Haunted Storage Room: 821
- Team Members and Responsibilities:
Saphaya: Interactive Network Design and Engineering
Teresa: Media Design and Production; Stage Design and Set-up
Tian: Interactive Network Engineering and Backstage Tech Control
Angelica: Doll Mutilation, Sound Actor, and Student Actor.
At first, we were assigned to work in 824A. The haunted house we had in mind had similar dynamic as room escape, in which players were bestowed with a mission to look for something in the locked room before they could get out. Firstly, we would have an actor student or professor to ask for an innocent person’s favor to go get something out from the room. The victim would follow the direction to search this lost item in the fist locker in room 824A. Nothing was in that locker, however. Upon opening the locker, a sound would be triggered deeper in the room from another locker. Opening up a locker where the sound was coming from, the victim would find some dismantled body parts such as eyeballs and hands. The victim might not be scared because those could just be IMA projects and so he kept walking, until he spotted a short film on a small monitor of a person being mutilated. At this point, the victim really wanted to leave. When he opened the door, however, was a serial killer, the exact same guy who mutilated the body in the earlier video, waiting for him.
Story edited for storage room
We did not get the permission to use room 824A and was assigned room 821, the student storage room, instead. There are pros and cons of the new interior. The pro is that the messiness of the room already provided a naturally good setting to hide equipment from the audience. The con is that the space we could utilize was really limited, and with that said, our original plan, which was designed for longer experience, had to be compressed. The messiness of the room also prompted another challenge, which is distraction. We should design our stage meticulously so players could be oriented to experience the full sequence of events and directed to their final goal clearly.
The general storyline and hook to get victim are similar. We would have an actor student or professor to ask the victim to go into the storage room to get a doll. The first video triggered would be a surveillance video of a ghostly figure walking up a stairwell. The video lost signal before the victim could see the figure fully. After that, horrific sound of a woman would call the victim to walk deeper into the storage room. The second video of a ghost climbing on the floor would be activated. The baby doll was the ghost’s child. The ghost was climbing to get her mutilated baby. Later, after a couple of test runs, we decided to add a ghost actor behind the screen of the second video, so when the victim approached to the doll, the ghost from the video would emerge right in front of the victim.
We also added a new element into the experience since our first draft of storyboarding. Instead of a physical figure, we decided to explore the power of projection to project a holographic ghost onto a fabric curtain that is hung behind and can only be partially seen through a messy stack of cardboard boxes. Seemingly climbing out from behind the boxes, the projected image of the ghost is expected to be realistic and merge with physical environment.
Tian and Saphaya were responsible for the technical part of this project. They built a network of events that are triggered in sequence based on detection of motion and light. Since both members were busy and unavailable to mend the project on Friday, I got to learn how to control this patch to operate the Haunted House.
When the patch is initially open, we have to read all the media files to load the file data. Tune up the gain of various audio channels (only need to do this for once). Then make sure the controls of the ghost video and “come here/ i see you” audio are reset to 1 (after triggered they will be set to “0”; need to reset every round). Now we should click “open” to activate the webcam. Click Toggle to enact the entire patch. The Haunted House is ready!
To end the session, click “close” button to close webcam and hit toggle again to deactivate everything.
Sequence of Events
Ambience is on all the time. A webcam is set up on one of the shelves in the storage room. The webcam’s image data is cut into a grid of 9 windows. When door is open, light affects matrix at any point in the second column of the grid (4), which will trigger the first audio “comeHere” (1) and the surveillance video. As the victim walks further into the room, he enters coordinates 1,3 of the jit.split, which activates the “iSeeU” mp3 (2) and once the sfplay~ is finished, reads the “ghostCrawl_sound” mov and plays the video (3).
Using remote management, we controlled the security camera feed playing within the room and the ghost video playing from the projector all within one patch.
On Friday, I and Saphaya separated the original patch into the surveillance part and projection/audio part. The surveillance part is moved to a new computer we added to the room. The reason we did that is to provide more distance between the first and second videos and to utilize more space in the room (more detail will be discussed in the Challenge part of Stage Design). Now we used remote management to control two independent patches on two laptops in the room.
- Visual & Sound Design + Stage Design
Inspired by Sadako and Kayako, two iconic ghosts from classic Japanese horrors, The Grudge and The Ring, we decided to create a female ghost character with coarse black hair covering the front of her face, dressing in dirty white tunic, whose movement was limited to an eerie and jagged climb due to the violent mutilation to the lower part of her body before she was killed.
