Final Project: Dr Jingles Fakhr (with Sam Hu, Dave Santiano, and Nick Sanchez)

We started with location allotments, and we were allotted the space at the end of the hall on the 8th floor where the lockers were. We decided immediately (during the class when location allottments were made) upon a basic storyline. We would cordon off the locker area with a curtain, and begin right outside of it. One actor would introduce the audience to hideous freak-show artefacts from various places, and then say, ‘But our most horrifying artefact is behind that curtain. Enter at your own peril!’ Once the audience member(s) went through, we had the vague idea to manipulate the lockers, have them open and close, and for objects to appear and disappear in the space – basically, for ‘something scary’ to happen.

Over the following two weeks, we researched and refined our ideas. As part of this process, I researched some of the stage mechanisms of scary theatre for inspiration. I found particular inspiration from some of the behind-the-scenes cuts of the long-running West End production of The Woman in Black (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkLaY1DLTJc) and from the dramatic aesthetics of The Tiger Lillies’ puppetry (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOVSp-fYUQc). I think we incorporated some of the former in our staging, and some of the latter in our text. Following research and discussion, we settled upon a story: we would be presenting the life and work of a failed inventor, Dr Jingles Fakhr, who was active in the late 1800s. After showing the audience the first couple of failed inventions from the Doctor, we would send them through to his ‘least obscure invention’ – the Perpetual Light Machine. The story went that Dr Fakhr had tried to use diamonds to make a light machine work – but in the course of working on it, he saw frightful visions and went insane. Other people have also seen visions and felt nausea when in contact with the machine, so we have had to keep it behind curtains. This was our general backstory.

As to the specific scares, we determined that there would be three phases. When the audience entered, there would be a museum exhibit, with the light-source flickering. The audience would be listening to an audio-guide. Stage two: the lights would die out, and in the darkness, a vision – a mannequin or dress-form – would appear. The lights would come back on. Stage three: the lights would go out again, and in the darkness, a second vision – this time an actor – would appear, and actively scare the audience. As is clear, pitch darkness became a necessity by this stage of the project. (A more complete description of the blocking is in the link below).

Post research, my first major part in the project was the writing up of the script and the organizing of theatrical blocking, which I did here: https://docs.google.com/a/nyu.edu/document/d/1jFW2mjvmIQvO66diFAfkDFXOkJdjBN6AI5NAh_E8fkE/edit?usp=sharing

The second part of setting up was the physical aspect. We moved the lockers to create a pathway that got narrow, to elicit a claustrophobic effect. We used used a number of curtains (fortuitously mis-ordered) to cover up the entire space, and a green-screen frame to set up an entrance. Finally we organized an backstage area from which we could operate. In the performance space, I was the theatrical announcer, David was the second vision, Sam handled the audio aspect, and Nicholas controlled the lighting and the movement of the first vision. The light contraption itself was modified for use from the project of Sun Jingyi, who built a bluetooth light-source for her Network Everything class.

(Pictures to come)

Project 2: Scare Your Computer (with Nick Sanchez)

Scare your computer. Using Arduino with Serial communication to: Processing, Max/MSP with Jitter, or Isadora, incite a fear response from your computer (e.g., Trigger a video of a screaming person when you come into the frame, turn off the lights or play a loud sound).

We began by thinking about the wording of the question: ‘Scare your computer.’ What makes a computer afraid? And what does it look like when a computer is afraid? We speculated that a plausible answer to the second question was that a computer might turn off in fright – in the same way a person might freeze in terror or faint in shock. And finally, we thought that what might scare a computer might be violence upon computer hardware – in the same way gore and violence upon the body would scare a person. So we had our basic outline: scaring a computer to the point of turning off by committing violence upon other computer-like bodies.

My main contribution to this early outline was to write up a script and backstory: an ambiguous trope-heavy piece where the AI revolution fails and is quashed by human overlords. Our computer would be an AI rebel, captured and tortured by the humans (us) in order to acquire some important codes. We then decided on a ‘face’ for the computer, settling on HAL-3000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. We decided that the ‘scaring’ would progress in three steps: resistance, acquiescence, and terror. So we would demand the codes from the AI, and show the gory remains of her compatriots – which would horrify the computer, but not elicit the desired response. Then we would step it up, smashing hardware before the AI, causing the AI to break down and give us the code. Finally, we would display the full extent of our sadism, inflicting harm on the computer even when there was no reason to do so.

