Archives For Rich Media

(Updated 9/2013 to include AtmosFearFX, new projectors)

Americans are projected to shell out over $5.8 billion dollars on Halloween, between a costume, candy and decorations.  In our household, my wife really gets into Halloween costumes but for me it’s all about the opportunity to play junior Disney Imagineer with fun effects.  Based on the feedback from last year’s Virtual Santa, this year I’ve created a new How To that shows how by using a few easily obtained items, you can build a cool Halloween effect sure to delight trick & treaters.  Here’s a short video of the experience:

Project List

To create the effect yourself, here is what you need:

  • A physical window.  Just about any window will do.
  • An old PC projector OR a TV large enough to place in front of the window.  HD isn’t needed and you can pick these up cheap on eBay or Amazonalt.
  • Hallowindow animations DVD or downloadable video files, or
  • A Windows PC to drive the video or an DVD player, blank DVD and Windows DVD Maker
  • Windows Live Essentials Movie Maker (free download)
  • A good FM Transmitter or outdoor speaker. I used a C. Crane Digital FM Transmitteralt
  • A white sheet to cover the window.  Avoid patterns.
  • Black Scrim used for theaters or a sheet of the black garden weed blocker fabric from local hardware store.  Again, avoid patterns and logos.

Step 1: Set up the Projector

In my case, I’m using an Optoma DS317 SVGA DLP Projectoralt, a 3M MP225a Mobile Projector, and a Viewsonic PJD4513X Short throw projector for multiple effects.  Don’t worry about fancy features- a standard-def projector will work with VGA input.  The trick is to get one with 2000 lumens or better.  Also look for ability to adjust keystone (angle) and reverse the image.


Step 2: Get the Hallowindow Animations

Hallowindow is a series of Halloween-themed audiovisual effects by Mark Gervais in Canada,  It’s a great solution and he’s really upped the quality of the exp


eriences over the past few years.  You can order a reasonably priced DVD or purchase individual videos for download via PayPal for instant gratification and burn your own.  I opted for download and burn which I describe below.  You can also follow Hallowindow on Facebook where you can learn from other users of this visual effect system.

Another recent addition from Seattle’s own creative studio AtmosFX is a new addition for 2013.  Created by popular TV visual FX specialists, AtmosFearFX offers a whole suite of options from the creepy to the family friendly.

Step 3:  Prep the Video

Mark did a great job with Hallowindow and I have a number of his 4 editions.  A number of the videos are decidedly creepy to the point that the little kids in our neighborhood and their parents may take issue.  For this reason, I edited out the scariest parts a bit with Windows Live Movie Maker, a free download in Windows Live Essentials 2011.  Just use the “Snip” tool to edit down the clips to just what you want.  You can even add your own title sequence such as “Happy Halloween from the Alexanders” or similar.  Have fun playing with the effects:

Halloween Movie Maker

Then save the edited video in the recommended quality.  This will create a video file that you can then burn to DVD:

Save Video Playlist

Step 4: Burn the DVD with Windows 7 DVD Maker

Last year I used a Netbook which was great, but I’m simplifying with a burned DVD $99 DVD player.  Windows 7 (and Windows Vista) come with a video DVD Burning tool called Windows DVD Maker.  Just type DVD into the Start menu search box and you’ll find Windows DVD Maker:

Windows DVD Maker

Important Step: Before burning your DVD, be sure to choose “Options” in the lower right corner and set the DVD to play in a continuous loop.  Most DVD players can do this from the remote control but some (like mine) keep the on-screen display on which ruins the effect.  Set it like you see here:

DVD Settings

If you are going to use a PC to drive video to the projector, make sure Windows Media Player is set to run in full screen and move the mouse cursor back over to the main Windows display.  This will set the player controls to hide automatically and has the added benefit of making sure any alerts/notifications will not appear on the projector.  The last thing you want to do is ruin the illusion.

