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Digital Decorating 101: Window Projections

October 05, 2015 | Posted in How-to


When it comes to holiday decorating, window projections are one of the coolest ways to show off your digital decorations. The reason is simple: they’re incredibly easy to set up and because they’re so eye-catching, they’re always a big hit with neighbors, trick-or-treaters, or anyone else who happens to see them.

In our last article, we gave you tips on how to pick the perfect projector for digital decorating. Today, we’ll take things a step further and show you how you can use your projector to transform any window into a jaw-dropping digital display for Halloween.

Add Halloween-themed fabric to any window projection for an extra-spooky effect, like this one featuring a scene from Night Stalkers.

Picking the right window

This goes without saying, but the window you choose should be visible from the sidewalk, street, or wherever people pass by. Don’t always assume the largest window is the best – select a window that will have the greatest impact. And, for added effect, choose ones that can be approached by visitors. You’ll be surprised by how many people will want to see your decorations up close!

Projecting singing pumpkins from Jack-O’-Lantern Jamboree onto your front porch windows is a great way to get up-close-and-personal with your trick-or-treaters.

Glass doors (or doors with windows) are also great ways to display digital scenes – especially if you’re planning to sit on your porch to wait for trick-or-treaters! Many of our decorations look amazing when projected as life-sized vertical images. Try flipping your projector on its side* to make the most out of those taller spaces.

‘Beckoning Beauty’ from Ghostly Apparitions is a great effect to display in vertical spaces.

If you happen to have a house with unusually shaped windows, don’t let them go to waste! For example, bay windows are especially good for displaying digital decorations. By stretching a wide sheet of window projection material across the full width of your window and attaching it to the window’s inside frame, you’ll be able to create a nice flat screen that’s perfect for decorations like the ballroom scene from Bone Chillers ‘Dancing Dead’.

When it comes to window projections, there are no rules – if it’s got glass or plastic (or space where glass or plastic could be) and you’ve got the room to point your projector at it, you can project onto it! And we’re not kidding – we’ve even seen people set up short-throw projectors inside of their (completely dry) showers and use our decorations to scare the pants off of party guests. If you can think of a window that would make a great space for a scare, get creative!

Picking a projection material

It seems obvious, but to display onto a window, you have to use a piece of material to capture the light you are projecting. After all, if you were to project directly onto clear glass, the light would pass right through. The trick is to find something that captures your projection while still allowing enough of the image to pass through on the other side.

Essentially, you want a material that is semi-translucent to act as a screen on your window. This allows you to keep your projector safely inside while everyone on the outside can marvel at the mysterious goings-on inside your home or business.

Scenes from Ghostly Apparitions projected into windows.

While there are many materials out there that work great for projecting, we offer two different AtmosFX-tested-and-approved options that have been designed specifically for digital decorating.

AtmosGEAR Window Projection Material

If you’re looking for a reusable material that’s easy to set up, easy to remove, and great for windows of all shapes and sizes, our AtmosGEAR Window Projection Material will be a great choice for you.

New for this year, this material is designed to be inexpensive – $19.99 in the AtmosFX Store ­– and durable for years of use. Since it’s a semi-translucent sheet of nylon, it does not adhere directly to your window by static cling – it’s light enough tape directly onto your window, or you can tack it to your window frame.

At 4’ x 6’, this material is perfect for large windows. It’s also easy to cut for smaller windows, yet durable enough to be folded-up until the next time you want to use it, say, for Christmas or New Year’s.

See how we used AtmosGEAR Window Projection Material and Phantasms to create an amazing window projection display.

AtmosGEAR Premium Window Projection Material

Perfect for precise, highly-detailed HD displays, our AtmosGEAR Premium Window Projection Material provides you with a professional-level projection material that’s designed to capture even the finest of detail.

Available in in the AtmosFX.com Store for $39.99, this special projection material is a 3’ x 5’ piece of film that adheres directly to your window by static cling. Over the years, it’s been a favorite of AtmosFX fans who want precision where they showcase their digital decorations. It’s highly customizable, and able to be cut to fit even the most unusual-sized windows.

So, which projection material is best for you? The type of projection material you’ll want to use can vary based on the type of effect you’d like to create.

If you’re looking to display shadowy characters in your window, loosely hanging a piece of AtmosGEAR Window Projection Material will provide the realistic-looking illusion of people (or creatures) wandering around inside your house.

Lightly-draped AtmosGEAR Window Projection Material creates a fantastic display for this shadowy scene from Tricks and Treats

If you’re planning to display full-color characters or highly-detailed scenes in your window, you’ll want to make sure that the material you project onto is as flat and wrinkle-free as possible. The more your “screen” is flat, the more realistic the illusion will be. For high-impact color and displays where exact material placement is important, our AtmosFX Premium Projection Material works great.

Both types of projection material work great for digital decorations, so regardless of which one you choose, they’ll both do a great job turning your window into an unforgettable digital display.

Window projection tips

Now that you have your windows picked out and your projection materials ready to go, here are some final tips to help you create the perfect window display.

Pay attention to ambient light

Your projector uses light to display images, so it’s important to pay attention to how much external light will be present when you’re setting up your digital decorations – especially if your projector has a lower lumen count. While it’s often impossible to make things completely dark, as a rule of thumb, the darker you can make your environment, the better.

If there’s a lot of exterior light shining on or near your window, you’ll want to turn it off. Try replacing your porch light with a darker, Halloween-colored bulb for the night (reds and oranges work great for this purpose), and use a spooky lamp on an outside porch table to give you extra ambient brightness if needed. If you need to keep some lights on inside your house, pull any blinds that are near the window you’re displaying onto. You can also hang a dark sheet or blackout curtains in key locations to block out light that may interfere with your projector. For example, if you’re running your projector in your dining room but need to keep your living room lights on, try hanging a curtain in the door or archway between the two rooms to block the light.

Use Zombie Invasion! to bring the horde to any window.

Finding the right angle

When projecting onto windows, you’ll want to pay special attention to the location of your projector. Or, more specifically, your projector’s beam. If you point your projector directly at a window, your viewers may be able to see the bright beam of light coming from the machine. In the world of projecting, this is called “hot spotting”, and it can provide a less-than-desirable effect that can spoil your illusion.

If you run into this issue, take a look at your projected image from the vantage point of your viewers and think about how you can adjust the position of your projector to hide its light beam. Instead of placing your projector on a surface that’s level with your window’s frame, try resting it on a low table and pointing it up toward the window. Or, depending on the setup of your room and furniture, you can also position the projector higher and angle the beam down or place it off to the side and angle it toward your window. Since your image is now being projected onto your surface at an angle, it may look like a distorted trapezoid. However, many projectors have a feature called “keystone correction” that will allow you to correct this. By adjusting the keystoning on your projector, you’ll be able to adjust the proportion of your image, allowing it to display properly even when not pointed directly at your surface.

Skeletons from Bone Chillers haunt an upstairs window.

As you can see, using your windows for digital decorations is one of the easiest ways to transform your home into a memorable, eye-catching Halloween experience for your trick-or-treaters, neighbors, and party guests. Now, go pick your perfect window, get creative, and prepare to scare!

Have you used your windows to display our digital decorations in a cool way? We’d love to see what you did! Post a link to your photos or videos in the comments below, or send them to us at community@atmosfx.com.

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* When rotating your projector onto its side, be sure to check that its cooling system can handle operating on its side without damaging it! If all of its vents are on the side, make sure that it’s propped up on a surface that’s secure but still allows airflow.

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