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What lens to use when filming puppets?  (Read 17577 times)
« Reply #15 on: March 29, 2013, 07:35:03 am »

Thanks Shawn!  I have a lot of respect for our Master Puppeteer and would not want to offend her. 

Those are great ideas Stiq.  I was assuming that the monitor would have to be production quality, but getting some cheaper ones is a route I never would have even considered.  I'll be bringing that idea up to the producer.  Im sure we can fit at least a couple cheap monitors into the budget.

Thanks again for all the help.  Hopefully I'll have a couple cross-promotional commercials up soon and you guys will be able to take a look and give me some critiques.  Thanks again.
StiqPuppet Productions
« Reply #16 on: March 29, 2013, 03:05:23 pm »

Glad to be able to spark some new ideas!!

Stiq  Smiley
« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2013, 07:06:38 pm »

Here's a commercial we did to help cross promote our upcoming feature and a local bakery.  I think it turned out pretty good.  Used a bunch of suggestions that you guys offered.  But we're always looking to learn.  So if anyone has any critiques or suggestions that might help further our knowledge that would be great.  Thanks again for taking the time.

« Reply #18 on: April 10, 2013, 01:33:41 pm »

This looks really good, congrats. In terms of puppetry, try to keep the rod lower in the frame and work it from below, not the side if at all possible. That will make it less conspicuous in the shot. Also, since the puppet has (please forgive me) kind of a big ugly seam running down it's neck I would not tilt the puppet's head up, because it makes the seam the focus of the audience's attention and it throws off the eye focus of the puppet.

I know I am coming in late to this discussion, but I wanted to add a couple of points to some things that were said earlier...

Questions about what lens to use is stylistic, but also very dependent on what camera you are using. If you are shooting with a DSLR you need to know if you camera uses a full frame or crop sensor. For anyone who isn't familiar with this, there is detailed explanation of the differences here, but the important thing to know about sensor size and lenses are that if your camera has a crop sensor, your 50mm lens does not necessarily behave like a 50mm lens due to a phenomenon known as crop factor (again, read the link for a detailed explanation).

I usually shoot puppets with the equivalent of a 30mm and 50mm lens. I occasionally use a 85mm for close-ups (especially if I want to throw the background out of focus), but my 85mm lens gets very little use. I also like shooting with a 20mm in some situations, but you can get by without one.

One note on using monitors; Unless your puppeteers are experienced in "camera view" performing, I would avoid using a monitor. "Camera View" (as you or the camera see something) is the reverse of what untrained puppeteers need. Normal people are used to a "Mirror View", the reverse of a normal view.

Many, many years ago I supervised a puppet crew that I had to train myself on a movie called "Gremlins". We trained in front of a huge mirror and I had all the monitors reworked to have reversing switches for the horizontal and vertical image. It made a world of difference as a mirror image felt completely natural and intuitive to the novices, while a camera view completely screwed them up.
I just finished a puppet short with untrained puppeteers and I had to remove the monitors for them most of the time, or in critical shots I placed a mirror next to the monitor to provide the mirror image

I really do respect your experience and point of view, but I also believe this is very flawed advice.

First, for on-camera puppetry, always use a monitor. Otherwise, you (or your puppeteers) are working blind! Seriously, do this.
Working "Mirror Image" (which is technically called "Reverse Scan") is definitely easier for novices, but usually produces inferior results because the performer is not seeing what the camera sees. Marcus Clarke has a great article about why it's better work reverse or "straight scan" that makes the case for this much better than I can.

Also, working in reverse is simply the standard for almost all professional puppeteers in film and TV. If you want to be an on-camera puppeteer, at least professionally, you need to learn to work "straight scan" with the image reversed. Although I've been told that on some sets in Europe they do make accommodations for puppeteers who can't work reversed, but in general it's a skill you need to have.

EDIT: I should add there are many very respected and very talented puppeteers (especially in the UK) who prefer to work mirrored/reverse scan. I don't mean to imply that working reverse scan automatically makes you a bad puppeteer, it's just that there are a lot of artistic, technical and practical reasons not to work that way.

A good analogy I use for this is driving. If I wanted to teach someone to drive, I would teach them how to drive with a manual transmission. Not because it's necessarily better than automatic (although, like working straight scan, it offers advantages) but because even though it's harder and takes longer, if you understand how to drive manual, you understand how to operate almost any kind of vehicle anywhere.

« Last Edit: April 10, 2013, 02:05:17 pm by Andrew »
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2013, 06:35:14 pm »

Great advice Andrew.  It will all go into consideration and I'll make sure to share it with all the puppeteers.  Thanks again for taking the time to help us out.  Here's another commercial.  Very similar but still thought I would share in case anything else jumps out at anyone. 

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