Puppetry 101 - Become a Puppeteer! A Guide to Puppetry

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do you want to be a puppeteer welcome to

puppetry 101 in this video we're gonna

talk about the technical techniques to

performing puppetry we're gonna be

specifically covering hand rod puppets

with a moving mouth although many of the

techniques can be applied to other forms

of puppetry I created this guide the

puppetry worksheet that you can download

for free on my website these techniques

will work for monitor puppetry or stage

puppetry so whether you're making your

own videos with puppets or you're

auditioning or performing for a

production of Avenue Q these techniques

should help and if you don't have a

puppet yet that's okay you don't need

one to follow along in this video at the

end of this video I have recommendations

on how to get your own puppet some

advice for building puppets and if you

don't want to make one where to buy one

let's get started


control is a fundamental aspect of

puppetry anyone can waive a puppet

around but a puppeteer is in full

control of their performance having

subtleties in your performance can

really bring a puppet to life it's the

same with acting you can really draw an

audience in when your performance is

natural and authentic a lot of

puppeteers start off with really large

movements which can make it kind of seem

like a gag and inauthentic and getting

control of your puppet only comes with

practice so practice as much as you can

first technique we're going to talk

about is Lipson here are a couple

important things to keep in mind

syllables important beats emphasizing

certain words and phrases in the Henson

punch generally a public's mouth should

open once for each syllable the best

thing to try first is to count to 10

with your puppet but right now I'm just

gonna use my hand here we go 1 2 3 4 5 6

7 8 9 10 you may have noticed all those

numbers were one syllable except for

number 7 for number 7 we had open it

twice that's a great place to start but

one thing I want you to keep in mind is

that the techniques for lipstick can

change based on the speed and rhythm of

the dialogue demonstrate this I wouldn't

have Arlo say my name he's gonna say it

slowly and then he's gonna say it fast

and notice Adam croute enger' has five

syllables Adam Crue tinder watch

carefully to see if you can spot the

difference when he says it slowly he

hits all five

syllables when he does it fast he only

opened his mouth three times watch


and I'm croute injure an imprudent jerk

so if your character needs to talk

really fast or if your character is

super excited or yelling you're probably

gonna have to hit less syllables if your

character is talking fast and you're

trying to hit every single syllable it's

gonna look like a motormouth and it's

just not going to look that good these

are similar techniques that animators

use when animating cartoons if a cartoon

character is yelling they can't hit all

the syllables for those either so I'd

argue a lot of animators might make

natural puppeteers so the next thing I

want to talk about is what some people

call the Henson punch this technique

makes your lip-sync seem a little bit

more believable for a puppet because one

thing to just hit the syllables but you

want to make it feel like the words are

coming out of the mouth so if you're

doing your puppetry just like this it's

very stiff you want to make it feel like

the characters almost spitting those

words out you can also give it a little

bit of head movement so rather than this

you're almost punching forward for

example hi I'm Arlo hi I'm Arlo it makes

it seem more like the characters

spinning the words out one of the most

common pieces of advice I see most

puppeteers give for lip sync is to make

sure that you don't flap the top of the

head of the puppet and it makes perfect

sense just like people talked our jaws

go down the top of our head doesn't go

up though that does have a lot to do

with lip sync I see it more of a

technique of eye focus

think about it if the top of the head of

your puppet is moving all around then

the eye focus clearly isn't there to me

I focus is the most important aspect of

bringing a character to life it's how

you make a connection with your audience

think of the feeling you get when you

look into the eyes of a cute little

puppy though of course the whole entire

puppy is cute even if it's not looking

at you when it locks eyes with you it's

just a whole nother level of connection

and cuteness I focus is especially

important when you have multiple

characters in the scene at one time

imagine watching a television show where

none of the characters looked at each

other when they were talking or if they

were looking up at the ceiling or down

at the floor not only is it not natural

but it's also very distracting to the

audience where your character is looking

helps inform the audience where they

should be looking - I'll show you two

quick examples with Arlo you let me know


one you think makes a better connection

hi guys welcome to my show

hi guys welcome to my show I think the

difference is pretty clear the next

thing I want to talk about is ground

making it look like your characters

actually standing in the real world also

helps it make it seem more realistic a

common thing you'll notice with beginner

puppets is their puppets tend to look

like they're floating around a little

bit sometimes they'll sink down in the

camera a little bit or be too high when

those things happen it doesn't seem like

it's actually standing there so it's

important to keep that consistent same

thing goes if your character is walking

by if you just slide the character

across with your arm it's gonna look

more like it's ice-skating and if the

character is actually ice skating that's

a good thing but a lot of times I've

seen that happen when the character is

supposed to be walking into the scene

that really breaks the illusion that

this character is in the real world

making your character look like it's

actually walking makes it seem much more

realistic here are some things to think

about when giving your characters life

the first thing is characterization

think about this character as if it was

a real person what are their likes and

dislikes and their interests especially

if you have multiple characters that you

do having a lot of contrast between

those personalities can help a lot

another thing from a performance

standpoint is giving your character

breadth the simple act of a character

taking a breath as an expression of a

feeling or even if the character just