We set about getting the basic materials for the computer’s ‘personality’ – the face (a stock image with some Photoshop manipulation, so that there were two images: one with the light turned on when the computer was speaking, and one with the light turned off when it was not) and the voice, for which we just used an online voice generator. Then, we went about figuring out the process for triggering a response. This went in two stages. Initially, we we interested in using vibration or pressure sensors in order to measure the computer’s ‘fear’ at the impact of our smashing. We made a little apparatus, essentially a stage we could set on a table and hit with a hammer, with a vibration sensor inside, which would register impact. However, it ended up being that the readings we were getting were far too erratic to be properly usable.

So in the end, we decided to simply make the computer move from one stage of fear to others, using a button. We used Max/MSP to move the computer’s visible state from one audiovisual display to another, such that the computer would respond to the push of a button to go from resisting giving up the code, to giving it up, to turning off. This was the most difficult section of the assignment, as neither of us were particularly adept at Max/MSP; with a lot of help from the help pages and a lot of fiddling around, we did manage to get the sequence going. Finally, we added some theatrical touches, and performed for the class. (This vocabulary is used advisedly: as Antonius pointed out, our final product was akin to a script-reading more than anything, unlike our original plan with the Piezo sensors.)

Museum of Mediocre Artefacts: Nick Sanchez’s Documentation

Long ago, internationally infamous inventor Jingles Fakhr sought to make his name known… After a long and toilsome inventing career, creating useless and inoperable oddities, he finally made his breakthrough discovery… the Perpetual Light Machine!

For our project, we sought to make an exhibit whereby users would be drawn down a long and scary dark hallway. At the end, a contraption of some sort would sit idly, willing unsuspecting guests to draw nearer and observe it. Once they did, we behind the scenes would do something to scare them. This was the premise.

Much effort and time was spent on ideation, and there were many ideas that were either dropped entirely or subtly embedded into the final concept. This was tedious, and occupied much of our time. Nevertheless, we persisted, and eventually decided on the loose idea centered around this fictional inventor named “Jingles Fakhr”. The story was that Dr. Jingles was one of the many inventors during the 1800s, who like his contemporaries Edison and Tesla, sought to experiment with electricity and light. Though many of his inventions didn’t work (some of which we would show as exhibition to provide context during the show), his one successful invention was the “Perpetual Light Machine”. The conflict of our story arises when we share that this invention has dubious origins, causing many who view it to feel uneasy, hallucinate, and in some cases, go crazy. It is for these “reasons” that we keep this artefact hidden behind a curtain, and discourage all but the most brave guests to venture in and observe it. After they do, we would go about staging our fright.

We had picked the corner of the IMA floor where the lockers stood as the space where we would stage this experience. To create this stage, we angled the lockers so that they narrowed as you walked towards the end of the hallway. The idea was to place the “Perpetual Light Machine” towards the end of the hallway, such that people would get considerably claustrophobic as they neared it. Once these audience members walk towards it and observe it, we inauspiciously place a costumed mannequin behind them. Once the mannequin is in position, a similarly costumed actor would would jump out at them, causing them to recoil and turn around. At this point, they would suddenly see the mannequin that wasn’t behind them before, and become even more terrified.

This was the plan. The challenge became planning for it. We coordinated with IMA staff to order several key props and settings off of Taobao. These things included curtains to cover the entire stage, a mannequin, a head, and some masks and hoods to costume the mannequin and actor, a head (for the dress form).

Initially, we planned to fabricate some broken electronics to represent the two intial oddities before the final Perpetual Motion Machine. To be honest, I made an automaton that could have turned with Arduino, but never implemented the appropriate circuitry to actually animate it. Nevertheless, this “automaton” was creepy, and clearly dysfuncional, which was the point. In addition, we never really got around to creating a phonograph-like pair of headphones. Consequently, we only had the dysfunctional automaton to show as the pretext to the Perpetual Light Machine.

