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Digital Decorating 101: 3DFX Projections

October 09, 2015 | Posted in How-to


So far in our Digital Decorating 101 series, we’ve covered everything from picking the perfect projector for digital decorating to how to pull off amazing TV, window, and surface displays. Today, we’ll show you how you can take prop projections one step further by creating life-like digital characters using 3DFX Prop Mode effects and our AtmosGEAR 3DFX Form.

New for 2015 – 3DFX Prop Mode

You may have already noticed that we’ve introduced a brand-new way to display effects from our newest digital decoration collections, Witching Hour and Phantasms. Called 3DFX Prop mode, this unique display mode was designed to be projected directly onto physical full-body forms. Each 3DFX Prop effect features a life-sized character with realistic arm and hand gestures and expressive facial animations, and makes the object they're displayed on spring to life.

While covering any standard mannequin or free-standing dummy with projection material will work great for 3DFX Prop mode displays, we’ve also introduced our own version of a body form, specifically for use with our digital decorations.

The AtmosGEAR 3DFX Form

The AtmosGEAR 3DFX Form is a portable, easy-to-assemble frame that’s about the size and shape of a life-sized person. 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.

If you’ve purchased one of our forms, here are some tips that will help you to get it set up and ready for use in no time.

Setting up your form

Unlike store mannequins, the AtmosGEAR 3DFX Form is designed to be light-weight for easy transport and post-holiday storage. Because it breaks down into small, easy-to-pack pieces, it requires some simple assembly. Don’t worry, though – in five simple steps, you’ll be up and running!

Check out this video to see how we set up our AtmosGEAR 3DFX Form.

Step one: assemble the base

To get started, assemble the base of the form (if you’ve put together a Christmas tree, these pieces will look familiar).

Step two: add the height poles

Once your base is in place, insert the two included poles to give your form its height.

Step three: connect the torso

Next, connect the torso by placing the bottom peg of its frame into the top of your assembled poles.

Step four: attach the limbs

Finally, attach your limbs and face to your torso, securing each with one of the provided cotter pins.

The cool thing about this form is that since the arm and leg pieces are made from flexible metal, they’re able to be slightly bent. This allows you to adjust the shape of your form, so if you’d prefer your body to have wider or narrower shoulders or hips, bend the pieces into place accordingly.

Step five: drape your projection material

Now that your form’s frame is complete, it’s time to add your projection material. Remember that since you’ll only be projecting onto the front of your prop, your material doesn’t have to touch the ground on all sides. Simply drape the fabric over the top of your figure until the bottom is level with the ground in the front, then take the sides of the material and wrap them around the back of the frame.

Once wrapped around the shape, you can secure the material with one of the included cotter pins. Or, if you’re worried about tearing the material or find that your material is too loose when using pins, we’ve found that simple binder clips also work especially great for securing your fabric. They won’t cause tears, and they’re strong enough to grab onto multiple folds at a time.

As a final tip, if you find that your included projection material is wrinkled from being folded up in its package, you can use a basic clothes steamer to smooth out the lines. Just be extra careful to use very low heat to prevent the nylon from melting!

3DFX Prop Display Tips

Once you have your AtmosGEAR 3DFX Form or mannequin set up, it’s time to get projecting! Here are some tips to help you create the perfect display.

Location, location, location

When you’re thinking about where to set up your form, pick a location that will have the maximum impact. Placing it at the end of a hallway or in a doorway to a room that you don’t want people going into is especially creepy.

Since you’ll only be projecting onto the front of the form, you’ll want to preserve your illusion by positioning it in a corner or another location where your guests won’t be able to walk around and see the back.

This apparition from Phantasms will do a great job guarding your fridge at parties.

When you’re planning your location, also think about where you’ll set up your projector. Since 3DFX Prop decorations are designed to cover the exact shape and size of your form, this is one time when you’ll want to position your projector directly in front of your frame for the best results – projecting from the side or from above may cause distortion in the animation. Make sure that your projector can be placed far enough back to fill the entire shape of the body, but still be in a place where your guests won’t trip over it or walk in front of the light beam.

When you have your projector in place, consider how you’ll hide it from view so you can keep your guests guessing. A cleverly-positioned Halloween prop like a tombstone works great for this purpose.

Hiding light halos

Since you’re projecting bright light onto a surface with a defined shape, you may notice a halo around your body form, especially if it’s positioned in front of a wall. While some people may like this effect, if you’re looking for a way to cut back on the glow, creating a simple "diffuser" out of common wooden dowels and a piece of cardboard or thick poster board is an easy way to tame that extra light. When in place, a diffuser will focus the projected image directly onto your form, cutting back on the amount of light that escapes around your projection.

To build your own diffuser, set up your projector and your make sure your projection lines up perfectly with your form. Then, hold your cardboard or paper in front of the beam. Slowly pull the material away from the lens until the image comes into focus, then measure the distance between the paper and your projector.

An example of a diffuser being built for a wall projection. While this image shows a non-3DFX Prop mode effect, you'll follow the same steps for creating one for your 3DFX projection, too.

Attach your dowels directly to your projector or to the table your projector is sitting on, then mount your diffuser.

Mark the edges of your projected image on the paper, and use the shape as a guide for cutting out your matte. 

Now, remove your diffuser, cut out the shape you’ve outlined, and re-attach it to your dowels.

Once in place, check your projection and see how the material has effected your halo. If you still see light, you can either extend your dowels so the diffuser is further away from your lens, or try cutting out a different shape. We found that a slightly oval cutout worked best for us, but you should feel free to experiment to find the perfect shape for your needs.

For more detailed instructions on how to create a diffuser, check out the surface projections video on our Tips & Tricks page.

Full wall displays

If you’re setting up your 3DFX Form in a larger space and are looking for a digital decoration that can cover both the form and the wall behind it, check out ‘Spell #3: Séance’ from Witching Hour. When this scene is projected onto a body form, your guests will be able to see our witch come to life on your form, surrounded by the spirits that she conjures.

The 'Spell #3: Seance' scene from Witching Hour displays both our witch and her summoned spirits.

Currently, Witching Hour and Phantasms are the only digital decorations that include 3DFX Prop mode scenes. However, we’re extremely pleased with the results, and are excited to bring this mode to more decorations in the future.

Have you created any cool displays by projecting our digital decorations onto a mannequin or AtmosGEAR 3DFX Form? 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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