Puppeteering/ Zooming from home- experimenting with bed sheets as green screens

Puppeteering/ Zooming from home- experimenting with bed sheets as green screens

Over the last few weeks, I have been involved in many video conferencing calls for both my teaching world and my puppetry world. When I have used Zoom, I have used their virtual background feature, and it works really well to a point. The tricky part is if I want to show the other people in the call an object, or even play with a puppet, the virtual background without the green screen option cannot include the object beside me such as a puppet on my arm.

My first thought was, can I use a substitute fabric as a green screen/ chroma key background? I wanted to focus on using the materials I had at home that are a solid colour. I started out exploring bed sheets since they are light to hang up. I had one that is a blue grey colour, and the other was a pale green. While setting up for filming, my new woven polyproplene green screen that I had purchased on Amazon arrived, so now I could compare the effects.

The filming equipment I used is on my post about using a phone to record video with puppets

Here are the additional items

  • Tripods set up on desk with zoom videoconference in the background
    Phone filming setup with zoom running on the computer in the background

Results from the experiment

In Zoom, I got best results from using the green bed sheet and the commercial green screen without any additional lighting apart from the ceiling downlights.

In editing using Adobe Premiere Pro- I got the cleanest background removal results from the professional green screen.

If I was to do the experiment again, I want to see what would happen if I added lights to the sheet/ screen only to even out the colour difference across the surface. I would also iron or smooth out the surface to see if the background removal was more successful.

Miss H

Lucy in Texas: Day 2

Day 2: Monday May 18 2015

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Today was our first full day in Denton Texas. Denton is a small, spread out town 30 minutes away from Dallas which is a big city. Since today was the only day Miss Hannaford has free to explore the town before she attends the puppetry workshop for the rest of the week, I decided to let her choose what places we were going to visit. Miss Hannaford is working on some puppet and robotics projects and she wanted to visit local fabric and hobby stores so we walked down to the local train station, caught the train into the transport interchange, waited for a route 6 bus to take us to a fabric store called Jo-Ann Fabrics.


Miss Hannaford was really excited to find some puppet making fabric called micro suede she has always heard about but never actually had the opportunity to see or touch! She asked me to pose in front of the fabric before we took it over to the cutting counter to buy!


We caught the route 6 bus back to the interchange and changed to a route 2 bus to go to a local shopping mall- we call them shopping centres. Both of us wanted to visit Barnes and Nobel bookstore as it is larger than any book store we have in Australia. I wanted to check out the DVD section and Miss Hannaford wanted to look at all of the books but especially the comics and graphic novels to get ideas for new books in the school Library.


We had lunch at the Mall before walking across the street to a hardware store and a Hobby Lobby store to look for more puppet and robotics materials. We only found one thing on Miss Hannaford’s list but since it was very hot outside, we walked back to the hotel.

We had dinner at a real Texan Steak House Restaurant. Texas is famous for it’s cattle farms called Ranches and real cowboys work on those ranches.

Miss Hannaford’s workshop starts tomorrow afternoon but she has been told that there is one more hardware store near to the hotel that she can visit in the morning. So we need a good night’s rest before all the fun begins tomorrow!

Lucy and Miss Hannaford

Lucy goes around the world in 88 days: Day 87 & 88

Day 87: Monday 22nd September

Today was really exciting and really sad. It is the last day of this amazing 3 month overseas holiday! It is going to take 24 hours to fly home and because Australia is ahead in time we are going to loose a day which is why the trip is 88 days long.

The journey started with us being picked up from our hotel by limousine from Emirates airlines. Once we arrived at the airport, because we were flying home Business Class, we received invitations to the Emirates business class lounge which had very comfy seats, free food and drink, magazines and newspapers, and showers! All of this was in a private space in the airport away from the noise of the rest of the airport.

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The flight from Prague to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates was 6 hours.  It was very comfortable because the seats in Business class turn into flat beds but the best part was the hundreds of movies you could choose from! We watched Sleeping Beauty, Disney’s Robin Hood, Toy Story and Toy Story 2!

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We arrived in Dubai at 11pm and our next flight to Australia was due to board at 1:45am. Again because we were flying in Business Class, we were invited into the Business Class Lounge which like Prague had free food, free wifi, and showers but because it is the upper level of Dubai airport it was not as quiet as the lounge in Prague. The flight home was 16 hours- the longest leg of this whole trip on the worlds biggest passenger plane- the A380! We had the amazing flat bed seat again with its special entertainment system and little shelves with bottled water, soft drinks and snacks and at the back of the cabin was a special lounge area with a little bar with more free food and drink!

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The food served on the plane was very delicious and because we were in Business Class, the flight attendants laid white tablecloths and real cutlery on the fold out tables. We were very spoiled! Apart from sleeping lots on the flat bed seats, we also watched lots of Miss Hannaford’s favourite TV shows which helped the time go by quickly!

