Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ping Pong Ball Eyes: A 10 Minute Tutorial

Here's a quick project I've been meaning to do for a long time. I made two pairs for a "mock audition" I just did at school after getting a "mock call back" for Paul in Carnival the musical. You may or may not be familiar with this method of training, but it can really be great for improving different puppetry techniques.  This is how the beginner workshops were taught when I started learning how to puppeteer in Disney World.  

First, you start off with a couple of ping pong balls.  I had a few sitting in among the box o' eyes, but haven't ever used them for a puppet.  Grab two ping pong balls and make sure the logo is facing the back.  Check for the darker line of white where the two sides have been fused together. Drilling into the line will give your eyes a cleaner look around the edges.  It also turned out that the logo was only on one hemisphere. (You can always scratch off the logo. To do this, use a razor blade... very carefully) Take a Dremel or a drill and go ahead and make two holes on the line. The first will be where the ping pong balls will meet when touching side to side. (see the last picture)  Follow the line down, and just slightly over a quarter of the way around make the second hole (see the small bit of elastic between the pointer and middle finger). This will make more sense in a moment.

With a piece of wire, make a hook at the end that is narrow enough to go in to the hole and come back out without getting stuck. Feed through a bit of elastic. I'm sure that string or yarn will do the trick too, but I like the snug fit of the elastic best.

Once the elastic has been fed into one of the holes, you may find it hard to get back out the next. Have no fear. This is why we made the hook! Stick the hook in and find your way around a center point in the elastic.  It's a good idea to feed in 3 inches or so. Once you pull it out, and have figured out which eye you'd like that one to be, match up the holes (the ones that meet in the center of the insides of the eyes) and repeat the pulling through action again with the same piece of elastic.

Once you've got extra elastic sticking out the bottom of the eyes, tie them around the middle and ring finger on your puppeteering hand of choice. Now give him (or her) a couple of pupils.  You can use anything from Sharpie to craft eyes.   Important to note: the bigger the pupils, the easier it is to learn how to focus with your puppet.  And... important for good focus is the placement of the pupils.  Aim them slightly towards where the nose would be so that they seem to point towards the same object.  Feel free to give him (or her) some hair or eye lashes.  

Now for the fun part:  Crank up some music and "lip sync" to your favorite tunes in front of the bathroom mirror.

Warning: I did this one night at three in the morning for about 40 minutes (one on each hand) and I was SO SORE the next day. It was great!

Let me know if any of this is unclear.  

Toby work is nearing an end!  Look for the finished product very soon...