The Perpetual Light Machine prop was a borrowed student project from Sun Jingyi. It was a 3mm acrylic translucent pyramid, which would glow based on the Arduino-LED setup underneath it.

Setting it up was not to difficult, but we improvised as we went along, making this entire process a little more time consuming. Nevertheless, the end result was rewarding and entirely worth it.

fright4 fright3 fright2 fright1

Nicholas Sanchez (and Abiral) Scaring the Computer

The idea of instilling fear in a person seems intuitive, as there are many ways to accomplish this task, be it telling them a horrifying story or even scaring them via surprise. But to instill fear into a computer is a different idea altogether, not only because they are different beings that humanity has yet to fully comprehend, but also because the parameters by which the computer “feels” fear are not necessarily easy to define. By anthropomorphizing the computer, and using techniques with Max MSP, we managed to turn the computer into a gear in our metaphorical demonstration.

Our idea was simple. We would “scare” the computer using psychological horror. How? well a popular and particularly disturbing sub genre of horror is body horror, named so for its grotesque mutilation of human bodies. Why does seeing the human body in contorted states upset us? what about it is so horrifying? That is not for me to say, but the principle that seeing that imagery frightens people is a well grounded idea. We decided to apply this idea to the computer, and stage its fright by an analogous means.

To do this, we staged an interrogation were we asked the computer for a set of passwords. The computer would, of course, deny us access, so we would use several methods to “coerce” the computer. After each refusal, we would use some psychological method to scare the computer. The computer would respond and gradually emulate the experience of becoming increasingly terrified.

We crafted a script of this interrogation, and then set about creating the animations for the computer. To represent the computer, we took an image of “HAL 9000” from “2001: A Space Odyssey”, and edited in photoshop so that it could be easily manipulated (turned on and off) in afterEffects. After editing these layers, we imported them into afterEffects to animate the computer getting “scared” and create each response to the interrogation.

To make the robot voice, we used http://ttsreader.com/ to generate some text that the computer would speak during the interrogation. We took these sound files, edited them a bit, and then also exported them to afterEffects.

In afterEffects, we animated the computer such that the eye lit up when it was speaking. By using regular expressions, we mapped the audio levels to keyframes, and then mapped the brightness of the eye to these keynotes. In doing this, we managed to make the eye brightest when the voice was speaking, and grow dimmer in between words or when the audio had little sound. After we had made several clips of each reactionary dialogue as well as the end, we exported them from after effects for use in MAX MSP.

Editing the computer's "eye"

Editing the computer’s “eye”

MAX MSP is a new software for us, and its implementation was challenging. While it has many advantages, such as its ability to render video and such, it unfortunately lacks much of the logic that more traditional languages use. In addition, this software is visual, and not coded line by line, which presented another challenge. Nevertheless, after hours of toil and experimentation, we managed to create a MAX MSP build that played each of the videos on command.

The next step was to integrate Arduino into the sketch. Initially, we sought to use a pressure sensor to activate each of these subsequent videos. According to our script, after each of our “motivational” actions, a pressure sensor should activate the the respective video. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts with multiple force and touch sensors, we couldn’t create a consistent response from these sensors. Ultimately, we opted to use a pushbutton to activate the computer’s responses.

the vibration sensor

the vibration sensor

Abiral experimenting with he pressure sensor

Abiral experimenting with he pressure sensor

installing the push button onto the base of the box. This would activate each video.

installing the push button onto the base of the box. This would activate each video.

 

After finally having all the technical aspects completed, we just had to get our performance in order. Using various miscellaneous discarded computer parts and some stage presence, we pulled together a performance that conveyed the computer experiencing horror. Enjoy.

 

Nicholas Sanchez Ghost-o-meter

The project for this week was to create some apparatus that gauged and recorded a user’s fear. While there are many ways to do this (Computer vision via face tracking, eye tracking, pixel differentiation, etc), I elected to work with Galvanic skin response instead. To do this, I decided to modify the project that we did in class, but amend it so that that the item was more interesting and interactive.

