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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I thought I'd bring a fascinating sequence using light and shadow from Carl Theodore Dreyer's 1932 horror movie Vampyr to your attention.
The two parts I think are most effective are the man climbing the ladder (0:22) and then sitting on guard duty (1:14). It's also pretty cool the way the same shadow apparently climbs through the window (0:11).
What a great and imaginative use of backlighting and set design to create an illusion of phantom shadows interacting with the real world! Of course, with today's technology, a home haunter could use either actors or projectors to similar effect.
Isn't it incredible how the old masters - having no computers and only black and white to work with - could use light and shadow to create amazing effects? I chose this one because I have become fascinated with this particular film - and because Dreyer goes way beyond just creating mood and makes the shadows characters in their own right.
I hope that one day I too will be able to create this effect in my own 10/31 "show".
Would love to hear your feedback.
 

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Excellent observation and very cool effects. So many movies of that era did all their effects in-camera, often stemming from stage techniques. It's a great idea to use them as sources for ideas. I've taken design inspirations from the obvious ones like Nosferatu, Metropolis and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I really should take some time to explore others. (Coppola's Dracula is also a wonderful return to in-camera effects. Almost everything in the film is in-camera. He's got some cool shadow effects among tons of other nifty techniques.)

Shadows and silhouettes are of particular interest to me this year. I'm planning to project a large, semi-abstract patterns of gears and clockworks onto the ceiling. It hadn't occurred to me to use them for illusions. Now that you've planted the idea in my head, I get to fill up some more pages in my journal of Halloween brainstorming. Awesome. :D
 

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This thread brought to mind a scene in Ghost Rider where the actor playing the devil walks past a lighted area:


Not as moody as the older clips posted above, but shows another way that a shadow can be used to immediately convey an impression and tell you everything you need to know about a character.

We first became aware of the possibilities of using shadows in a haunt a couple years ago when we happened to notice that our porch light cast shadows of our spider web and spiders (part of our display every year) onto the side of our neighbor's house. Being static, I don't know how many ToTs saw it, but it would be only a matter of adding a moving light to get a more active interplay that could draw the eye.
 

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We first became aware of the possibilities of using shadows in a haunt a couple years ago when we happened to notice that our porch light cast shadows of our spider web and spiders (part of our display every year) onto the side of our neighbor's house.
Heh, I had a similar situation. I had carved a Thomas the Tank Engine jack o'lantern for my train-crazy son. When I moved it onto the porch after hours, it projected the silhouette on the faux-wall I had wrapped the porch in. You could see it clearly from the outside. The next year I cut out a bunch of creepy silhouette-faces from card stock (Hannibal Lecter in a mask, etc.) and shone them on my front window for a couple days before and after Halloween. I was pretty happy with the results.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Roxy - I now remember that devil shadow scene in an otherwise forgettable movie. I love the timing - namely, as he passes in front of a screen, lightning casts the "shadow". I love it because it would be so easy for an actor to set up with a pressure switch. We'd have to be more careful about other shadows than they were in this clip, but again, it's just lighting.

Austen, Did you notice the wagon wheels in the clip? Maybe that's something like what you were thinking of with gears? Hope to see pictures and video of that!
 

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Heh, I wish I had that kind of real estate to work with!

If you scroll down in this thread, you can see how my setup last year projected gear silhouettes on the ceiling. It was a very cool effect, especially with the gears moving and orange light flickering (it's from one of those fake braziers with the fan-driven silk flames).

This year I want to fill the whole ceiling and much of the interior space with a clockwork silhouette. If I can pull it off, it ought to be complex to be impressive and yet small-scale enough to make it manageable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Heh, I wish I had that kind of real estate to work with!

If you scroll down in this thread, you can see how my setup last year projected gear silhouettes on the ceiling. It was a very cool effect, especially with the gears moving and orange light flickering (it's from one of those fake braziers with the fan-driven silk flames).

This year I want to fill the whole ceiling and much of the interior space with a clockwork silhouette. If I can pull it off, it ought to be complex to be impressive and yet small-scale enough to make it manageable.
Cool haunt! I see the gear projections. Must have been great in person.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Reprise

I love how, in this film, shadows act of their own accord - sometime independently of the objects casting them, and sometimes with no original objects at all! It just seemed like such a great idea to me...
Anyway, I got to thinking about the other ways old B&W directors had to use light and shadow to create effects. They had no computers, of course, but they also could not simply parade a naked woman across the screen or drench the actors in gore - or both - to distract or shock the audience. Their effects had to be accomplished on a much subtler level. Maybe I'm just a prude, but it seems like their way was more about craft. It also seems more in line with what I want to accomplish with a haunt.
I have nothing against those who want their haunts to be all about "shock and awe" and gallons of blood. There is certainly a place for that. Hell, if there is one with naked women running around, I'm sure there's a place for that, too. Personally, I want my haunt to be one that anyone can enjoy. I want it to be creepy and uncanny and maybe a little surreal. I am not above using triggers and actors to get startle scares either. The overall effect, though, should be something that affects people on a level a bit deeper than an adrenaline rush.
Having said that, here are some pictures from old movies that show just how effective simple light and shadow can be to hide, reveal, and generally create mood:




 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Finally, here are a few where the shadow itself is a character - beginning with what I still consider an amazing shot from "Vampyr":





And one last one to take home with you...


