A straight scan monitor has the normal television picture seen by the TV viewer as well as the Director and Studio floor.
This is the picture used by the Muppets, Bear in the Big Blue House and The Book of Pooh.
All animation and cartoon character creators too.
You can read normal writing on it!
Reverse scan monitor
A reverse scan monitor has had it's signal switched and the image on it is reversed, back to front to create a mirror image.
This is done solely to make it easier to puppeteer for television.
Normal writing appears backwards on it!
A staggeringly talented puppeteer himself Frank Oz, creator of Miss Piggy, Fuzzy Bear etc. always of course puppeteered straight scan.
But my role on the film was mostly to perform the 'Pole Arm' from behind the largest of the Audrey II puppets which moved the entire puppet in all directions and so the position of the camera for me could have the effect of switching the monitors from straight scan to reverse scan.
Much in the same way that a straight scan puppeteer looking at a straight scan monitor behind him has it switched to reverse scan.
If this seems complicated now it was, like many things, completely beyond my comprehension at the time I worked on the 'Little Shop of Horrors' film and I can only thank Frank for using his insight and experience to help me out.
When (1985) I subsequently auditioned for 'The Jim Henson Television workshop' straight scan monitors were compulsory and any mention of 'reverse scan' would get very short shrift!
Kevin Clash and Brian Henson taught the course workshop totally straight scan and all my subsequent private puppeteering couching with Brian Henson was all straight scan.
Like sparing partners we met up regularly for years to practice our puppeteering, me to learn how to do it and Brian to have a punch bag! No just kidding, Brian even then was Directing and he simply enjoyed helping me out and keeping his own puppeteering hand in.
When I got my own show 'Hotdog' with Thames TV. (1987) I mostly worked with puppeteers David Barclay ( straight scan ) and Nigel Plaskitt (reverse scan )
Thames TV had converted some old black and white monitors to reverse scan, as they had found on other Puppet TV productions, using the then predominantly 'Puppet Children's Theatre' puppeteers, that these 'Puppet Children's Theatre' puppeteers found this way of working a lot easier when working on a television programme.
Also the Puppet Children's Theatre puppeteers were used to looking up at their puppets rather than seeing an audience 'Point Of View' and with a reverse scan monitor in front of them, right and left were still right and left, to them at least. (a reverse scan monitor in front of you giving a mirror image)
So on the Hotdog TV Series I had in front of me Dave Barclay 's lovely bright straight scan colour monitors, which my eye was continually drawn to and Nigel Plaskitt 's black and white reverse scan monitors which the struggling novice puppeteer in me was drawn to because it really did make all this hard puppeteering stuff a lot easier.
On Nigel Plaskitt 's reverse scan monitors I could practice lots of puppet moves without going the wrong way, clean up all my animation expressions, reactions etc. and prop handling was a comparative doddle!
It's a no brainer!
I was now working reverse scan.
OK So I was working to a different picture to the Director but only some minor confusion over Camera left or Camera right seemed to arise. All was great!
Season after Series my puppeteering was getting more accurate and better and I began to struggle less and less with puppeteering techniques.
I was really building up my library of expressions/actions to increase the believability of my puppet character, reverse scan was the future!
To this day I have no idea what the ever generous straight scan puppeteer Dave Barclay thought.
Then one day I was watching my Hotdog Series go to air, watching closely my puppeteering technique and of course it was going out straight scan.
I hadn't seen it straight scan before and not while making the Series.
No time for playbacks, no post editing and we edit tech'ed so if anything went wrong we had to do the whole thing again from the top, but it struck me watching the programme that something was very wrong with my Puppet character Hotdog?
My stuff just seemed slightly odd, unbelievable.........fake ?
I couldn't believe it?
Here I was years on from my practice tape days with Brian Henson, with a whole new armoury of puppeteering skills, ploys and clean animation expressions, my own TV Series too!
Yet my 'Hotdog' stuff seemed less 'believable' than my old practice tape puppet stuff with Brian Henson way back when.
"It might be something to do with the way your balancing the frame when your performing using a reverse scan monitor"
(like looking at a painting in a mirror.)
Or maybe you just can't get into the puppet reverse scan.
The Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and all the great puppeteers, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, all those guys (and Karen Prell) work straight scan why don't you?'
Good point Dave!
So I worked my way back to working straight scan and I won't say it was easy, because it wasn't.
But my characters did get better and at least now I believed them and whatever that strange alienation effect was? It had gone!
Now I'm happy to work straight scan giving myself the best chance of creating a believable puppet character possible and when I think of it.
Apart from it simply not making any sense to be creating a Television Programme using a different picture to the Director, everybody else involved in the process and the eventual TV viewer.
I can't think of a single believable puppet character ever created on a reverse scan monitor?
Or even a famously successful one here in the UK except for Roland Rat and he wore sunglasses?
Kevin Carlson, Drew Massey, Tom Fountain etc.
Should there ever be a very successful Puppet character performed by a puppeteer on a reverse scan monitor....
... well I might just reconsider?
Change back again to reverse scan? but until then I'll take the character creating advantage I think puppeteering straight scan gives me and let other Puppeteers work whatever way they want to.
There is no practical reason why puppeteers who work straight scan and reverse scan cannot work on a TV Show in the puppeteering team together. Most monitors nowadays are switchable and puppeteers soon isolate the monitor (usually the one with their script pasted to it) that they will be working with, or the few if dancing about etc.
I myself have worked in several mixed monitor teams quite happily.
Monitors are plentiful, cheap and pretty compact and portable nowadays so there's no need even to have to share one.
I have my own switchable LCD's and individual chest monitors too.