My idea was to create a “Gohst-o-meter”, or a ghost detection device. While this device would not actually detect ghosts, it would gauge the user’s GSR and use this data to “detect” ghosts. The theory of Galvanic Skin Response suggests that when a human enters a state of arousal (experiencing strong emotions, such as fear), their sweat glands will produce sweat, which is conductive. Thus, the human’s skin’s natural resistance goes down as the sweat makes the skin more conductive. Devices, like the Arduino’s analog input pins, are sensitive to this change in resistance, and thereby can gauge galvanic skin response, albeit to a certain degree. And while the theory behindGalvanic Skin Response is far from an exact science, like the means of gauging GSR, it can still be an indicator of a user’s heightened sense of fear.

The “Ghost-o-meter” would essentially be a box with a handle. Inside the box would be the Arduino, with two extruding extending into the handle. These probes would be places such that both constantly made contact with the user’s hand, thereby allowing the user’s GSR to be captured. The box would have some physical indication of the GSR, like an LED or buzzer, that would change flashing/beeping frequency based on the user’s GSR input. While it would not necessarily detect ghosts, it would detect how scared the user was. Say, for example, the user is in a well lit, comfortable space, and not experiencing any strong emotions. After calibrating to their current GSR, the “Ghost-o-meter” would buzz and blink at high intervals. Now, if they were to enter a “haunted” dark and scary space, perhaps they would be a little scared, and their GSR would rise, and the intervals at which the”Ghost-o-meter” buzzed and flashed would decrease. As the machine is now buzzing and flashing more, the user thus infers that there are ghosts around. Ideally, this heightened state of arousal would cause the “Ghost-o-meter” to buzz and blink even more rapidly, therefore indicating the strong presence of a “ghost”.

To build this project, I used 3mm MDF board, some 3 mm clear Acrylic, a spray-painted 3.2mm PVC pipe, miscellaneous electronics, and of course, Arduino.

ghost1

I designed a box in Adobe illustrator to house the electronics. I then iterated through until I had a box that could fir the components and the handle. I then laser cut this box such that 5 sides were MDF, and the top was clear acrylic, so that a user could see the inside electronics. To make the handle, I took some PVC from another project and put conductive copper tape on both sides I then soldered one wire to each of these strips of tape. These would serve as the probes. I took these wires through the pipe’s insides and and plugged one wire into 5 volts on the Arduino, and the other to the Analog 0 pin. I also added some LEDs and a buzzer for good measure, to act as the feedback mechanisms.

ghost2

Finally, to code this I had several issues. Mainly that each person has a different initial or resting GSR. So i took some code that collected average data over a few second and spliced it into my code. This new code allowed for the “Ghost-o-meter” to calibrate to the user’s resing GSR by averaging values collected over the first 5 seconds. This would be the lower threshold by which the Arduino would compare the GSR. Ultimately, this allowed me to set the lowest value to that of the user’s natural GSR, so that any escalation would cause the “Ghost-o-meter” to start buzzing or blinking rapidly.

ghost3

ghost4

Unfortunately, the first round of testing showed that the probes were a little to sensitive. So, I added a semi-conductive foam around these probes to decrease its sensitivity. This worked well, but the sensitivity was still to high. What this did change, however, was grip. adding the foam changed the handle from a GSR detector to a pressure sensor. This meant that if the user gripped the handlebar tightly, the “Ghost-o-meter” would act as if a “ghost” appeared by buzzing and flashing rapidly. By contrast, a slight grip would not elicit this response. While this addition took away from the “Ghost-o-meter”‘s GSR reading, I think it could still gauge fear because often when people are scared, they grip items tighter. Therefore, in some sense this “Ghost-o-meter” does record fear, just not in the way I originally intended.

Here are a few (staged) videos of the Ghost-o-meter in action!

Staging Fright Final documentation, David Santiano

sppooookkkyyyyyyy

81253d16cad7d8019b1f7000dc12849d

My team, consisting of Abiral, Nick, and Sam, set out to create a horrifying experience, one that was truly frightening in nature, one that would set the stage to scare the living crap out of many a participant. So, we created Dr. Fakhr’s Museum of Mediocre Artefacts, a truly horrifying museum of dazzling and devastating delights.