Step 4: Prep the FM Tuner or outdoor speakers

There are a number of FM tuning options available, however I strongly recommend against using a solution designed for in-car.  They’re just not powerful enough.  Be sure to read the comments on Amazon for the C. Crane Digital FM Transmitteralt and you should get tips on how to boost for cars driving up to be able to hear your music.  If you’re eagle eyed, you’ll notice below that I’ve soldered a dipole FM antenna wire to the transmitter to improve the distance.

Step 3: Prep the FM Tuner

To figure out which station works best in your area, I recommend Belkin’s “My Best FM Stations” service. Just tap in your City/Zip/State and it will give you a number of options.  Be sure to try these out yourself.

Step 5: Set up the Window Screen

For the projection screen, I used a two-ply of a white sheet and the black scrim material as seen below.  The scrim adds a great deal of realism to the effect because it blocks out the high intensity “halo” effect many projectors create and increases the black levels in the video.  I just pinned up the scrim and the sheet behind it.  Take this picture to your local fabric store and they’ll be able to set you up (thank to my wife for contributing to the effort <g>).

Scrim Material

Be sure to avoid any wrinkles in the scrim or sheet.  We used push pins on the edges of the window moulding to hold it in place and avoid unsightly holes:


Step 6: Fire up the projector, Create a Sign for the Yard and and get ready for Trick or Treaters

Be sure to level and center the display.  You’ll also want to adjust the distance from the window so the scale is correct. Put a sign on the yard with the FM Frequency you’re transmitting on and house and you’re ready to go!

Outdoor Hallowindow

Happy Halloween everyone!


imageThis morning I came across a great Op-Ed by Mark Suster of GRP Partners entitled, “The Future of Advertising will be Integrated” (via TechCrunch).  The piece compelled me to break with tradition here on the site and respond. He notes, “[The] future of helping make the ad industry more measurable (and more online) I believe will be one of helping make ads both authentic & integrated. Trying to relegate ads to the least intrusive real estate of our computers is missing the point. Advertisers pay for efficacy.”  This is an interesting discussion that spans multiple screens.  I’ll offer up a case example of where the industry is getting the balance right on the TV – Xbox LIVE.

As background, my team is responsible for the Platform and Products that deliver brand engagement on Xbox LIVE and online properties including MSN Games and Games for Windows LIVE Messenger.  We connect brands with an audience of over 30M Xbox LIVE members via engagement on the Xbox LIVE Dashboard, as well as curated in-game experiences.

Over the past five years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in our brand business, with big names engaging the community including Porsche, HP, Kia, Sprint, Red Bull, Hershey’s, P&G, T-Mobile, Unilever, and a broad swath of entertainment publishers.  If you’re unfamiliar with the experience, when you turn on an Xbox 360, you’re brought into the Xbox LIVE Dashboard, in effect a homepage on your TV split into Channels vertically and programmed “Tiles” horizontally, presenting easy discovery and navigation:

Ford_ExampleEach Tile is selectable, presenting content such as game downloads or experiences like NetFlix, Avatar Kinect, and Facebook.  Some of these tiles however present brand-associated content and when selected, enter a microsite purpose-built for the Xbox LIVE community and brand.  This, “In-Dash” promotion represents an intersection between traditional TV “Brand” advertising, and more engaged Digital advertising on the Web.

In a groundbreaking study done in partnership with IPG’s Mediabrands and neuroscience research company Emsense comparing traditional video to Xbox LIVE’s interactive approach, we’ve found that consumers react positively both in terms of cognitive engagement, unaided recall and emotional response.  For example, when compared to a generous 60 second video spot, the average duration of opt-in brand engagement among participants was over 298 seconds on Xbox LIVE:

Brand Engagement

And using Emsense’s unique bio-sensory measurement techniques, emotional response upon engagement with the brand jumps from 42nd percentile to 94th percentile:

Emotional Response

This is part of the reason we see standard click-thru rates (CTR) 100x higher than comparable display campaigns on the Web.  This isn’t by accident.  The reason it works is because of the principled approach we take to engaging with consumers in the stream on the Dash guided by three core principles:

1.  Invite, don’t Interrupt
At the top level in the dashboard on Xbox LIVE, engagement starts with an invitation, not an interruption in the content stream.  In the example below, programmed content and offers- subscription, transaction, and brand-funded all appear together.  More recent updates include the addition of the phrase, “Advertisement” under the branded tile as a means of clearly communicating to the consumer what they are seeing.   

