How to Start Your Own Puppet Show!

by Puppet Nerd

Looking to start your own puppet show but don’t know how? Look no further! Starting a puppet show can be a great way to get your craft out into the world. You could upload your performance to YouTube or even pitch your puppet show to television producers (and if that happens, you owe me a shout-out). Whether you’re the puppet creator, actor, or director of a puppet show, these tips can help you get your act up and running in no time with minimal up-front cost.

Live Vs. Filmed Puppet Shows

Filming your puppet shows can be a great way to get your puppets out to the world. A wider audience can view it from anywhere on the globe. However, if you’re used to only performing live puppet shows, there are a few differences you should know before you begin filming.

During a live show, you can connect with the audience easier. From a technical standpoint, he puppet doesn’t have to look directly at every audience member to connect with them. They connect with the puppet through the story and physical movement. There’s a broader range of motion in a stage performance. This is to compensate for the distance between the performers and the audience.

On the other hand, filming puppets is far more intimate for the viewer. There are not rows of audience members between the performer and the viewer in this case. For video, the screen could be inches from their face (of course we recommend to stand back a little), but talk about intimate! They could even be holding the device in their hands. The thing that is special about this is that this can make it feel like the puppet is talking directly to them.

 To get this  strong connection with the audience you have to master a technique known as “Eye Focus”, which is covered in our Puppetry 101 course.

You have to know where the puppet is looking and ensure that your body is out of the frame of the camera. You have to be much more aware of your surroundings and where the puppet itself is looking when filming a puppet show.

In order to stand or sit in a comfortable position when filming your puppet show you’ll have to raise your set up. It’s easier to reach your hand up than lay on the ground and try to orient the puppet. When doing this, make sure your whole body and arm is out of the shot.

Tools for Filming Your Show

To make sure your body is out of the shot and that your puppet appears fully on-screen, you need to use a monitor. Professional monitors can cost you thousands of dollars, but a small LCD tv can be found for under $100 and do the same job. You can even check your local thrift store for a small tv. I use a 19-inch LCD tv that I got on Amazon. You can also opt for an even smaller monitor. I also have a 7-inch monitor that connects directly to the tripod. This can be great for scenes you need to shoot on location in a tight spot.

Having a monitor is essential for filming a quality puppet show. Since your hand will be above your head, you can’t fully control where the puppet is looking since you do not see out of the puppets eyes. You also wont be able to tell if your arm is in the frame unless you have a monitor to glance at and re-position your puppet in real-time. You won’t notice little things, like if your puppet is looking directly at the camera or not, unless you have a monitor. These small details make or break your puppet show.

What To Film With?

As far as video cameras go, anything you have will work. You don’t need a fancy camera to start performing and showcasing your puppets. All you need is an iPhone, iPad, or even an old handy-cam.  The best part about using your phone as your camera is that you can upload your film directly to YouTube or Instagram without having to transfer any files.

Lastly, I recommend carrying an extra battery or two for your monitor and camera when you’re filming. Nothing is worse than being out on set and having a piece of equipment die. I use tool batteries to power my monitor. Specifically, I use the brand Milwaukee. It has a converter that can turn any battery into a charger. I’ve found this is the cheapest and most efficient option.

The Next Greatest Puppet Show

You don’t need much to start the next greatest puppet show. What really matters is your passion for the work you’re doing and dedication to capture the scene you’ve pictured. Most of the items you need to film a puppet show, you already own, so what are you waiting for?

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