Using digital projections to create a killer Halloween display has increased in popularity in recent years, but how does it work and how can you get set up? Digital projections – or digital decorating – is the use of a projector in place of traditional seasonal decorations to create a convincing illusion that your house or garage has been taken over by ghosts, ghouls or whatever else you conjure up! To get set up all you need is a projector and a surface to project on to. Add the media to display on your canvas and you’re in business.
How do I prep a surface to project onto?
A garage or house wall is great for digital projections and, as we are projecting onto a surface to reflect light, a white surface is best. If you’d like to also project onto windows, fit white material to your flyscreen frames and place those frames onto the windows, making the windows white like the rest of the house. You could also cover the inside of your windows with a thin white sheet or shower curtain and project from inside the house onto the sheet, making it look like you have ghosts or vampires inside your house.
For the best results, try to use as much of the light thrown from the projector onto your viewing surface as possible. A final way you can decorate digitally is to project onto a prop. For example, you could place white or grey foam gravestones in your yard, and use your projector to make it look like zombies or skeletons are bursting out of the graves. Remember, the further the projector is from your surface the larger the image, so you also need to keep in mind the ‘throw angle’ of the projector.
What projector is best?
With projectors, the higher the resolution and brighter lumens, the better. Most digital decorations are 1080 pixels so the extra expense for 4K is probably not needed unless you want to look into house mapping or whole house projections. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the lamp and the more convincing the illusion will look. When buying, pay close attention to the stats, and make sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting – cheap projectors are just that, and they will leave you with a poor illusion. Personally, I use an Optima GT1080HDR.
There are three types of projectors; normal, short throw and ultra short throw.
NORMAL: These are designed to shoot across a room to its display surface.
SHORT: Short throw projectors allow a shorter distance from the projector to the projection surface. For example, the Optima GT1080HDR has a lens throw ratio of 0.5 which is made for about half a room distance from its projection surface. At one metre from its surface, it can project up to a two-metre wide image. This type is also the most popular for outside house projections.
ULTRA: These provide a very short distance from the projector to your surface. These are great if you hang them above your garage a metre or so from the door and fill the garage door as your illusion area. These are not so great for whole house projections as the angles can be a bit tight.
Online projector throw calculators allow you to specify a projector model and see how large the image will be at a set distance.
What else do I need?
Your projector will need a source for your chosen digital decoration, so a media player is needed if the projector doesn’t have one built-in. Some people just play them straight from a computer but that’s not always ideal, particularly if the setup is outside. Sound can also add to your display but audio effects on repeat can annoy neighbours, so try and keep it to a minimum.
You could also use an FM transmitter to send your audio to your audience’s car radios if yours is a drive-by display. You’ll also need digital videos to create your illusion and we have a great selection of animations on our website. We’re Australian-owned and based on the Gold Coast.
Time to level up!
After setting up your digital decorating, you can also do some projection mapping. This entails using your projectors to create shows with one (or multiple) projectors working together. Your whole house then becomes the canvas. You can map out your garage and window space and, using software editing programs, you can display digital decorations in each section of the house to create a feature show. Using this technique, you could even change the facade of your house to represent a haunted wooden house or castle.
Keep it safe outdoors
If your projector is going to be used outdoors, make a housing to protect it from the elements and curious visitors. You can repurpose a secondhand cabinet, or cupboard and put a glass panel on the front. Adding wheels makes it easy to move around and bring it at night, too. To make it look spooky, I’m going to make an old coffin from fence palings to sit over the cupboard. Make sure the casing has some ventilation though, as projectors get hot and need airflow.