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Updated on June 18, 2012

Introduction :

Younger generation now has got used to jazzy entertainment which is very much hi-tech and expensive.  Luxurious life has become a common sight in almost all places of the world. The old ways of people's entertainment is now pushed aside by the modern lifestyle. There is an urgent need to go deeper and peek into the past ways of entertainment which were neither too expensive nor strenuous. Like the culture even these ancient entertaining art forms should be preserved. Puppetry is one of them.

The art of puppetry is still alive in many parts of the world. It is one of the most ancient form of art. It originated about 30,000 years ago. Puppets have been used by people since the earliest times to show through animating and thus communicating ideas and needs of human societies. A few historians also claim that they pre-date actors in theatre. Puppetry existed in Egypt during 2000 B.C when string-operated figures of wood were manipulated to perform the action of kneading bread. There were wire controlled, articulated puppets made of clay and ivory which have been found in Egyptian tombs. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs describe the 'walking statues' used in religious dramas. The written records dating around 422 B.C has records of Xenophon showing the oldest puppetry entertainment of those times.

Puppets have long been a favorite with kids. They are handmade dolls of cloth that represent various objects like people, animals or objects. They are made to look like those objects being represented. This type of toys are movable in all respects. For instance as for the puppet of a man, the hands, legs, often eyes and head are movable. These movements are made using threads, sticks or by wearing the puppet directly on the hand. The people who conduct these movable objects are called puppeteers. Puppeteers generally make the puppets move like a real character. One or more puppeteers synchronize and make them perform on a song or story. This is called puppetry.

In puppetry, there are various kinds of movable toys involved. It’s just like a theater play where various puppet characters play different roles and the voices are given by artists or even the puppeteer at times.

Traditionally, India has a rich heritage of puppetry. The history of puppetry in India dates back to around the 5th century B.C.  Indian puppet shows, during the ancient times mostly dealt with the histories of famous kings, princes, heroes and also political satire. With shadow puppets, the stories reflected religious portrayals from Ramayan and Mahabharatha, developed in Southern India. Moral stories from Panchatantra, mythology and other historical epics followed those religious themes in Indian puppet shows.


A leather puppet
A leather puppet

Leather puppetry

Leather puppet creation originated from Nimmalakunta, a small village in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. It was one of the major entertainments before the advent of television. Even though it has lost much of its importance as a top entertainer in the public shows, it still exists as a part of the cultural activity. They are referred to as Tholu Bommalata in this region.

Raw material mainly used for making leather puppets is either the skin of goats or sheep. Leather Puppet Society to supplies the craftsmen with the necessary leather for making these leather puppets. An intensive process of cleaning is taken up for the skins adopted for this purpose.

Indian epics - Ramayana and Mahabharatha based stories are mainly taken up for these puppet shows. Holes are made on the leather puppets and a resized bamboo sticks are attached to them so that they remain stiff and straight. To facilitate easy movements of joints of these puppets and to control their movements, they are tied with strings.



Puppetry in Rajasthan



The technological advancements in many fields give rise to new forms of entertaining techniques. One such entertainer is the Digital Puppetry. Digitally animated 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional objects and characters. They are well manipulated and performance is seen in virtual environment. They are then rendered in real-time by computers. They are most commonly used for movie and TV program production, but now they are also been introduced in interactive theme park attractions and live theatre.

Digital puppetry actually is different from the conventional computer animation. Characters perform in real time and are not animated frame by frame.

The digital form of puppetry is very much like motion capture technologies and 3D animation. It includes sub-categories such as Performance Animation, Living Animation, Real time or Live animation. Machinima is also a kind of digital puppetry and the performers of Machinima are mostly being identified as puppeteers.




Waldo puppetry – In a Waldo puppetry, using the telemetric device, puppeteer controls a digital puppet on screen. Digital puppet moves corresponding to the input of the X-Y-Z axis movement. In the place of telemetric control, a keyboard, joystick or mouse like device is used. Waldo, the name comes from a science fiction novel written by Robert Heinlein, "Waldo: Genius in Orbit."

Motion capture or the Mocap puppetry - Human body or an object such as puppet is used as a physical representation of a digital puppet and manipulated by a puppeteer. Sometimes, devices that emit light or that which give away the radio signals are attached to strategic points on the actor's body. The performer's body movements are matched correspondingly to the digital puppet in real-time. It is indeed an intricate style of manipulation. Any exaggerated or rapid movement of body parts, makes the digital puppet move in unrealistic ways. Arms may pass through the body. As with a marionette, this is a very exacting way to perform a puppet.

Puppet is referred to as a Digital Monkey when a bunraku-syle puppet gets recorded, similarly.

Machinima – Production technique used to perform digital puppets.

It involves in it, creation of CGI (computer-generated imagery) using low-end 3D engines in video games. It is also a way of film creation within real-time, 3D virtual environment, often using 3D video-game technologies. Within a game, the players act out scenes in real-time using characters and settings. Then finally, the footage is recorded and later edited in to a finished film.

It can be also called as a technique of converging the filmmaking, animation and game development. It is a real-world filmmaking technique applied within an interactive virtual space. The characters and events are either controlled by humans, scripts or by an artificial intelligence.

With a huge amount of creative control, Machinima makes a very cost- and time-efficient way to produce films.

Ways of producing Machinima

It may be a script-driven technique, whereas the cameras, characters, the effects etc. are scripted for playback in real-time. Like in animation, the scripting is driven by events rather than the keyframes. 

It may also be recorded in real-time within a virtual environment, much like the filmmaking  technique Much of the game-specific Machinima portions are produced in this way.

Both these approaches have positives as well as negatives in them. But both are Machinima production techniques.

funny puppetry

dance with puppets

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