We arrived back in Sydney at 10:30pm and customs checked the puppets Miss Hannaford had brought home because they were made of wood. Fortunately everything was fine with them and so we walked into the arrivals hall and there was a Limousine driver waiting for us holding up a board with Miss Hannaford’s name!

It has been an amazing holiday full of great adventures and incredible opportunities. I hope Miss Hannaford takes me on her next holiday whenever that will be…

– Lucy

Lucy goes around the world in 88 days: Day 36 & 37

Day 36: Saturday 2nd August
Today was another travelling day except this time we were not travelling by plane. Today we caught the train to Stoke on Trent in the Midlands of England. It took 90 minutes to travel from London to Stoke on Trent.

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The best thing about long distance trains in England is that many seats have a really good table in front of them with power points so you can recharge your phone and in our case- Miss Hannaford’s ipad so we could keep writing our blog posts!


Day 37: Sunday 3rd of August
Since Miss Hannaford is visiting Stoke on Trent to do research starting tomorrow at the Wedgwood Ceramic factory, it was important that she spent the day, re-reading the research she has done so far so she could ask for documents that related to her research. I spent the day quietly resting after all the excitement of the past week!

– Lucy

Honouring Australia’s War Horses

Over the last few months, War Horse, the incredible stage production from the National Theatre based on the book by Micheal Morpurgo has been playing here in Sydney at the Lyric Theatre. I was fortunate to see the Sydney production 3 times and fell in love with the incredible puppets made by the Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa. I was deeply moved by the notion that very few of the animals used in war especially the horses did not return from the war and many were left behind. Out of more than 136, 000 Australian Horses sent to the first world war, only one horse returned- Sandy the horse of Major General Bridges who died in Gallipoli and requested that his horse be returned to Australia.


Image of a War Horse stuck in the mud of World War 1
Image of a War Horse stuck in the mud of World War 1.
Images from the play of War Horse
Images from the play of War Horse.

Using the play of War Horse as a foundation, and the education pack from the learning program for the play as well as my Goose puppet from the National Theatre of Great Britain, I created the display for term 2. The display focused on information about the Australian Light Horse Regiment as well as how the original story and play were developed. This way the display linked into the History, English, Creative Arts and Design and Technology curricula. I also used the vision from the Handspring TED talk about War Horse as well as the vision from the Making War Horse documentary and the Michael Parkinson Masterclass program that featured Micheal Morpurgo on the Library TV screen. This way students could see and hear elements of the play and appreciate the artistry of the beautiful puppets.

Building the Dragon Part 3

I forgot in the last post to upload a photo of the papier mâché casting I have made of the sculpture of dragon. In the last 2 days I have cut the eyes out and started to make the eyelids to fit inside the eyes but pivot around the eyeball. The eyelids were cast in handmade paper over a ping pong ball wrapped in cling film to stop the paper sticking.

If you were wondering, the whole sculpt for dragon has been done on an old wine bottle full of water so that I could move the sculpture around but it would not tip over.



Experiencing setting and printing type manually…

Have you ever thought about how words appeared on a page before computers and desktop printers were available to the masses? I have always been interested in the beauty of typopgraphy and printing and I have always wanted to see how moveable type worked. In the last few years SBS Television has screened two documentaries about type called Typeface and Helvetica. Typeface is about the Hamiton Type foundary (now also a working museum) and Helvetica is a documentary about the creation and explosion of the font Helvetica into all facets of our society. ( I recently bought both documentaries from Amazon.com).

Very recently I experienced setting and printing type manually at the Penrith Museum of Printing. The museum is an amazing hands on place where as soon as you walk in you notice the smell of the ink, hear real working printing machines ande you can actually open the drawers and touch the type (I pulled out the Helvetica 24pt drawer). Not only did I get to set paragraphs of type, the workshop participants were given a demonstration of a linotype machine in action which not only sets full lines of type but puts all the individual letters back in the right places in the type drawers.

Setting lines of text into the galley

During the workshop we got to put every single letter and spaces between words using a printers setting stick and then transfer the lines to a galley (metal tray). Once the type was in the galley we placed spaces between lines using specific thicknesses of lead (where the term leading comes from). The main spacing in my two paragraphs was 12pt leads except between the two paragraphs and above my name where I used a 6pt lead.


Printer’s type setting stick with a line of type ready to be transferred to the galley below

The last stage was to lock the set type into a printing chase (heavy metal frame) using furniture (metal and wooden bars to fill in the space) and quoins (pronounced coins- expanding clamps to lock the work to the chase)  and see what we had written when it was printed on a real printing press. See the videos below to see how type was locked into the chase.


Standing at the Typecase, setting lines of type

It took me 4 hours to set my 2 paragraphs of type as we had to learn how to center type, left justify type and full justify type- which is the most challenging part. Workshop participants are encouraged to bring their own words to set and print or you can use the paragraphs on typography they give us. I was working with 36pt for the heading, 18pt for the body and the very fiddly 12pt type to set my name. The type we were working with is lead based but as long as we followed good hygiene practice by thoroughly washing our hands after touching the type- there is minimal risk.

