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 Epson Home Cinema 3800.  The features I care about are all there: 3 panel LCD, lens shift, big zoom, pixel shifting 4k (all but fully prevents screen door effect), and a reasonable price. Disadvantages are the long throw, only 3000 lumens (I wish it was more, but this projector beat all of the 5000 lumen ones I tried), and the fact that it is fairly large. 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 16×9 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 am still rendering  the video at 1920×1280.  I could not tell the difference between native 4k and not so I’m going with what my HDMI transmitter can handle.   I am playing the video in my home and sending it across the street using a long ethernet cable and HDMI to ethernet boxes.  I have tried every kind of wireless transmitter and they all lag and suck.
  • How do you do the sound?
    • In the beginning I used to broadcast the video from my house to the projector using little SD boxes.  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.  I am using a kit transmitter now because all of the other ones seem to suck.  I really want to boost it, but have always had issues.  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.  Now I’ve finally given up on wireless and run ethernet across the street to transmit the video so I can keep the computing in my home.
  • 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 and eventually I painted them out as well. 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).  The plan is to eventually still make custom inflatables.
  • 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 front 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.  You can buy and download some standardized components from my store, as well as a few freebees
  • 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…
  • 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. Set everything up just like it will be with your laptop connected to your projector. Check the zoom, keystone, focus, lens shift, aspect… basically all the settings that can affect the position of the pixels from your projector to make sure they are how you want them and don’t touch them again or make careful notes
    3. Set your laptop screen 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 as your trace.
    8. Create a project in your video editing program with the same resolution again.
    9. Put your trace in a background track of your video editing program and make sure that it fits to the frame.
    10. Create image mattes, using the trace as reference, to mask out parts of your elements from showing where they should not show
    11. Animate, and edit your video using standard video editing techniques and using the trace to know where everything will end up.
    12. Hide the trace in your editor and render the video in the same resolution again.
    13. Set up everything just like in steps 2 and 3 and show your video in fullscreen. Everything should line up perfectly.