2.  Reward the Consumer for their Engagement
A community member’s time is precious, as well as family and friends who are in the room.  So we want to create a clear sense of value exchange for the consumer – normally in the form of streamed or downloadable content – HD video, themes, gamerpics, “snackable” entertainment experiences such as polling or even gear for your Avatar as can be seen in the below example pairing Lowe’s with the NCAA Final Four, inviting consumers to download Avatar Gear, Free Content, and participate in polling: 


Sweepstakes and prizing opportunities are also popular, as are LIVE “Game with Fame” events.  When brands bring celebrities into the mix, it’s a win for everyone as we recently saw when we worked with EA and Porsche, inviting users to race custom cars in Need for Speed against each other for a chance to win prizes and race head-to-head against legendary driver Hurley Haywood on Xbox LIVE.

3. Deliver Real Impact by Knowing your Audience
Brand metrics vary from medium to medium, with Xbox sitting in-between traditional TV Brand engagement and Digital display.  This is why we spend so much time on Ad Effectiveness Research with our partners.  For example, in the Porsche campaign for the launch of the Panamera, 75% of Xbox LIVE members who saw the promotion took a post-ad action.  19% said they visited a dealership, driving hundreds of thousands of consumers into the showroom through a mix of Xbox-driven social and multiscreen engagement:

Panamera ExamplePorsche and MS Tag

It’s not just automakers – The History Channel’s recent promotion of the special “WWII in HD” found 60% who saw the campaign tuned in- that’s over 1.6M viewers driven from Xbox LIVE. 

From a product design perspective, we take a principled approach that recognizes we are stewards of the Xbox community first and foremost.  For example, the work we’ve done with brand integration with Kinect for Xbox 360 focuses on the authenticity and magic of the experience through gameplay and select brand promotion in the Kinect Hub.  But that’s a topic for another post.

These are just a few examples of the performance we’re seeing multi-nationally with agencies adding Xbox LIVE as a part of their media plans.  The Xbox LIVE in-stream approach isn’t right for every medium. But as the industry debates the future of advertising and consumer engagement on the TV, I look to what the team is doing on Xbox LIVE and think, “The future is already here”.

(Ed. Note: This post is a departure from my normal musings in Digital Media and reflects my past five years of work with Media & Entertainment platforms and products. Feedback and suggested topic areas are welcomed).

Update 1: Fixed headline and my reaction to Mark’s OpEd in first paragraph.
Update 2: Fixed missing quote.  Welcome to Techmeme readers

BingPadLast Thursday (April 7), the free Bing for iPad app was officially released into the wild.  Since then, it’s hit #1 on Apple’s Marketplace and it’s easy to see why – it’s like a swiss army knife for search and discovery of contextually-relevant content.  From voice-recognition to easy to understand gestures that use a standard swipe, this app is the future of NUI-enabled Search.  My favorite features are the seamless integration of weather, search, stocks, and what’s trending.

I just wish there was a little more social integrated into the experience.  Today it feels like I’m getting half the equation by consuming content vs. being an integrated part of the experience like you see on Stumbleupon and Twitter while sitting down watching TV (the primary place I use my iPad).  Perhaps someday the two can come together?  Tie together with Comcast’s (EBIF-based) remote record and control APIs and I could see a really interesting scenario where I search for trends on TV, and set my STB to remote record, all right from within the app.  Are you listening MVPD’s?