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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello!

I am in the process of setting up a Haunted Carnival theme for a decorating contest at work, and one of the features of this Carnival is a "Ghost Cam". I basically want a live video feed up on an old monitor, showing the visitors in real time, with a ghost appearing on the video. Ideally, I want the ghost only visible on the screen.

So far, these are the options I came up with:

1. Combining two video feeds (live camera and pre-recorded ghost loop) into the monitor (inputs are RCA cable) using a combiner, but I heard this can be bad for the input ports

2. Drawing a ghost on a clear piece of plastic and putting this in front of the camera lens, but then the ghost won't move.

3. Using infrared to create a ghost, or illuminate a ghost picture only visible on camera (however infrared can get too hot).


Just wondering if anyone else tried something like this or knows of a better way? My limitations include a tiny budget, and no access to a PC tuner card. Thanks for your help!!

-Mike
 

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Sounds like a neat project.

Given the limitations, I'm worried that option #1 is going to look fake no matter how well executed. This is a fairly hard stunt to pull off with high tech equipment, so at best I think people would say - oh, that is two videos overlaid.

I don't think option #2 will fare much better. The plastic will always be out of focus, it won't have any real 'animation' so the best you'd hope for is a fuzzy blob floating on the screen.

Option 3 does spark my curiosity and I can think of two effects which would be really neat. (I don't think low level IR is going to give any sensation of heat anymore than you get if you point your TV remote at your hand) For this to work, you might try your video camera ahead of time to see how sensitive it is to infra red. Most cameras are very sensitive, though some have a filter to block out the IR. If you want to 'hack' the camera, you can sometimes disassemble the lens and pull out the filter which should look like a light blue tinted piece of glass/plastic. So assuming the camera is sensitive to IR:

1) Grab a couple dozen IR LEDs from your favorite (read cheap) seller. Hook these to an 'eye blinking' circuit. This circuit will blink pairs of LEDs to simulate glowing eyes blinking in the dark. have your guests in front of the camera and put the LEDs in the (black) background...they will see themselves on screen and over their shoulder, blinking eyes in the darkness!...turn around and they won't see the IR, look back at the monitor and there are the eyes again!

You could economize by having maybe 5-6 actual blinking circuits running several 'pairs' of eyes each. With the pairs mixed up, it would look like a forest of creatures blinking randomly.

2) Get an IR laser pointer or two and play the ultimate game of 'fool the cat'. Most lasers have a focus ring on the front lens, so you can de-focus it a bit to make a larger dot or blob. On the monitor, people will see the IR dot on their clothes, moving up their arm, across their friend, etc, but not be able to see anything actually 'on them'. Watch and have fun as they try to swat the 'ghost' away.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hmm, I like the idea of the IR laser pointer, it might be hard to set up those "blinking eyes" since this Carnival is taking place in a working hallway (of a hospital, no less), so hiding the eyes would be somewhat difficult.

I might see how cheap an IR laser pointer is...
 

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Will be interesting to see how it turns out. For the 'eyes', you could use cheap black bed sheet and hang it from a couple thumbtacks or even those 'removable' adhesive wall hangers. Poke a tiny hole in the sheet and hot glue the LED in place. You might even get by with just taping the LED facing out, just behind the sheet...assuming the sheet is thin and the LEDs are high power. Then you could use the sheet later. Even a couple of small batteries will run the LEDs all night...they will only need 1.2V...no need for an extension cord or heavy duty power.

Just playing with my camera phone and IR remote, the LEDs appear bright white on the screen, but completely invisible to the unaided eye.
 

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You need a video mixer to do what you are asking, it will take live or any type of video feed and a recorded feed and fade them together you can adjust how much fade one has on the other. You will have to have a camera, the mixer, and the source of your ghost and that can be a DVD player looping the same video image.You can also use a computer cam and mixing software that fades the live feed from the cam and a prerecorded video file together.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Since I don't know how to solder, and am no good at electrical circuits, I'm thinking the easiest option would be to get some IR LED's, have them hooked up to some watch cell batteries, and "hide" them behind a thin painting/portrait on the wall, this way it looks like a normal portrait to the naked eye, but glows with a face/ghost shape on camera.

The downside to this is that it doesn't pulse or fade in and out, which would be a nice effect....
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Actually, if I can get my hands on an affordable (preferably $20 or less) IR laser pointer, I could have someone randomly shine a pattern on the wall using IR light, only visible to the camera! Maybe rig it up with those "caps" that come with a normal laser pointer that projects shapes/designs.....

Any sources of cheap IR lasers? The cheapest I've seen is about $45-50 on eBay....
 

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Hmm, I like the idea of the IR laser pointer, it might be hard to set up those "blinking eyes" since this Carnival is taking place in a working hallway (of a hospital, no less), so hiding the eyes would be somewhat difficult.

I might see how cheap an IR laser pointer is...
Careful with these things. Just because you guests can't see the IR laser with the naked eye doesn't mean it can't harm them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
That's an option as well, definately...even placing a tablet PC on a 45 degree angle to the monitor screen would do the trick, I'd just need to figure out how to conceal it without it looking awkward...
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I've come up with a working setup, and that's exactly what we're going to do....

We've decided not to have a live video feed, but instead set up a "photo op wall" where people can stand in front and have their picture taken (preferably with their own cellphone). This "wall" is actually a door with a glass insert, and the glass is papered-up with a halloween backdrop, however behind the glass is an IR light I found in our office that will project a creepy face by illuminating the cutout of a scary face. This way, they only see it in their photos! Even better if they can take it home with them on their own cellphone!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I've changed the plan again, this time it's final! I was playing around with the IR light and realized it's not very powerful, let alone when competing with "real" white light from the fluorescent lights (that MUST stay on during the haunt, since it is a hospital and all :p), so I scrapped the original "hide it behind a backdrop" plan....

Then, this morning when I came to work, I noticed a laminating sheet on the desk (the frosted plastic sleeves you put sheets in to laminate them), and wondered if it would shield the IR light from sight, but let the IR light through, and..........BREAKTHROUGH!!

I basically build a crude (read: VERY CHEAP) mock television out of a cardboard box, put this laminating sheet over a hole cut in the box to act as the "screen", put the IR light inside the box and plugged er in....the result is the creepiest bluish glow I've ever seen!!

I'm in the process of making the box look less like a box, but once I'm done I'll post pics here to show you...remember, my budget is shoestring so the result may look more like Arts Class and less like the amazing props I drool over everyday on this site!

To be continued!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
FINISHED!

Again, keep in mind the materials used are very crude/basic, but here you go!

The finished Ghost Cam. Cardboard box, covered in tissue paper, with a "laminating sheet" for a screen. You can see the eerie glow of the IR light since it's plugged in...


The IR light is turned off, so this is what people would see without a camera...


What people see with a camera! What a glow!


Pretty cool, eh??

-Mike
 
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