pennsylvania Rose by Kevin MacLeod.

Related posts:

Special Effect Experiment: Hovering Object
Editing Trick: Garbage Matte
Case study: Putting a character in a car with green screen and garbage matte

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