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Digital Decorating 101: Surface Projections

October 07, 2015 | Posted in How-to


In our last Digital Decorating 101 guide, we showed you how to use your projector to create eye-catching Halloween displays in your windows. Today, we’ll cover another popular way to display our digital decorations – projecting them directly onto walls, floors, props, and other solid surfaces!

Projecting rats from Creepy Crawlies 2 onto your baseboards will create a startlingly realistic effect for your guests.

Projecting onto walls

When it comes to solid surface projecting, using your wall is about as easy as it gets. Since walls are generally flat and often have a lot of open space, they make a perfect canvas for projection effects. While you can great results by projecting digital decorations directly onto your wall, here are a few ideas that will help you take your displays to the next level.

Light surfaces are better for projecting

When you’re thinking about which wall you’d like to project onto, keep in mind that lighter colors work best for displaying images – especially ones that that have a lot of colors and details. So, if you have a choice between using a light-colored wall and one that’s a darker color, try the light one first.

'Head of the House' from Ghostly Apparitions materializes from a wall.

Creating a haunted gallery

Even if all of your walls are dark, with a little creativity, you can still create awesome illusions! One of our favorite wall displays is the haunted portrait gallery, which looks especially cool on dark or patterned surfaces. All you need for this effect is your projector, a copy of UnLiving Portraits, and a large picture frame.

For extra decorating flexibility, each of the portraits from UnLiving Portraits have both horizontal and vertical display modes.

To get started, remove the glass or plastic from your frame to eliminate glare, then line the inside with a piece of thick white paper or poster board. Hang the frame on your wall, point your projector at the middle of the white space, and adjust its positioning so the image fills the inside of the frame.

Since it’s likely that people will want to walk up and view your new gallery up close, you’ll want to make sure that they’re not spoiling the illusion by standing in front of your projector’s light beam. If you’d like to point your projector straight at your wall, try setting it on a tall piece of furniture and angling the beam down. Or, you can place it off to the side on a shelf and angle it toward your frame. Since your image is now being projected onto the wall 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.

Depending on the amount of space you have to play with and how creative you’d like to get with your decorating, there are many different ways you can configure a gallery display.

If you have a large wall, consider setting up three frames and using one of UnLiving Portraits’s “trio” effects, which allows you to project three different portraits at the same time. The extra cool thing about our portrait trios? The paintings actually interact with each other! Your guests will love watching characters leave their frame and invade other character's frames...for sinister purposes.

A trio of portraits from Unliving  Portraits displayed in a set of store-bought frames.

If you can’t find the perfect sized frame for your display, building one is easy! Pick up some inexpensive wall trim or window molding from your local hardware store and cut it to size. Once you’ve built the frame, you can customize it to fit the look you’re going for by distressing it with paint or wood stain to create an antique portrait look. When you’re done, attach your paper or poster board to the back, add a simple picture hanger, and voilà – you’ve got a custom frame that will be perfect for your display!

Create your own frame by cutting molding to size and staining it to fit your decor.

If you’d like to create your own gallery but don’t have the time to buy or build a frame, don’t worry – all of the portraits on UnLiving Portraits also come with a framed mode. By selecting this option, your decoration will be projected inside of a digital frame. Just cut your paper or poster board to size, attach it to your wall, and you’ll be ready to go!

Decorating over everyday decor

If you don’t have a full wall to dedicate to decorating (or if you don’t want to take your family pictures down for Halloween), you can still use digital decorations to create fantastically spooky displays. As an easy example, try projecting one of the scenes from Shades of Evil onto your wall in “lightning mode”. This mode uses periodic flashes of light to simulate the effects of a storm taking place outside, which creates a shadowy illusion that’s perfect for displaying over any surface.

Shades of Evil's lightning mode creates a spectacularly creepy illusion that's great for projecting onto occupied surfaces.

Or, for an extra creepy effect, use Creepy Crawlies 2 to project spiders or roaches onto your wall. It will give the illusion that your walls (and wall decorations) are infested with a swarm of arthropods.

Put your characters in the corner

If you’re displaying a digital decoration that features a character like a skeleton or ghost, try projecting it into a corner. This creates a really cool optical illusion that makes the character seem almost three-dimensional.

Projecting a specter from Ghostly Apparitions into a corner will create a realistic 3D effect.

Projecting onto floors and ceilings

Don’t forget that floors and ceilings make great projection surfaces, too! Try taking your guests by surprise with a ghost that materializes over their heads or a horde of zombies that comes clawing through the ceiling.

Project 'Plaster Disaster' from Zombie Invasion! onto your ceiling and enjoy your guests's reactions.

Or, for added scares, light the path to your bathroom by projecting spiders or roaches on your hallway floor. You’ll love watching your guests jumping around trying to avoid the swarm.

Crawling spiders from Creepy Crawlies 2 will send your friends screaming.

Projecting onto props

When it comes to surface projections, you’re not limited to walls, floors, and ceilings – with a little creativity, you can project eye-catching effects onto ANYTHING solid! Standard, store-bought Halloween decorations are especially great for this purpose. By using your projector, you’ll be able to transform ordinary static props into an extraordinary full-motion displays.

Singing pumpkins

If you want to create a memorable experience for your trick-or-treaters, setting up a singing pumpkin trio is a great way to leave a lasting impression. All you need is your projector, a copy of Jack-O’-Lantern Jamboree, and three pumpkins (both real and artificial ones work great, but if you’re planning to display this effect outside, be sure to attach artificial pumpkins to their surface with sticky tape so they don’t tip over in the wind).

See how we created our singing pumpkin trio using real pumpkins and a scene from Jack-O'-Lantern Jamboree.

Infested tombstones

For haunted graveyard displays, projecting spiders or cockroaches from Creepy Crawlies 2 directly onto tombstone props will provide you with an amazingly realistic effect. And, as an added bonus, the light from your projector will illuminate your headstones, allowing them to be seen at night. To preserve the illusion and keep your guests guessing, be sure to place an extra tombstone behind your projector so it’s hidden from view.

Spiders from Creepy Crawlies 2 make a great addition to any tombstone prop.

Using our 3DFX Form

You may have noticed that there’s a new display mode available for our two newest digital decorations, Witching Hour and Phantasms. This new mode is called 3DFX Mode, and was designed with our new AtmosGEAR 3DFX Form in mind. The form is an easy-to-assemble frame that’s about the size and shape of a life-size mannequin. When covered with the included fabric, it creates a shroud that’s the perfect size and shape for creating a life-like digital character. When any 3DFX Mode effect is projected onto its surface, the form springs to life.

Freak out your party guests by projecting a specter from Phantasms onto an AtmosGEAR 3DFX Form.

We’ll be talking more about how to set up and use this form in another Digital Decorating 101 guide later this week, so stay tuned for more details!

Surface projection tips

Now that we’ve given you some decorating ideas, here are a few final pieces of advice we’d like to share.

Get creative with your placement

When you’re creating realistic illusions, creative projector placement can make all the difference. If you’re decorating inside for a party, think about where your guests will be walking, and make sure that your projector is set up in a place that won’t have constant traffic in front of its light beam. Strategically placing your projector on a tall bookcase and angling the beam down at your wall or setting it up on the side of your room and angling it toward your wall will prevent your friends from interrupting your image (and getting blasted in the face with bright light in the process).

Hide those projectors

As another tip, always try to keep your guests guessing by hiding your projector from view – if they’re not sure how you’re creating your effect, the result will be even more magical. A strategically placed Halloween decoration positioned behind or to the side of your equipment will do wonders for improving your illusion.

Have you created any cool displays by projecting our digital decorations onto surfaces or props? 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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