I know there are a lot of pics in this post. Love to hear what you think of these!
 

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LOL, I love that last one! I believe that's from one of the Thin Man movies, yes?

I'm a big fan of "subtle and moody" in a haunt. Shadows can be so damn creepy without ever doing anything more than setting the scene.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
LOL, I love that last one! I believe that's from one of the Thin Man movies, yes?

I'm a big fan of "subtle and moody" in a haunt. Shadows can be so damn creepy without ever doing anything more than setting the scene.
I love the effects. I more or less grew up on Friday Night Creature Features and I don't remember a single one of them being in color. Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Sr. and Jr, Boris Karloff, King Kong... I think they shaped (warped?) my sensibilities a bit.

As for the squirrel, I think it is from one of the Thin Man movies. I particularly like how it looks like the man is casting a squirrel shadow. I have this fascination with transformation (could that be why I love the makeup and costumes?). I have this idea about a werewolf transformation with this illusion.

Imagine 3 actors. One a normal looking man, one behind the screen, and one in werewolf makeup. Possibly the normal looking man could walk in front of the screen. The shadow starts looking normal, but starts to transform. He drops out of sight for a moment, but the shadow transforms, then the lights go out and new lights come up, illuminating the wolf man.

You could do the whole thing behind the screen, of course. That would be simpler. I think it could be done with two actors "in sight" though.
 

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One of the big challenges we face trying to do these effects in haunts is that for movies, they could place an actor or object behind the camera to cast the shadows, with the actor or object never seen by the viewers, so, casually doing shadow tricks like the guard/sentry, the ladder climber, the guy coming through the window are next to impossible to achieve in a haunt situation, though the effects are cool. I think that is one of the reasons that many companies came up with Shadow posters or effects for window "shades" or curtains. If you could get an extremely small, but extremely bright focussed light source and an equally small figure or object to cast the shadow, you could project the shadow while still keeping the setup hidden.
For other example of the lights or shadows playing a strong part, look at Young Frankenstein. Scenes like the Creature being "charged", the shadows cast from within the life cast mask to highlight the Creatures orbital, sinus, and mandibular openings, the shadows of the creature cast against the wall as it walked through the night, etc.
Even movies like Poltergeist, where the shadows of the little girl were cast by the bright noise coming off of the TV.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
One of the big challenges we face trying to do these effects in haunts is that for movies, they could place an actor or object behind the camera to cast the shadows, with the actor or object never seen by the viewers, so, casually doing shadow tricks like the guard/sentry, the ladder climber, the guy coming through the window are next to impossible to achieve in a haunt situation, though the effects are cool. I think that is one of the reasons that many companies came up with Shadow posters or effects for window "shades" or curtains.
It seems to me most of these effects could be created by building a wall - or a segment of the wall - out of paper and painting the paper. Then the actor would be behind the wall with a light source. I think these could be done by an ambitious home haunter with a large space, and definitely by a pro who could build the space to the necessary specs.

The winged shadow behind the infant skeleton is clearly projected from behind the camera, but again, a similar effect could be done from behind, or by building the set to hide the source light. I'm thinking of a ceiling over the guests, where the spotlight and shadow caster could sit. Doing that with actors would require a whole separate room above them, and I'm not sure the angle would work out, but for stationary shadows, I think only 6" or so would suffice.

In any case, These are some cool looking effects, and I should have gotten some pics from Young Frankenstein, though the skull lit from within never occurred to me.
 

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The thing with cast shadows is that they, the shadows, get larger and softer (fuzzier edges) the further away the shadow casting object is from the surface it is cast upon, this may or may not be a problem, it all depends upon what look or effect you are going for. The size, intensity, and angle of the light source, and the relationship of the angles of both the light source and the shadow caster to the angle of the screen or material it will be projected on, as well as the light(s) used in the rest of the scene will play a strong role in how it ends up looking.
 

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It occurs to me that you could make a silhouette that's severely foreshortened. When you project a light on it at a sharp angle, it would stretch out to a non-foreshortened shape. You'd have a noticeable falloff of light from near the light source to farther from it, which could produce an interesting effect.

Such a setup might allow you to project silhouettes in a relatively confined space.
 

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Jim, you being a fan of mood set by effective lighting, another film that incorporates those elements skillfully is "The Amazing Mr X", released in 1948. You can find streaming versions on line, and a review here:

http://www.cultreviews.com/reviews/the-amazing-mr-x/

I just saw this flick recently, had never heard of it, but found it quite striking. John Alton was the cinematographer and he did some beautiful work with light and shadow in this film noir.

Here's a short clip of the initial credits and opening scene of the movie. Check out the use of a shadow starting at about 1:50.


Here's a still from later in the movie:

 
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