Oct 30, 2015

Horse Projection


Ever since I built the Horse Drawn Hearse it's been, well, not as horse-tastic as you'd imagine.  I've seen some people make horses out of wood, foam, paper mache etc. but that sounded like a lot of work not to mention a HUGE headache to figure out how to store such a creation or engineer it to come apart.  What if there is a way to have a horse without making a physical one? With the advent of inexpensive portable projectors I had an idea..

I started scouring the web for a suitable video (which there are plenty of horse videos, maybe too many) but I couldn't find anything that screamed Halloween.  No bother, I'll make one, can't be too hard can it?

I am no animator but I do know my way around Photoshop.  So I took a mashup of a horse and a horse skeleton, erasing to 'cut away' the skin to expose the skeleton image underneath to create the Ultimate Ghost Zombie HorseTM.
Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit Muahahaha
While a life-size static picture of a Ghost Zombie Horse was cool, it wasn't cool enough - enter Adobe After Effects!  This program is used by television people to create those annoying animated overlays that interrupt your favorite TV show.  I do not know my way around this program but having used other Adobe products I think I can figure this out.  My first objective was to make the horse seem more alive.  Using an image distortion effect called 'Bulge' I was able to make the chest cavity look like it was expanding and contracting to simulate breathing.  This looked pretty good but it's cold outside during Halloween.. we should be able to see the breath vapor.  Using the program's particle effects I cobbled up a vapor effect timed to when the chest bulge effect collapses.   Breathing - Check.  At this point we could have called it good but let's keep going.  

While breathing makes the horse look more convincing, it's also not moving anywhere.  We can't get too carried away with movement since we need to stay inside a confined projection space, which in this case is a garage door.  Horse rearing effects and the like are out of the question.  Care also has to be given to make sure a ovular black 'mask' is maintained around the horse such that there are no hard rectangular edges making it obvious that a screen is being projected.  Using a 'Bend' effect we can make the horse rock back and forth like it would be doing to adjust it's balance.  Only problem now is that the head isn't moving and the whole thing just looks like more of a rocking horse.. ugh this is getting complicated.  Using another program effect called 'Bend It' we can actually fake articulation of the head, and we can time that effect with the exhaling and.. actually that's good enough.  Last step is to add some pulsing glow effects and a glowing red eye to sell it as more ethereal.  All done.


Actually.. not done.  Since we are playing with video wouldn't it be cool, since it's a 'Ghost' Zombie Horse and all if it were to disappear randomly?  Yes, yes it would.  We could just fade out the horse.. or make it disappear into a cloud of fog.  Using two effects called 'Fractal Noise' and 'Turbulent Displace' fog was added.  Boom.  
Last touches were to add sound.  Using Apple's Garage Band and sound effects sourced from freesound.org we've got some audio to go with the horse video.  Here's an excerpt from the final video, hope you like it.

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