Countin’ Monsters on the Wall: Decorating with the AtmosFX Digital Projection System

September 19, 2017 – For the past few years, a Halloween Season hasn’t gone by that somebody hasn’t sent me a link to check out the AtmosFX Digital Projection System. The system lets you project realistic, kinetic Halloween scenes onto windows, doorways, and objects, making it look like spooky stuff is happening…INSIDE YOUR HOUSE. This season, it was AtmosFX itself, whose marketing rep asked me if I’d be interested in playing around with their product and writing up my experiences. I told them, “Sure.” What I didn’t tell them is that I can barely set a foam jack-o-lantern on a mantel in a way that I’m happy with, so I wasn’t too confident in pulling off an entire digital decorating system.

But the kit’s simple. Comes with a projector, tripod, SD card, projection scrim, and remote control. In three seconds, I had the hardware down without even looking at the manual. And, then, since it was daytime, my family and I dashed down into our dark, near-windowless basement and started throwing horrors on the wall.

The menu system was easy. I selected the file or files I wanted to play, and hit play, which they do on a loop. The only part that got confusing is that there are often various versions of each clip. Some have horizontal and vertical versions, some have window and door versions, some are for hologram effects or rear or front projections. Some have fog versions, spotlight versions, flashlight versions, lightning versions, etc., but once I parses that, it was easy to get what I wanted.

Of course, where a projection system like this will rise or fall is based on the quality of the scenes. And AtmosFX’s are great. Honestly, we sat down there for like half an hour just watching these clips like they were movies. Some came with the system and some were downloads that the company sent me.

The scenes ranged from G ratings to R, with friendly stuff like skeleton cartoons and animated silhouettes of classic monsters to more disturbing stuff like live-action slashers chasing victims. There are some more organic effects, too, that make it look like demons are pushing through your walls or blood is dripping off them. I even got a few files that were licensed from the movie Trick ’r Treat, with custom movie clips of the burlap-masked Sam violently killing those who transgress the laws of Halloween.

The possibilities for this tech in heightening your Halloween ambiance are pretty incredible.

We eventually tried the projection system for real, at night, using the scrim. We taped it to our doorways and windows, and then rear-projected scenes onto it. From outside, it looks like Sam is killing those people…INSIDE OUR HOUSE. Or that a ghost is wandering around…INSIDE OUR HOUSE. It took a little fiddling to figure out the right distance and focus and where to put the projector, but you can make a seamless, professional-looking illusion easily. I mean, I barely put any effort into mine, just enough to get a feel for the system (I didn't even try to get out the fold creases in the scrim), and they still came out pretty awesome.

So that white door behind my screen door? A fake, projected door being opened by...

Good old Sam, from Trick 'r Treat.

And then came the disappointment.

Once I saw this thing in action, I wanted to fill all of my windows with zombie hordes and cover all of my walls with bloody hand prints. I really, really did. But, for that, I would need a projector per effect. That would a pretty decent investment, and I might be crossing the line to actual haunter. Which I’m not ready for…yet.

I’m not posting any video of my experiments, which I know seems dumb since these are moving effects, but there’s plenty of footage of the system in use on YouTube already. Like this family, who used 11 projectors to turn their house into a movie-worthy Halloween party. I like the singing pumpkins the best.

The other interesting thing is that the system also came with Christmas projections, so you can have Santa creeping through your living room or elves messing with a tree. The effect is one million times better than those cheesy green polka-dot projectors people have started using during Yuletide in recent years.

Don’t get me wrong. Even if my entire house digitally transforms into ones and zeros, I’m still throwing old-fashioned ceramic pumpkins, paper ghosts, and rubber bats everywhere. But a couple of projector effects added into the mix can really make your haunt sweet haunt come together.