Here you'll find the answers to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and a collection of tips for using our digital puppets successfully in your attraction.
While the puppets allow you to record performances, a live performance by a puppeteer, which interacts directly with your visitors, is going to be far more memorable and engaging than a canned animation. When kids realize that the creature is talking directly to them, that's when the magic kicks in, so if you can spare someone in your haunt to act as a puppeteer, do so.
The charm of these puppets is heavily influenced by the charm of your puppeteer. Find the right person to drive your puppets and it will be a success. Get someone who is good with your target age group, particularly if you expect young kids.
It's also important to get someone with a voice that matches the puppet. Don't use one of those voice-changers that you can buy around Halloween; they typically distort your voice so much that your visitors can't tell what you are saying. Just practice and rely on good voice acting if you can; it's more believable, and it's more understandable.
Almost everyone wants to use the microphone feature, because they think it will be easy. This will not get you the best results.
The microphone reacts only to the input volume. It cannot distinguish sounds which are made with your mouth closed ("mmmm"), cannot distinguish sounds made by your puppeteer and sounds made by your visitors or other nearby sound effects, and cannot react with the same fidelity that a human can.
Furthermore, it locks your puppeteer into a given sound volume. Whispers will not move the mouth, and shouting will just peg the mouth open. And as your puppeteer gets tired over the evening, or the ambient noise rises as you get more visitors, the microphone calibration can get out of whack from the level of sound you intend. And if some mischievous kids discover they can make loud noises to cause your puppet to move, the illusion is broken.
A much better approach is to just control the mouth manually. It doesn't take much practice to get proficient with the controls, and your results will be much more believable and smooth. Seriously, don't use the microphone feature.
"So why do you even have that feature?" you ask. First, lots and lots of people asked for it. Second, it's useful when you can tightly control the sound input (such as if you are using some other sound source piped into your computer's in-jack from a prop or something). It's also good if you want to let toddlers use the puppet.
We strongly recommend you don't just stick a computer monitor out on a table. That doesn't yield any magic at all.
If you have the time and capability, build something to hide the computer monitor. This can be as simple as a painted cardboard box or as complex as a frontage for your house.
One cool trick is to hide the computer monitor with a "scrim," which is a piece of black fabric which is opaque when light is pointing towards it, but is transparent when light is coming from behind it. If you place a digital puppet's screen up against a scrim, you get a field of black where the puppet "hovers" in place. (Trust us, it looks really cool.) To find the right fabric, just take a handheld device with a lit screen like an iPhone to the fabric store and just hold it behind different weights of black fabric until you find one that works well. You're looking for a fabric that lets you clearly see the lit image through the fabric, but which hides anything not lit as much as possible.
For more suggestions on facade building, see the other effects pages.
IMPORTANT: Be safe when you build a facade. Don't cover up air vents on the monitor or your computer, make sure it is supervised at all times, and use common sense when building your facade. You want your horrors to be fun, not real.
Our digital puppets run at 800x600 (or, for Mirror, 640x480). You should set your screen resolution to be as close to that as possible without going smaller. This is usually done in your computer's system preferences.
The puppets which are taller than they are wide have the option to switch between Portrait and Landscape modes. By displaying the puppet sideways, you can turn your monitor on its side for a larger display. (If you do this, make sure you aren't blocking heat vents!)
Also, if you have a larger television than computer monitor, you might want to look into adapter cables which will let you display your computer's video output on the larger television screen. Similarly, an LCD projector can display your puppet very large.
The demo version of each puppet is fully featured, so you can test out every single feature you might want. The only difference between the demo and the registered version is the watermark displayed over the puppet. When you enter your license key into the demo version, it becomes a registered version. It will no longer prompt you for a key, and it will no longer show the watermark. That's it. There are no hidden features you have to unlock - everything the puppet can do is available to you in the demo version!
Also, please do not wait until Halloween to register. Since we run our own haunt, we simply don't have time to respond to emails on the few days leading up to "the big night". We're far more likely to be able to help with any registration issues you might have if you register a week or two before Halloween - the sooner the better. (If you're a home haunter, you understand why this is - we're up to our elbows in plastic skeletons and black paint!)
It's true that all sales are final. We're not trying to be jerks about it, though. Because these puppets are often used as "one-shot" attractions for parties and other events, and because once we give you the key, you can always use the puppet, we cannot offer refunds. Sorry.
However, we do provide a fully-featured demo version of every puppet so you can be absolutely sure it will do what you want and that it will work on your target machine before you register. We feel this is a better approach anyway, because it means you know exactly what you are buying.
Because of this, we strongly recommend you heavily test the demo in your target environment (on the same computer you intend to use in your haunt, on the same operating system, with the same monitor, etc.) before you register. That way, if there's something that would prevent you from using our puppet, you won't lose the registration cost.
Our puppets which allow you to record a performance tie your performance to a sound file. If you don't provide them with a sound file to record your performance against, you will stop recording as soon as you start. Make sure you give it a standard audio file format, like .mp3 or .wav, that your file really is in that format (and not just named .mp3), that your file's permissions are set so that the puppet can read it, and that you have given it the proper location of the file. If you don't hear your sound file playing when you start recording, then something is preventing the puppet from accessing your sound file.
Our puppets do not provide this feature. However, you should be able to use Snapz Pro X on Mac or a similar utility on Windows to capture the screen video for later use in a video editing application.
This is probably due to a problem extracting the ZIP file. In order to run properly, there needs to be a folder called "Xtras" in the same location as the puppet application. The asFFT.x32 file needs to be in the Xtras folder. If the asFFT.x32 file is not in the Xtras folder, or the Xtras folder is not in the same folder as the application, or if permissions are set so that the puppet cannot read out of the Xtras folder, then the puppet will fail to run.
First, try reinstalling the puppet. This solves 90% of the issues. You can download the latest demo version from the product pages, and unlock it with your serial number after it launches. This is especially true if you are not running the current version of the puppet!
If that doesn't work, check the permissions and make sure that the application can access any data files (on Windows) in the same folder.
If you are running Mountain Lion or Lion on a Mac, you may have to go into your System Preferences, select the "Security and Privacy" panel, and set the "Allow applications downloaded from" and select the "Anywhere" option. (It is a good idea to set this back to its original value after you are done using the puppet.)