A visual effect created during videotaping or filming. Digital compositing, also called Chroma key compositing, consists of capturing and trimming the image of a puppet and placing it in another setting. This technique is the same as [black theatre] puppetry but the puppet is filmed in a studio in front of a single colour backdrop “green screen” (or “blue”), a colour that seems to have taken precedence, the most important element being that the colour must be calibrated and primary. The puppeteers’ outfits, masks and gloves as well as the [manipulation] devices, cuffs or stems for example must also be of the same colour as the backdrop. A “visual effects artist” deletes that colour from the image thus leaving only the puppet. Care must be taken not to use the same colour on the puppet or else holes will appear in its image. The cutout of the figure is then inserted into another video image. This image can be from a set where other puppets or actors are performing live; from a model – which avoids the construction of a set on the same scale as the puppet – from a drawing; an analogue film shot beforehand; a slide or from a virtual image. A possible technical problem is a “cutout” look, which is why the lighting must be finely tuned and without shadows.
In 1964, Jean-Christophe Averty was one of the first to use special effects in France in his [television] [variety] show for ORTF (Office Radio Television Française), Les Raisins verts (The Green Raisins). He is also the director of a famous digital rendition of [Alfred Jarry]’s Ubu roi (King [Ubu]). During the 1970s, the director Boussaguet, Marcel Violette and Dominique Houdart experimented with a special effects machine invented by the engineer Dupouy.
The essential requirement in the creation of this kind of puppet is to use the same primary colour for the backdrop and all visible handling elements. The manipulation can be made from on a [tabletop], or hand held, or done from above with gloves, wires or rods (as long as these are painted the same colour as the backdrop in order to disappear with the special effect). However, manipulation from behind is the most practical even though it requires much rehearsing.
In Marcel Violette’s and Dominique Houdart’s Voyage au pays de la marionnette (Voyage to Puppet Land), two hosts, Chauffelacolle, a kind of Gepetto was manipulated by three puppeteers, and Chilpéric, a bird jester required two – one puppeteer in charge of flapping the bird Chilpéric’s wings and the other manipulating the bird’s body.
The great advantage of digital compositing is the freedom to create infinite combinations in manipulation, even if the backdrop colour is often limiting and the synchronization of movements is sometimes painstaking.
(See [Cinema /Film], [Television].)