WELCOME!!!

moma entrance

We initially set out to create an experience that would be embedded with sensors and solenoids, and lights and sounds that would scare the bejeezus out of many a participant, but the more we played around with the space the more that we realized that we could simplify it to something that has withstood the test of time, a dark room paired with a creepy guy in a mask. Of course, the experience was a bit more than that, but that was the essence of the whole experience.

 

We were assigned the lockers, and we decided to first start moving them into an arrangement that could be deemed as claustrophobic:

initial setup

You’ll also notice that the lights in the photo are blocked out, covered by cardboard, which was a necessity to the whole experience as it was imperative that we had no light leaking into our staging area.

My involvement with the final project was mostly with the setting up of the stage, I helped drape the curtains on top of the green screen frame, and also helped extend the frame a bit further with the plastic pieces reinforced by spare wood.

Greenscreen frame not long enough? Just find some wood and plastic.

Using this we were able to construct a bigger frame that would suit our absence of light needs.

20170521_180957

20170521_181012

Next, we started draping curtains over the whole entire thing, aiming to create a space that was both claustrophobic, and extremely dark.

WordPress’s image editing software is broken, so it’s a bit flipped right now

dark corridor

We secured these curtains with magnets:

20170521_181025

Pretty effective! The extent of the work that I personally did on the project was just getting the space set up, getting rid of all light leaks, and also helping with the blocking of the experience. I also acted as the main scare guy, dressed up in a cloak and mask, and hid behind a curtain in the back of the lockers. It was hard to video the experience as it was pitch black inside of our space, but we found great success as we were only able to go through about 10-20% of the people who signed up for the experience.

Staging Fright Final Project

 

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, Student Actor, Sound Design

For our project, we were first given 824. The storyboard we had for this room was much more elaborate. Here is the storyboard:

IMG_0684

After finding out our room was switched, we didn’t change the story much, just kind of shortened it. Teresa and I shot the footage of the crawling girl in the greenscreen room. We also collected and recorded sounds for the story. We used reaper to edit them, to make them fit the ambience we wanted to create.

 

 

屏幕共享 图片 2017年5月18日 GMT+8 下午8.19.40

ghostCrawl_sound

 

From there, Tian and Sapphya were responsible for the maxpatch.  The max patch was set up to trigger based on location of light that the camera detected. Here is the maxpatch:

maxpatch2

There are 4 events that our triggered.

Our full run through is here:

2

Here is the surveillance footage we had in the room:

 

The runthrough we had during class went really well, but during the show there were a lot of difficulties we had. The biggest was that only Teresa and I were there to run the show. Teresa was doing the max patch while I was pretending I needed something from the storage room. There was supposed to be someone in the room popping out at people as they exited the room, as we realized that many users didn’t want to go further back into the room. While it didn’t end up being as scary as planned due to max patch difficulties and due to only two of us being there to make the experience we wanted. Overall, the biggest challenge presented was probably figuring out the layout of the room, given the space limitations. The  projector was hard to position, but eventually we figured it out. Overall, I think some people were spooked, but had we had everybody I think the experience could have been scarier. I also think that some people were annoyed that they didn’t signed up to be scared. It was a very fun project to work on though and making sounds and editing them to create an ambience was my favorite part.

 

 

 

Staging Fright “824A” Documentation

The story:

IMG_0684

In the beginning, our haunted house story was designed for the interior of room 824A. We planned to employ the help of a professor to pose as an innocent teacher looking for something she lost. The victim, i.e. you, ideally would volunteer to help the professor and look for this lost item in room 824A. The professor gives you explicit instructions to search in locker A and as planned, you would go directly to locker A first, however the item won’t be there. Upon opening the locker, a sound is triggered from somewhere deeper in the room, from another locker and a curious victim would investigate the noise. In that locker would be something which is subtlety scary, and a trigger that activates a louder set of noises to scare off the victim. When the victim turns to leave, a short film plays on a small computer screen of a person being mutilated. At this point, the victim really wants to leave, but they can’t leave from the way they entered because the culprit from the video is standing in their way! The victim is successfully scared away and runs out of the room through the other door.

