Spooky Face in Mirror Special Effect

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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 spe...

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 an 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 davidandora.com for more information.

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Step 1: For Each Display You'll Need:

1: 23 1/4" x 33 1/2" Üng Drill frames from IKEA. (they currently come in two sizes).
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 are now 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. http://amzn.com/B008NO9RRM

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    26 Discussions

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    Sovereignty

    7 years ago on Introduction

    I almost overlooked this thinking it was gonna be super complicated. I like easy, with awesome results! Very good job.

    1 reply
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    EXACTLY!!! I think it looks that way to a lot of people, but it's not. Just a little time and attention to some details and you end up with a great effect that is definitely greater than the sum of it's parts. Happy Halloween!

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    Navyseal6

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Please add what you need/ materials because I don't know what all you need. Thank you

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    bowlingb

    6 years ago on Introduction

    You can also find these small displays at thrift stores or garage sales for $25 US or less.

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    I wonder if I could attach a plain rectangular frame to the front of a small LCD tv we have sitting around (free with large tv purchase last black Friday) that is slightly smaller. That way I didn't have to dedicate the tv to this project. I'm thinking of doing this for a one time situation for a haunted house we are doing. Hmmm. Great instructable!

    1 reply

    Of course you could! Just a couple notes:

    -The video displays I use for this effect are only held in place with vecro straps and I use them for other projects as well.

    -Also, I believe that a round frame makes this effect stronger as the mind doesn't immediately view this as a video effect. You could still use a round frame with your TV. The tv is smaller than the frame in my example. The face image never extends off the edge of the video frame, so you don't see an "edge" through the two-way mirror.

    Hope that helps. Have a fun Haunted House!

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    jmalt31

    7 years ago on Introduction

    If you use a controller or a microcontroller like a picaxe (Very easy to use) you can control the power to the DVD players however you want. even have different characters in the different mirrors and have them interact with each other. There are some interesting possibilities with these.

    1 reply
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    davidandorajmalt31

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    That sounds really intriguing! I'm going to have to research that more. It sounds like it could really open up some fun results. Thanks for the suggestion!

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    Mechanic2011

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable Dave !
    Very easy to do and follow.
    I see that you indirectly lit the picture frame from above with the 18" fluorescent black light in a hidden cove .
    Do you think that it would be possible to find mirror / picture frames such as you have but are made out of a clear acrylic of some type ?
    The mirror / two way glass could then be backlit using most anything or even the glow of the monitor itself.
    I was thinking about neon accent glow tubes ,LED strings or even E.L. wire or strips.
    Some of the accent neon glow tubes sold in automotive stores are of the cheaper plastic tube variety and could be bent into a curve to some degree.
    What do you think?

    2 replies

    Thanks for the compliment! I've actually used "black light" LED panels or spotlights aimed at them. I find they give off much brighter glow than fluorescent lamps at a greater distance, though they also give off much more visible spectrum purple light as well. I've seen fluorescent transparent acrylic housings on black light bulbs, so I wouldn't doubt there are frames out there as well. It seems likely. I wouldn't choose to use a electrically internally-illuminated frame as I think it makes the effect seem more like electronic gadgetry. As the effect is now, it genuinely makes people think about it for a bit. I always try to route the power and video cables so they are hidden as well. It would certainly look cool to have an internally glowing frame, though. EL wire isn't very bright. LED strips don't like to flex curves if the LED's are front facing, and I have no experience working with neon tubing.

    Let me know if you try something out! :-)

    Wow , I have not thought about using the LED black light panels before.
    That is actually a great idea ,I like it.
    The light would be MORE focused to a certain direction than any bulb would be and make it easier to conceal it.
    I do know that you can buy individual LED's in virtually any light color wavelength.
    I have found oddball colors like "Ocean Green" ones on Ebay and most of them come from China sellers and shipped through the Mail as they are not that large or heavy even when buying 1000 of them at a time !!
    So a person could choose a certain color wavelength and then make their own light panels in any shape ,size and brightness.

    BTW I used the "Ocean Green" Led's for light source on underwater ROV video cameras due to the color of most of the lakes around here and also most Black and White video ( surveilance ) cameras respond well to that color it seems.
    That color of light seems to make a lot of the suspended particles in the water not as visible to the camera.

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    davidandoraCritifur

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I haven't been added to the contest yet for some reason. I hope it get's sorted out soon. Thanks for the rating!

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    enveslope

    7 years ago on Introduction

    expensive build, or am I missing something?
    3 dvd-players,3 LCD screens etc and a license for Final Cut Pro doesn't seem like a cheap build to me.

    but it looks good, so I'll give it heads up :)

    1 reply
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    davidandoraenveslope

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I guess it all depends on your frame of reference, and what you may have already. I used Final Cut Pro, but any video editing software, or even none at all might be used. A single mirror installation would be less expensive and have less demands as far as timing, etc... The cost of DVD players and small LCD displays have come way down. I've seen new brand name dvd players for $25 and 19" displays for well under $100. It's certainly not super cheap, but I think the outcome justifies the expense. Thanks for comment and compliment!