Week 1: Shadow Puppet Workshop


On the 3rd October 2018, I  took part in creating my very first shadow puppet production. Our group created a scene which involved an evil magician who creates his own world and lastly, creates a companion. To his horror, this companion turns out to be a monster and eats all of the magician’s creation, as well as the magician himself.

What did the workshop entail?

The workshop involved brainstorming various concepts, characters and creating a scene as a group. We then moved onto character design and made our best efforts to ensure that the shadow puppet carried features that would represent the personality we were trying to convey. For example, giving the evil magician a long, pointy nose and sharp features in order to express to the audience that the evil magician is in fact an evil character. We then created the characters and progressed to search for a quiet location with adequate lighting to shoot the scene. Various sound effects were produced using voice.

In summary, it can be boiled down to the following stages:

  • Brainstorming of ideas, characters, mood, concepts and sound.
  • Character design with various visual features to portray certain personalities of the characters.
  • Production of the characters and background.
  • Filming in our chosen location as a team with each member carrying out various roles.

Highlights from Feedback:

As this was my first time doing a live shadow-puppet show, there was a lot to learn! After gathering feedback from fellow peers as well as lecturers, I learned the importance of the following.

  • Character design: I learned that each, tiny detail can be used to communicate a various message to the audience. For example, using pointy features to indicate an evil magician. Moreover, this also applied to the surroundings in the scene. Instead of using fluffy trees, we created dark, thin trees to create the darker mood.
  • Materials: I learned that for shadow-puppet, we were not limited to card only. We used plastic bags to create a more ghost-like effect for the monster.
  • Movement: I learned that not only could we move sideways across the stage, we could move the puppets away from the screen slowly to create a nice fade. From watching other team’s videos, I also learned that we could use camera movement to create a more realistic movement, or alternatively, we could make the background move. However, it was highlighted that we should ensure that the movement makes sense e.g. if the background is suggesting movement, one of the trees should not be still, as this may confuse the audience.
    Monster in action moving across the stage.

    Monster fading from the screen as we move the puppet backwards
  • Pace: We learned the importance of pace and movement in this workshop. As the magician was creating magic, it would have been better to have the magic appear at a faster pace, as this would make it more obvious to the audience that he was creating magic. A faster pace for such actions may also be more gripping and enjoyable for the audience to watch.
  • Sound: I learned that we could experiment with different sounds, ranging from singing using our voices to tapping our fingers on a wooden table. The sound level could also be adjusted to create a more dramatic scene. For example, instead of producing loud noises throughout the entire scene, it may have been more effective to create softer sounds in anticipating scenes, and build those sounds up in more dramatic scenes, e.g. when the monster was eating the magician.
  • Teamwork: It was great to listen to each member’s own creative ideas and merge them in order to create the most effective and interesting scene in the time given.

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