*Story edited for storage room:

Instead of a physical figure, we decided to explore the power of projection to project a ghost onto the wall.

Technical:

We wanted the project to be less manual and more automatic, so we relied on motion capture primarily to trigger several events within our maxpatch. The only control we have over the patch is the opening and closing of the webcam and the uppermost toggle to activate the entire patch.

maxpatch2

We have four events in total. There is a webcam attached to one of the shelves in the storage room, and we apply a fade between that feed and a video of a stairwell, which is triggers upon entering the matrix at any point in the second column (4). This also triggers the “comehere” mp3 clip, to somewhat urge the victim deeper into storage (1). As the victim gets closer to finding the item they were sent into the room to look for, the victim 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.

 

Final Project: Haunted Room 821

Haunted Storage Room: 821

824A (7)

 

  •  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.

 

  • Storyboarding

Original Concept

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.

cardBoard_walkThrough

824A (2)

 

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.

Thursday_runThrough

 

  • Technical

Operation  

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.

maxpatch2

 

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).

Remote Control

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.

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Challenge

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.

 

  • Self-Evaluation

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.

 

  • Looking Forward

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)

 

Week 15: Final Project: Dr. Fakhr’s Exhibition

Student Name: Jianghao Sam Hu. Teammates: Abiral, Dave, Nick.

This final project for Staging Fright class is the one that I had most fun with ever since I started taking IMA classes. During the process of making this whole Dr. Fakhr’s Exhibition experience, I also learnt quite a lot from my senior teammates.

Initial Design

When starting this project, there were not that many requirements or constrains about what we should do. The only guide line was to  create a experience at a specific place in our school to scare people. The space we picked out was the locker area down the hallway on 8th floor. We thought about rearranging lockers to make a narrow space and cover the space with black cloth or curtains. In this way we could make it claustrophobic. Here’s a mock-up we created at the early stage:

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At that early stage, we had a plan of showing our audience two creepy objects outside the locker area, and then let him or her to find out the third object in the dark locker area. And while the audience is in the dark area, we control creepy sounds and lights, punch on lockers from the back, move in and out a mannequin, and so on, to scare the audience.

Finalized Plan

Moving on from that mock-up, we finalized our story as the exhibition of Dr. Fahkr, an eminent inventor who had many creepy inventions. And the objects we exhibit were some his work, with the last one behind curtain being his unfinished light machine that made him insane. And here’s the finalized plan for the whole walkthrough:

“ACT I

In the OPENING AREA, THE CURATOR waits for THE VISITOR. When the latter is ready to begin, THE CURATOR informs THE VISITOR that the exhibition on display is a special commemoration of the life and work of Dr Fakhr, an eminent inventor who was unlucky enough to be born into the era of Edison and Tesla. THE VISITOR is guided through the OPENING AREA and shown Dr Fakhr’s early inventions. The final exhibit is the last one the unfortunate doctor ever worked on, and in the process of trying to complete it, he went completely insane before committing suicide (?). THE CURATOR explains that other people have, upon examining the final exhibit – a diamond-powered light-emitter – reported feeling nauseous, dizzy, or sometimes hallucinating. But THE VISITOR is free to take a look on her own, with a complimentary audio-guide.

ACT II

THE VISITOR takes the audio-guide, which begins to tell her about the history of the light-emitter, and passes through EXIT 1. The perpetual light-emitter is located US, and THE VISITOR makes her way towards it. The audioguide fizzles and dies out, and the light abruptly goes out. After this, two things happen. THE FIRST VISION is placed DS, behind THE VISITOR, and the lights come back on. THE VISITOR is given a moment to take in the effect of THE FIRST VISION. The lights once again die. THE FIRST VISION is removed, and THE SECOND VISION appears US through EXIT 2, behind the perpetual light machine. The effect of THE SECOND VISION coming to life is the end of the performance.” (From Script and Block written by Abiral.)