The museum staff are all experienced typesetters and printers who retired from newspaper printworks or printers. They are full of great stories about how the printing industry was before the arrival of computers and workshop numbers are kept really small so that you can get very specialised assistance at every stage during the workshop.

I went home not only with my prints but I was also able to buy one of their surplus typecases (the wooden trays to keep type in) and guess what! The typecase was from Hamilton Type foundary- the factory/ museum I mentioned at the begining! The case needs to be cleaned up but since I bought a box of loose type a few weeks ago on ebay- I can sort it out into the case and use it with my computing class when we learn about desktop publishing.

In a few weeks I will be doing the museum’s poster printing workshop using their collection of wooden type. Stay tuned for details but here are some videos from the workshop and a trailer for the Typeface documentary…

Looking at strategy as an element of vision planning…

It is now time to start looking at developing a 3 year vision or plan for both the school library I work in and my next university assignments. Perhaps I can blend them together eventually and save a lot of time and stress in the long run.

I am reading Davies & Davies The Strategic Dimensions of Leadership and on the first page it makes this interesting point:

Strategy… encompasses direction setting, broad aggregated agendas, a perspective to view the future and a template against which to evaluate current activities. (p.7)

This reading has resonannce with me as to plan for the future of the Library, I need to evaluate what the library offers now and look at what the library can offer going into the future. Do we need an e-platform? Do we need to increase the numbers of books students can borrow? The question I need answering is:

What does the school community need from the Information Resource Centre?

Davies & Davies (2005, p.9) describe that is critical that a leader creates a strategy with others and not dictate it. In the case of a school library team- it would allow discussion, debate, the suggestion of innovative ideas based on the ideas of others. Most importantly it would give the ‘team’ ownership of the vision and hopefully a willingness to fully commit to the implementation.

Davies & Davies cite Burgleman and Grove (1996) to describe that organisations reach key moments for strategic change ‘when it is possible to develop new visions, create new strategies and move in new directions.” (p.11) For the library I work in, I think that time has come as the school moves into its evaluation phase in preparation for the new 3 year plan.


Davies, B. J., & Davies, B. (2005). The dimensions of leadership : the strategic dimensions of leadership. In School leadership in the 21st century : developing a strategic approach (2nd ed.) (pp. 7-16). London : RoutledgeFalmer.

Using Voicethread and finishing the group assignment!

After a marathon effort all day yesterday between me and my wordsmith we have got the ‘group’ powerpoint presentation to a point where we could hand it in tomorrow! (1 week early) We still have a group Skype meeting this afternoon.

Once 2/3rds of the assignment was written, we noticed that our exploding walls design no longer fitted the theme of the assignment. Since the implementation part of the assignment was about iPads, I was inspired to change the design to an iPad and for that extra special touch, I researched which font was the font used by Apple for all its marketing- the result- Myriad Pro in semi bold! I have Myriad pro on my computer so it is the font of the assignment!

Finishing early has allowed me to practice my presentation for Tuesday afternoon on using Voicethread to comment on documents, pictures files etc for the helping hands meeting. I have used the Powerpoint presentation as an example so A) I can show my design off, and B) show people who have heard about this group powerpoint while I have been struggling with it. Voicethread is easy-ish to use if you watch the youtube video from Radford University. I have sent invites to all the audience members for tuesday so that they can practice collaborating on a voicethread. The only part that I found difficult was solving why my microphone was not recording into voicethread.

To solve the problem I used the troubleshooting guide but you need an understanding of the control panel of your computer in order to solve the problem. As someone who uses technology a lot- even I was challenged to use this software. Let’s see what happens on tuesday…

I will upload the voicethread later (after we submit our assignment)


Miss H 


Time to talk about me and puppets.

Anyone who has met me, has usually met 1 or 2 of my puppets. I have always been fascinated by puppets. I grew up on Sesame Street (my favourite characters were Ernie, Big Bird and Oscar) and re-runs of the Muppet Show but I was taken by my mother and grandparents to see a wide variety of puppet performances as a child.

I have always wanted to learn how to build puppets but as a kinesthetic learner and very little information on the web and in books on how they are built, I needed a puppeteer to show me. Purely by accident at Canberra’s wonderful Bus Depot Markets, I met my teacher Marie Martine Ferrari of Ferrari Puppets. It was the one and only time she had a stall at the markets to promote her puppet making workshops.

She taught me how to make latex rod puppets, large latex hand puppets and Muppet style puppets using patterns given to her from a masterclass she attended run by the creator of the muppets- Jim Henson!

My teacher is now retired and I am continuing the tradition through teaching the skills of building and basic performance to children and adults. The tradition of Western puppetry is that a master puppet builder and puppeteer passes their skills to an apprentice.

I have just started building a new puppet out of foam and I will blog about it soon!

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