FAQ

Ok, so this is a quick FAQ with the most asked questions about my haunt.

  • What software do you use?

    • Adobe Premiere Pro - Video editing, effects, keying, animation, sound mix. I started using Premiere back in 1993 and it continues to be a great workhorse. It can do so much more than people think, and it is blazingly fast now days.
    • Adobe Photoshop - 3D Tracing, matte building, graphic creation, image editing. I started using this even earlier than Premiere, and I don't know what I would do without it.
    • Logic Pro X - Music recording and mixing. Previously I used Garage Band and before that Audacity.
    • Mac OS X - For a while I had to use Windows when Premiere left the Mac, but fortunately they thought better of their mistake.
  • How many projectors?

    Just one thank goodness, but multiple would make for better quality (and a humongous hassle)

  • What projector do you use?

    I am currently using the Panasonic PT-AE3000U The features I care about are all there: full HD, lens shift, big zoom, LCD, smooth screen (all but prevents screen door effect), and a reasonable price. Disadvantages are the long throw, only 1500 lumens (which it turns out is just fine), and the fact that it is fairly large. Once a good passive 3-D projector comes out I may have to upgrade again.

    The key really with this kind of thing is that contrast ratio is less important, and the cinema "accurate color" modes should be disabled. You just want the maximum light output...period. I find the lens shift to be invaluable as well as a decent zoom. You just can't put your projector right where you want it in this situation.

    On the LCD vs DLP debate, I think LCD is the only way to go. I once did my show using a "4000 lumen" Ben-Q DLP projector, and the light output seemed similar to my 1500 lumen LCD. I think this is possibly due to the fact that the dynamic modes (non cinema) really let the light fly on through an LCD projector. The color may really stink, but who really cares when you are usually projecting white and black.

    Any projector will work though. My first projector was an amazing low price workhorse. The Sharp Notevision PGB10S. It can do (and has done) everything acceptably, although I wanted to replace it with something with more resolution and less screen door effect. I've put a pdf on my now antique projector's specs here.

  • Where do you put your projector?

    Originally I projected from an upstairs window of a house across the street. Then they moved and a new family moved in that didn't want to have anything to do with my display. I ended up moving over to my other neighbors backyard (who is very nice and loves Halloween).

    Then my projection booth became a plywood box with vents in the bottom and 12' 2x4s for a stand. I attached it each year to a fence post in their back yard. When I switched to my HD projector I needed still more size (because of 16x9 aspect ratio) so I moved further back into the middle of their back yard. I created a fancy tripod like projector tower out of 3" ABS (because it is black, but it stinks for stability i have decided). It is about 20' tall. It is on a pretty steep angle actually which makes it nice for shadow control, but it also makes it so the garage is really far away... Still works well though. Have to be careful with scale. Basically that makes it about 100' away at the farthest and 50' at the closest.

  • What do you run the video on?

    I render the video at 1920x1280 to match my projector resolution and run it right off my laptop (which I put with the projector) looping in Quicktime Player. I am hoping to start transmitting the HD video this year.

  • How do you do the sound?

    In the beginning I used to broadcast the video from my house to the projector. Once I wanted more resolution than a standard TV signal, (and wi-fi came along and made broadcasting tough) I started broadcasting the audio back to my house using an FM transmitter. I used the Belkin Tune-Cast for a while despite its horrible range. Then switched to the "Whole House Transmitter" which is better, but still not perfect. This year I am going to try to go back to broadcasting the video with a new high def broadcaster. Hopefully the sound will be in sync... If isn't I may impose a delay in the actual audio track of the loop to compensate.

    The sound goes into my surround sound amp and then to three largish speakers. Two on the sides of my house, and one behind the pumpkins. I added a subwoofer in 2011 behind the pumpkins which helped immensely.

  • What are your "pumpkins"?

