Thursday, May 26, 2011

Really Cool Special Effect for under $10

I was at a Canucks game not too long ago.  To get the fans whipped into an even higher state of frenzy, they dim the lights and play "Where the Streets Have No Name" (one of my favourite U2 songs especially with the dotted eighth digital delay riff).  But some of the new features this year are these enormous banner screens that drop down from the ceiling.  They show stills of the players and highlights of past games on them.  I think there are 4 screens and they play different scenes on them at the same time to increase the level of tension.  (I still haven't figured out where the projectors are.)  I really like the way they use these screens because of the way they seem kind of ghostly.  The image just seems to float in mid air and can be seen from both sides.

In my class, I have an LCD projector for my Smartboard.  I've projected the images on all sorts of things: the Smartboard, a screen, a wall, the ceiling, regular whiteboards (and then drawn on top of the whiteboard with the image still showing), etc.  Once I wanted to draw a picture of a playing card king on my window, but I didn't trust my freehand drawing, so I closed the outside shutters and projected a picture of the king from the internet onto the glass, then I traced it right on the glass using a whiteboard pen.  It came out perfectly. 

Now back to the Rogers Arena idea.  I wondered if I could reproduce the scrim-type screens in my classroom.  Remember the gauzy Lill sheers I have hanging from my ceiling?  I went back to Ikea and picked up two panels for $8.  I hung one from my ceiling and voila: cool shimmery screen that can be seen from both sides.  Of course, I hung them using my cheap hook-clips from Daiso (Man, I'm plugging products more than Oprah).  I can project the image really big if I get the projector back far enough (Can I get it even bigger using a mirror?  Hmmm). 

My kids and I watched a rocket launch on the big screen from both sides and I have my computer hooked up to a 100 watt amp.  It sounded like we were sitting on the tarmac.  There were some kids sitting on the risers facing the screen watching the launch from behind the screen.  I noticed that I could see the projected image on their faces and still see the launch.  It gave me another idea. 

I had one of my girls stand behind the screen while she told the story of the Three Little Pigs.  I have a scene of the story on a Smart Notebook page with the still images of the characters.  We could still see my student J behind the screen, and as she told the story, I flew in pictures of the characters and would move them on the scene.  J could see them and pretend to interact with them as I moved them up and down.  The kids went crazy!  It was like being in their own Disney cartoon.  Then I had another student just stand motionless, facing us behind the screen.  Using some of the paint tools, I drew horns and wings on her body.   Kids as canvas?   

There is a lot of potential behind this low-tech effect.  Just having a big screen, viewable from two sides is cool enough, but add the interactivity potential and it brings it to a whole new level.  There is also an interesting 3D effect because the image shows on the mesh and whatever is behind the mesh, so you see another set of the image a little further back.

I should probably patent this idea (famous last words of many destitute people).  For another $2, I'll tell you how to make the mesh screen retractable. 

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