Introduction: Spooky Face in Mirror Special Effect

About: I've been self employed most of my life. For better or worse, I'm a fountain of ideas. One of my best skills is brainstorming and problem solving, utilizing an extensive knowledge of novel technology and speci…

I created this "spooky face in-the-mirror" special effect in 2009. The effect is of three green-glowing framed mirrors that have a spooky face which appears to move from frame to frame on a continuous loop.

SPECIAL NOTE: I have one of these complete (single location) effects for sale for $495.

ALSO AVAILABLE: High quality, computer-cut 2-way plexiglass mirror for a (now discontinued 8/19) IKEA Üng Drill frame for $99- less than you'll find anywhere else, to assist your DIY efforts. Please contact me through instructables or visit for more information.

Step 1: For Each Display You'll Need:

1: 23 1/4" x 33 1/2" Üng Drill frames from IKEA. (These were discontinued 8/19, but can be often found on Ebay)
1: 2-way mirror cut to fit the Ikea frame.
1: 19" widescreen LCD panel (or similar, with compatible measurements to hide behind the frame)
1: electronic media player or DVD player, etc...
OPTIONAL: fluorescent paint, and a UV/Blacklight source.

I used 3 framed displays for my installation.
Note: The ÜNG DRILL frames were available as both frames and mirrors (though not the 2-way variety).

Step 2: Prepare Your IKEA Frame Display

I painted fluorescent green for this display, which has an important technical reason for my vignette, which I'll mention later. You can choose to leave the frame black or paint it another color. You can obtain a professionally cut-to-fit 2-way mirror from me, or elsewhere and use the provided mirror or clear frame plastic as a measuring guide to carefully cut with an appropriate saw/router/laser cutter. Alternatively, you may try to use a 2-way mirror film to apply to the included plastic.

My original installation enabled me to place the LCD panels behind faux walls with oval cut-outs, mounting the frames flush to these wall panels. For future installations, I wanted to be able to use the frames where I would have the LCD display surface mounted, taking up space and raising the frame from the wall. I designed an ornate black frame inspired by wrought iron filagree, which was cnc-cut from black Sintra, a pvc sheet product. I used a heat bender to raise the framework just enough to accommodate the LCD panel. It works very well at hiding the display and also visually anchors the mirror to the wall. There is roughly 1/2" of space behind the mirror before the video display which helps to add a little depth, enhancing the illusion.

Step 3: Create Your Video Content

I recorded my friend's face with a black t-shirt pulled over his head to expose just the very front of his face. I wanted it to look like a floating face, not a whole head. I lit his face from below to enhance the ghoulish quality of the image. This was all done in front of a black backdrop. His face had white makeup on it, but I'm not certain that was entirely necessary because of my post image processing. Because the LCD displays are mounted on their side, the camera was also on it's side to record the footage without losing resolution.

The video was then edited in Final Cut Pro to enhance the contrast of the face and the black background. Then, an important step was to alter the color to look as though the face was lit with ultraviolet (black) light and was U.V. reactive. U.V. reactive white looks blueish under UV light, so I gave the image a tint that matched that same hue of blue. Because the LCD display gives off an illuminated image, and face appears to be reacting to black light, the whole display gives the impression to be glowing exclusively from ultraviolet light. This subtle detail makes the effect more mysterious and avoids simply looking like a "tv behind a mirror". Both the fluorescent frame and the face glow at the same level of brightness. In person, the effect is brighter than it appears in the attached video, but rather the way it does in the included photos. I recommend an LED-based UV/blacklight, as they are vastly brighter- though they do give off more visible spectrum purple glow.

To create the effect that the face moves from frame to frame and never is in two places at the same time, I created three separate video tracks, one for each frame. Then created DVD's in DVD Studio Pro that automatically start playing when the dvd player powers on. Then I used three dvd players of the same manufacturer and model, one running to each mirror/video display. By using a remote control I am able to turn on all three dvd players at the same time so they are synced. The dvd's are programmed to automatically loop. They successfully stayed in sync for at least 8+ hours. UPDATE: For a simpler option with no moving parts, I can recommend the Micca Speck Ultra Portable Digital Media Player.

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