    Gemmy inflatable item number 26007-50 created in 2004, and completely sold out everywhere as far as I can tell. They sometimes show up on ebay, but not in bulk (it takes four of course). If you find any, let me know. I know a lot of people that would like them. They have black faces on them, but I just turn them around

    The first year I used giant orange garbage bags with the faces on them turned backward (filled with newspaper). Not as good and a pain to fill up, but they worked. The second year, if my inflatables hadn't worked, I was going to make my own inflatable bags of orange nylon. Something like that. I'm keeping my eyes open for a better solution. Maybe someone makes 3' inflatable balls for parties or something. They don't have to be pumpkins (though that is nice).

  • How are you able to project the video from across the street without people getting in front of the projected image?

    My projector is high. (about 16 feet above the sidewalk level). It is also on a severe angle. People can still walk in front of it if they try, but I miss them if they are on the sidewalk. One of the bummers about projection.

  • How did you display multiple images (pumpkins, skeleton, eye) all at once?

    My personal video loop has a combination of all the elements into one big video (bigger resolution too). However, it is VERY custom to my house layout, and as such, almost completely useless for others. A few DVD purchasers have purchased it with the intention of laying out the elements themselves in video programs to fit their houses. That is certainly allowed under my DVD license.

  • Do You have any trouble with Street Light Interference?

    It has an impact. The worst though is my neighbor (who dislikes my show) across the street. She has three 100 watt lights on her house that shine right on my show! I've tried to ask her if I can decorate them to block the light, but nothing doing. It's like someone holding the door open in the back of a darkened theater. The show still works just the same, but it looks much better after they go to bed. In this picture you can see the shadow of me cast from them on the garage.

    Just keep in mind that a projector can't make anything darker than it already is. It can only make it brighter so you loose contrast the lighter it gets outside. Yet another good reason to stick with projecting ghosts...

  • What do you use to record your videos

    I actually bought my camcorder just for my Halloween shows after trying to record with a professional HD camcorder that stunk at light sensitivity so bad the video was unusable. I use a Sony HDR-CX550 with an Exmor sensor which is a fancy backlit sensor (like the iPhone) with 2 level analog noise reduction before it gets recorded. Then I never use the zoom (that reduces the light coming in too much). I like Canon cameras much better, but Sonys rock on light sensitivity. It can see much better than my eye most of the time.

  • How to do video mapping yourself

    Please refer to my youtube video tutorial (click here). Here is a list of the steps to maybe help clarify things:

    1. Figure out where your projector is going to be.
    2. When it stops raining set everything up just like it will be on halloween with your laptop connected to your projector.
    3. Set your laptop to the native resolution of your projector and turn on video mirroring.
    4. Launch your drawing program and create a new document that is the native resolution of your projector and screen.
    5. Zoom to 100% and switch to full screen.
    6. Make your trace by drawing on your house with your computer.
    7. Save the image you create and put it in the background track of your video editing program.
    8. Create image mattes, using the trace as reference, to mask out parts of your elements from showing where they should not show
    9. Animate, and edit your video using standard video editing techniques and using the trace to know where everything will end up.
    10. Hide the trace in your editor and render the video.
    11. Set up everything just like in steps 2 and 3 and show your video in fullscreen. Everything should line up perfectly.

DVD Questions

  • Can I really do this?

    Yes you can if you know how to set up a home theater using a projector. If you are doing the pumpkins, you will need 4 pumpkins (bags or inflatables to project on).

  • How do I get the sound to come from the screen rather than the projector?

    There are four ways to do this

    1. Run a long cable to the projector for the video. I suggest www.monoprice.com for the best cable prices and quality.
    2. Run some long wires to the speakers.
    3. Broadcast the sound from the projector to the amp. For instance, you can use a FM transmitter. (This is how I do it currently)
    4. Broadcast the video to the projector (used to do this, but don't know what is out there anymore for it).
  • Why so expensive for just a DVD?

    There are basically two reasons for this.

    • It was expensive to create. To recoup the costs with the limited number of people willing to stick a nice video projector outside their house. I needed to charge enough to make it worth my while.
    • I don't want my show on every street. Not that it would happen, but I want to limit my show to an exclusive group, and not have it everywhere.
  • How do I do a show with multiple elements using the DVD

    You can make copies of the DVD and use multiple projectors (the easy but expensive way), or you can rip the DVD and merge the segments together in an offline editing program in a custom layout.

More questions? Email me.