got done yelling and it needs to catch

its breath to those types of little

details can bring a lot of life to your

character another thing just to pay

attention to is the body position of

your puppet sometimes you see a lot of

characters that can be look very stiff

looking or look like they're always

looking up or look like their head is

always to the side another very common

mistake that I see is when characters

have arm rods they tend to have the

puppets hands up here all the time

generally you want to keep them down and

natural anytime you're thinking of a

posture of a puppet kind of look at

regular people as an example you really

want it to look natural


something extra I just wanted to put in

here as an idea or at least a starting

point is a lot of times in videos and on

stage they have to have the puppet do

some sort of simple dances and a lot of

puppet dance movements that I see people

trying to do a lot of times just don't

look natural don't forget that you

always need to take a step back and

really look at how it looks and ask

yourself is it natural but at least as a

baseline a good simple move if you need

your character to do a little dance or

buggy it should just move the hands

opposite to the head like this I know

it's very simple but it's pretty

effective in most situations again I do

encourage you to come up with more

specific and unique moves but do take a

step back and look at it to make sure it

actually looks natural just because

people are laughing and thought it was

funny doesn't necessarily mean that it

looked good or was quality puppetry

otherwise it's just kind of a gag now in

conclusion there's just a couple things

I want to say the end of the day you

could practice forever and you can

always grow and make yourself better but

there comes a time that you have to just

dive in there and start performing

sometimes you can actually learn faster

by just jumping in and starting to

perform there's something about having

an audience that puts a little bit more

pressure on you about making sure that

your puppetry is quality but if anything

ever goes wrong during a performance

try not to be hard on yourself really

use it as a learning experience we all

make mistakes and the best thing you can

do is learn from those mistakes but you

might think but what if I'm in the

middle of the performance and I still

have you know a couple more minutes left

on stage you know sometimes it happens

especially if you are a beginner

performer you can get flustered but a

lot of times noticing that you're being

flustered can make you even more

distracted and flustered sometimes you

just have to pause for a second and

collect your thoughts sometimes it

happens maybe you you get a little

hiccup and you your lip-syncing was off

best thing you can do is forget about

that and keep going because if you're

thinking about a mistake that you made

earlier chances are that's gonna

distract you and have you make another

mistake in another moment or two so it

goes kind of back to the thing I said in

the beginning about being in control

it's so easy to turn a puppet

performance into a gang I see it all the

time and I guess that has its place but

I'd really love to see more thoughtful

artful puppetry in the world and if you

start making your own videos I'd love to

see them I'd love to do a compilation

video after I get a lot of submissions

recommending people's videos a couple

years ago I started a Facebook group

called croute injure puppets tutorial

Q&A that's a great place for you to post

your video if you want me to see it and

be included so please send them over my

way you could also send me a message on

instagram too but the better bet is in

the facebook group so that's it for the

part one a lot of this was just kind of

general puppetry techniques in the

future I'd like to do a part two where

we talk more about creating one

character and developing it into its own

personality comment down below if that's

something you'd like to see if you want

to make a simple puppet very quickly

this tutorial should help if you have

all the materials you could probably put

it together in about a half hour and

they're super cute and simple if you

want to get a little bit more in depth

in the puppet making I made a 22 episode

series I'm making this guy you can

follow along exactly or change the

features to make it your own unique

character and there are free patterns

you can download to my website for both

of those puppets but that second series

is pretty involved like I said there's

22 episodes if you want a slightly more

advanced puppet but don't want to commit

all that time this series might be good

for you too this is only a 4 episode

series and each episode is only 10

minutes and it covers the entire process

of building this puppet it's a good

place to start and where I get all the

fabrics for my characters is from puppet

pelts please use the link in the

description to let them know that I sent

you but if you're not interested in

making a puppet at all there's another

option can purchase a puppet for

purchasing a puppet the best place that

I recommend is X Telkom my good buddy

Steve Axtell started this company even

if you're not familiar with his name I'm

sure you are familiar with his work a

lot of his puppets have been featured on

America's Got Talent from different

performers they have puppets to fit the

need of every level of performer they

have a whole series of beginners puppets

that are extremely affordable and they

also do custom made puppets those are

mostly for very established professional

performers and for companies there's one

more thing I want to talk about and

that's getting involved in the puppetry

community there are two places I need

you to check out you're in the u.s. you

should really consider joining

but tears of America there's a lot of

benefits to becoming a member but one of

my favorites is the quarterly puppetry

journal that comes out it's a great way

to learn about puppetry and a great way

to learn about and connect with other

puppeteers and if you're not in the US

you should really check out enema they

also have a lot of benefits and have a

great puppetry magazine as well and you

can become a member of both like I am

and all that information is linked down

below another great way to learn about

the behind the scenes of puppetry is to

check out our podcast called puppet

tears we've interviewed tons of

puppeteers that do all different styles

of puppetry and they offer a lot of

advice to people at all different parts

of their career alright thanks for

watching guys I'll see you next time