Have you ever been on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, at Disneyland? As you float through the ransacked city, most of the buildings appear to be on fire inside. If you look at what's going on, they're shining colored lights on a sheet of fabric, which is being blown by fans, making fairly believable fire. Creating this same look can be an awesome addition to a Halloween display, and is both simple, and fairly cheep.
There are several ways of accomplishing the look, but this is one of the easiest, and most straightforward. I have a more complex version currently in the design phase, but it'll have to wait till next year. :) The final effect pictures, and video, show a few other window embellishments; this instructable focuses simply on the fire.
Excluding a trip to the hardware store, this can be done in about an hour.
The video doesn't quite convey the contrasting light and dark as well as seeing in person, but this gives a pretty good feel for how it looks:
Step 1: Gathering Materials
There isn't much to this build, and you may already have some of the essentials sitting at home.
- 2 - 150-Watt Incandescent Clamp Lights
- 1 - Red bulb
- 1 - Orange bulb
- 3 - 2x4 boards
- White sheet, or similar fabric
The clamp lights are found at most home improvement stores, usually in the electrical section (by the extension cords, etc.). Unless you're doing a really small window, be sure to get the ones with the larger bell on them. There is a smaller version, but they don't reflect as much light.
Measure your window to determine how much fabric you'll need, as well as length of 2x4 boards. For the board measurements, determine the overall height from the floor. You'll build a large H shape, using 3 boards.
For smaller windows, you might want to purchase some plain white fabric from a craft/fabric store. For larger windows, it works best if you just have an old white sheet that you don't mind putting some holes in. If not, check your local Goodwill, etc., as they usually have some. The key here is that you want the fabric to make the span across the whole window, but have enough so that it hangs somewhat loose. So make sure you have a few inches more than the overall width of window you're covering. You can cheat a bit on the height, it doesn't need to cover the whole thing, top to bottom, but make sure you have some wiggle room on the width.
Step 2: Putting It Together
Once you've determined the height, and width you need, the rest is a piece of cake.
First, build an H-shaped frame with the 2x4s. So you get something like this:
| | | | | | -------- | |
Measure the height from the floor, to the bottom window frame, and attach the crossbar at that same height on the vertical pieces. You want the crossbar, right at about the same height as the bottom of your window frame, so the lights start right at the bottom.
The crossbar should go on what will be the room-facing side, to allow as much separation as possible between the fabric, and lights.
Put a couple screws for each intersection, and call it good. You don't need a whole lot of stability, but enough to keep it from falling in on itself.
The fabric should go on what will be the window-facing side, again to allow separation between fabric and lights.
Now drape your fabric, or sheet, across the frame, and make a decision on what the future holds for your chosen piece of fabric. If you're just borrowing a white sheet from an in-use bed, you could just put a few clamps on it and hold it in place, but you're better off just sacrificing the material. For me, I used a hand staple gun, and attached it in 5 or 6 spots on either side. Small nails would work too. Just be sure it is loosly draped between the two posts, but not overly so. Just enough to allow some movement, when the fan blows on it; it's not an exact science.
One benefit of stapling/nailing the sheet: when you're all done, you can just detach the crossbar, and roll everything up, to store for next year.
With the clamp lights, put an orange light in one, and a red in the other (doesn't matter which).
LIGHTS GENERATE HEAT.
BE SURE TO TEST AND MAKE SURE THE SHEET DOESN'T COME IN DIRECT CONTACT WITH THE LIGHTS.
The crossbar serves as a good mount point for the lights, but be very careful to keep the bulbs away from the sheet. The light bells themselves don't get warm, especially with the fan blowing, but it's a good idea to try and keep them away from the sheet as well. Direct the lights so they each point toward the center of the structure, NOT towards the window itself.
Position a fan underneath everything, about in the middle. Depending on your fan's overall output, you may need to lift it off the floor a bit. The one I used was pretty good, on the High setting.
Here's how it looks, from the inside:
And that's all there is too it! Turn off all the rest of the lights in the room, and head outside to admire your devilishly flaming windows! You won't see hardly anything in daylight, but once it is dark out, the effect is spectacular!