In terms of media to implement, we chose to play a soundscape and play with lights, as the light represent the unfinished invention and the sound is powerful in such a dark environment where people couldn’t see things.

Building-up

With the whole idea settled, we started building up the area as we wanted. IMG_0311IMG_0420IMG_0424IMG_0430

We built up frames and then put on black curtains to cover the area. Though we had issues such as breaking the frame, we managed to create a complete dark environment.

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Building up the frames and putting up curtains took us quite a lot of time. While we were doing that, we also worked on lights and sounds. As for sounds, we had two parts. The first part was an introduction of Dr. Fakhr’s unfinished invention, which will suddenly die out after a while. The second part is a creepy whispering sound that plays right after the narration sound ends. Here’s the script of the narration:

“Exhibit three. Welcome to a presentation of Dr Fakhr’s least obscure invention attempt: the perpetual light machine. Please In the late 1870s, upon hearing that both Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were working on making electrical lighting a reality, Dr Fakhr decided to attempt a machine that would outdo them all.

Please enter the exhibit area.

Like many of his previous attempts, Dr Fakhr used a unique mix of science and mysticism to achieve his goal. Believing that diamonds were inherently luminescent, he decided to place at the centre of his invention an old family heirloom: his grandmother’s diamond. It is clear today that the invention shows some signs of working, but we have very few notes from this period of Dr Fakhr’s life, for-

*cackling*

(Lower pitch) We have very few notes from this period of Dr Fakhr’s life, for-

*cackling* *mysterious noises from failed headphones* *white noise*” (From Audioguide Narration written by Abiral.)

We recorded Nick doing the narration. I then edited the sound in reaper. I added a classic music at background to make it sound like an audioguide in a museum, and I also manipulated the pitches of vocals a little bit towards the end, so that it sounds creepier with noise and glitchy sound effects.

In terms of lights, Nick worked out a code to control the color and brightness of LEDs with Arduino and Processing. He placed the LEDs in a 3d printed pyramid, and we used that to represent the unfinished light machine.

Rehearsal and Show

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During the first few trials, we played the narration through a bluetooth headphone that the audience wear, but later we instead played it through the same bluetooth speaker as the whispering. This was because we as operators couldn’t know what was going on in the bluetooth headphone.

The overall outcome was great. The sounds and lights work with each other pretty well, and we got all timings right. Literally every group that came to experience our project ended up screaming and running away, as they didn’t expect there would be an actual person (which was played by Dave) hidden inside to chase them out. It was more than satisfying to hear people screaming when I was at the back controlling things.

Reflection

There are certainly improvements we could do to our project. One problem is that we operators couldn’t really see what was going on inside the locker area, since we all stay either outside or behind lockers. We tried to set up a Xiaomi camera to monitor, but we realized that it couldn’t see a thing in darkness.

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Also, there were moments when people opened the curtain at the end and they saw Dave before he ran out, and when they saw Nick quietly moving the mannequin at the back. And this could be improved if we had more space or distracted audiences a little bit more with other strategies.

I also realized that our project didn’t involve that much technical stuff. All we used was a little bit of lights and sounds. I think what most surprises and scares our audiences is that we had Dave, an actually person, hidden in darkness. Along with the dark claustrophobic space we created, an actual person could really increase the scariness as people are afraid of not knowing what is there in darkness.

In terms of group work and the working flow, at first it was a little challenging for me. This is the first time I work with people who are more experienced than me, and also the first time I work on such a collaborative work that involves four people and different kinds of techniques. When we were brainstorming the stories, it was a little bit challenging for me to get into conversations, as my teammates are way better at creating stories and bringing in anecdotes that I didn’t even heard of. I at first felt that my mind was sort of being dragged by their thoughts. But then it got better when we started to think about what to happen in the dark area. Since I’m interested in and had experience working with sounds, I proposed to incorporate sounds in this experience and we all thought sounds could be a good element to add. This made me feel like that there’s still ways for me to contribute. And I then did all sound editing stuff and sound control. My teammates are all nice, funny, and helpful. As I worked with them more when building things up, I felt more comfortable. So I think this process of working out this staging fright experience was enjoyable.