Digital Decorating 101: Creating Holiday Hollusions

This Christmas, there’s sure to be something new under the tree – and anywhere else you want to decorate, too! That’s because we’ve made sure to keep AtmosFX’s innovative Hollusion Projection Material in stock for the winter holidays, which means decorators will now have so many more cool ways to “wow” friends, family and visitors. After all, Hollusions aren’t just for Halloween – they're great for the winter holidays, too!

Whether you’re still in the planning stages of your Christmas display, or if you’re ready-to-go but looking for that little extra something to ensure your decoration display becomes the hit of the neighborhood, we’ve got some decorating tips for you. In this article, we’ll help you create incredible, atmospheric experiences that are sure to “wow” your friends, family and visitors all season long.

In this Digital Decorating 101 article, we’ll show you how you can use your projector to pull off one of our favorite effects – the always-impressive Hollusion!

Hollusions: holographic illusions made easy

Even though this article is about using Hollusions for Christmas decorating, it is important to introduce the topic by describing something more scary: Disney’s Haunted Mansion. If you’ve ever been on that attraction, then you’re probably already familiar with their awesome “holographic” ghosts.

By using a classic theatre technique called a Pepper’s Ghost effect, Disney’s Imagineers were able to create specters that seem to magically materialize out of thin air. While these types of displays are incredibly effective for serious haunt setups, they’re not always practical for everyday decorating.

That’s where our flavor of holographic illusions – the “Hollusion” – really shines. Hollusions create an effect similar to the Pepper’s Ghost effect, but require fewer materials and much less time and effort to set up – all you’ll need is a projector and semi-transparent material. When an AtmosFX Decoration is displayed in “Hollusion Mode” is projected onto the material’s surface, the background will melt away and the digital character will float to a vivid, animated life.

Santa Claus will appear to inhabit a hallway when projected onto Hollusion Projection Material that is hung in the doorway.

While a variety of materials may work for Hollusion displays, for the best results, we recommend using AtmosFX’s Hollusion Projection Material. This particular fabric was designed specifically for Hollusion projections. Its off-grey color helps it blend into dark environments, making it seem almost invisible in low-light conditions. At the same time, it does a great job holding the projected image, showing off as much detail as possible.

To help you get started, here are some of our favorite types of Hollusion displays.

Doorway and archway displays

One of the easiest ways to display Hollusions is by using an existing doorway or archway. These open spaces provide you with a ready-made frame for your projection, and they’re a great way to create the illusion that, for example, a gingerbread family has come to life and is dancing a a merry jig in your front yard!

To get started, choose a doorway or archway that your guests won’t be walking through. Create your projection surface by attaching your sheet of projection material to the non-visible side of the frame with tacks or adhesive tape.

For most displays, you’ll want to pull the fabric tight on all sides to create a flat surface on which to project.

Secure your projection material to the inside of your door or archway.

Once your material is in place, it’s time to set up your projector. While Hollusions can be either rear or front projected, we recommend rear projecting when your display is in a confined space like a short hallway or smaller room. Depending on how bright your projector is and how close your material is to a flat surface like a wall, front-projecting can cause your image to be displayed on both your projection material and the surface behind it, causing a distracting double image.

To hide your projector’s light beam, which can spoil the illusion for your guests if it can be seen through the projection material, try positioning it off to the side so it’s out of sight. If you notice that your character is skewed when projected at an angle, use your projector’s keystone correction to adjust the shape of your image.

Open room displays

When you’re creating an indoor Hollusion display, you’re not limited to doors and archways – Hollusions also make fantastic open room decorations!

Pick a location that’s several feet from a wall and hang your sheet of projection material from your ceiling with a curtain wire and clips. (We’ve also found that simple tacks or fishing line works great, too.) When the lights are out, your projected character will look like they have appeared in the in the room. Imagine the look on the children’s faces when they come downstairs to see ol’ Santa, with a wink and a nod, disappear from your living room!

Outdoor displays

Hollusions aren’t only for indoor use – they also make incredible nighttime displays outside. Especially during the Christmas season!

Attaching a sheet of projection material to the frame of your gazebo, arbor or arched trellis will create an awesome backdrop for characters, creating the illusion that they’re standing under or inside of the structure. The Christmas Carolers Decoration Collection is prefect for this – bring joy to the entire neighborhood with a charming carols sung by Victorian-era quartet.

Here, a Hollusion on your rooftop makes it appear that Santa has arrived on his sleigh, thanks to Santa’s Sleigh Ride Decoration Collection.

If you don’t have a gazebo, arbor or trellis, you can create your own Hollusion projection screen by picking up two large stakes from your local hardware store, sinking them into the ground, and stretching your projection material between them. For best results, choose stakes that are dark-colored or can be painted – you’ll want them to blend into the background at night so visitors can’t see them sticking out of the ground.

While we recommend rear projecting for indoor use, front projecting can also work great for outdoor displays – especially if you’re working with a large, open space that has no solid objects behind your projection surface. When you front project, a creatively placed prop can be used to hide your projector, keeping it out of your guests’ view. You can also hide your projector’s light beam from your view, which is especially important for nighttime displays.

A quick tip about character sizing

If you’re creating a Hollusion effect that features Santa Claus, snowmen, carolers or other human characters, make sure that the image you project is roughly life-size – if your projector is positioned too far back, your characters may appear too large, which can spoil the illusion. While the exact placement of your projector will depend on factors like its throw distance, you’ll want to adjust its location to create an effect that’s a believable size.

Whether you’re decorating inside for a party or creating fantastic yard or porch displays, the unique and easy-to-use Hollusion scenes can be found on many Christmas-themed AtmosFX Decorations. Now, get creative and have fun!

Have you created any cool Hollusion displays? We’d love to see what you did! Send us your photos or videos using this easy submission form.

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