We shot two scenes with the ghost climbing and screaming in the green screen room. The green was keyed out in After Effects so the background of the video could be alpha. Color correction and smoke effect were done to the video in After Effects as well. Not all the footage was selected for the haunted house.
Originally, we planned to project the video onto a transparent mesh to achieve a holographic effect so the ghost could be seen-through. However, the plan didn’t work out because we failed to find or design a “dead corner” in the room, where bleed-through on the surface behind the mesh and the hotspot of the projector could be hidden from player’s view. Finally, we settled with white fabric. Although less realistic, the effect was still satisfying after environing the fabric in the back and front ground elements of the room. Another difficulty faced was the distance between the screen and the projector. There was no enough clear space between the projector and screen. When the two were close, image was too small. When the two were far, shelves and other objects cast shadow onto the screen. We fixed the problem by using a mirror to reflect the image. Yet since the projector angle and the mirror’s plane were not parallel, the reflected image was not in perfect perspective. The mirror was also too small to capture everything of the projected image.
The audio for the ghost crawling video is mixed in Premiere Pro using sounds including breathing and humming we recorded in the stairwell. Other creative common music and effect were subtly added to the ambience to create depth.
The footage for surveillance was shot on the 18th floor fire escape in Jinqiao Dorm. The stairwell was naturally haunted with green light of the “EXIT” sign illuminating, security signal beeping, and ventilation ambience infiltrating. The sound recorded on spot was really creepy after minor tweets (ex, extend the duration or reverse the sound track) in Premiere Pro and Reaper. A loud static was added to the beginning of the video to attract attention. We attempted to make to surveillance more haunted by making it interactive. When player approached to the video and motion was detected, the player’s figure would be ghostly reflected and overlapped on the surveillance footage. This design did not execute very well because the light source player carried was really strong in the dark room; the sensor was really sensitive. The reflection of the player disturbed the surveillance from playing.
Ideally, the surveillance and projection should not be so close to each other. We wanted to put the surveillance near the entrance on the right side of the room, so it would have greater time and space separation before the player hit the second video. After the surveillance was played, speaker on the left side of the room would say “come here,” calling player to get closer to where the sound came from, also where the projection was. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to execute that on Thursday because we only had one laptop for both the projection and surveillance displays. The laptop had to be connected to the projector so it couldn’t be taken to a different position.
On Friday, we set up one more laptop in the room and transferred the Max patch section that toggled the surveillance to it. We then could remote control two independent codes hosted on two laptops, one for all the audio and projection and the other for surveillance. The codes worked fine. But after we built the stage, we realized the camera could not sense light motion. While we tried to fix the code, we accidentally replaced it with the old code without realizing that we didn’t have license to save Max. We lost the new patch unfortunately and had to resort to the old one, which was bugging throughout the entire show.
We have good concept but poor execution. Inadequate coordination is the biggest problem of this team. We didn’t invest enough time to work together on testing the run-through. When we realized something went wrong with the connection and codings, or more equipment was needed, it was usually too late for us to fully fix the problems. This really has to do with the lack of communication, early preparation, and decision.
Players gave really valuable feedback and suggestions after playing even though the execution of our haunted house was kind of a mess. Below are some of the points we should really have done to enhance the haunted house only if we had time:
- Add a black curtain behind the door so the light sensors in the room would not be triggered right after the players enter the room. It also solves the problem of players forgetting or not knowing to close the door after they enter.
- The room is dark and messy. Player has no idea where the doll is. There should be some hint that leads the player to the doll. I am thinking maybe after the ghost video finishes, a light will shine on the doll. I still prefer the doll to be on the floor because the ghost can crawl out from behind the boxes to scare the player when he/she picks up the doll.
- Reposition the ghost projection behind / next to the door. It will be triggered after the player picks up the doll and turns around to leave. The ghost appears by the door to block his/her way out. (I love this idea so much!) (The new sequence could be like this: player walks — speaker next to the doll says, “Come here” or “save me” — a surveillance foreshadowing the ghost is triggered as the players walk further down the room — a lamp lights up the doll — player picks up the doll and turns around to exit the room — the projection is triggered. Ghost appears next to the doorway.)