Lighthouse

All things projection

Going to the Theater: Shadow Puppets with Projectors

Right now it’s summer, and the sunny days and long nights make the ideal conditions for my children to be outside, playing in the yard. But inevitably, the fall and winter will come and my kids will be in forced outdoor-activity exile.

Usually, when they are relegated to playing inside, they’ll be starting fights and tattling on each other. My wife and I are always on the search for more constructive uses for their time during times of indoor captivity, and recently we hit upon a fun and unique use for our Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2000 Projector. It would let the kids be active, creative and inside …without killing each other.

We had the idea to create a shadow puppet theatre, complete with animal cut outs and giant exotic backgrounds, which should provide the kids with a playful storytelling experience. We imagine that they will find this much more fun than your typical little puppet show. What we like about using the projector is that it projects a huge image, and by using our laptop, we can change the backgrounds in an instant for new scenes, letting the play’s plot twist and turn as their imaginations run wild.

We’ll try the first theme, The Great Outdoors!, on the next rainy day. Seems fitting, doesn’t it? Everybody will be able to get involved in making some puppets and setting up the theater. Then we can sit back and let our kids loose to fight—but in the puppet show this time. It should prove to be a very entertaining process. So let the rain begin!

Download some example puppets and backdrops here or get creative with your own! We’d love to see what you and your children come up with. Feel free to share photos of your puppet theatre ideas or other rainy day activities either with us on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Shopping for a larger TV? Consider a Projector

We had a monster 40” flat screen in the living room and when it came time to finally upgrade, my wife and I discussed which direction we should go.  She wanted a larger flat screen. I wanted a projection system. The “discussion” was long, fierce and horribly one-sided. Yet for every objection she gave, I offered a well-reasoned response.

Her Objections My Responses
Projectors are too expensive. 720p projectors in the $500 range. We can get a good 1080p/WUXGA projector for under $2,000.  Screens sometimes go on sale for $49 for up to 130″. Try finding a 130″ flat panel for that money.
The screen won’t be bright enough. A 3,000 lumens projector is plenty bright for our small room with ambient lighting/windows. But to be fair, at 2,000 lumens, we may need to draw the drapes.
Glare from the windows will wash out the image. Glare off of a glass screen will be worse.
60″ is big enough. Let’s be serious. 100″ is better. And 130″ is amazing.
I don’t want a black box hanging in the middle of the room. It’ll sit on a shelf at the opposite end of the room.
It will be too difficult to install. It takes two people to mount a 60″ flat panel to the wall. One of our kids could put a projector on a shelf.
I won’t know how to use the projector. It works the same way as the flat panel. You press the power button to turn it on.

I felt so good about my arguments, that I started planning how to rearrange the living room to fit the new projector. Unfortunately, my confidence was misplaced, as we ended up buying a flat screen (wah wah). Here it is.

1. Upgrade 1 - FPD

But, just because I lost the battle, I wasn’t willing to give up on the war. I took up carpentry and built a shelf to go over the new TV. My wife loved it, even adding family memorabilia that we had collected over the years.

What she didn’t notice was the screen mounted on the underside of it (the white bar above the TV running the length of the shelf). Nor did she see the projector sitting on the shelf on the opposite side of the room.

1. Upgrade 2 - Screen

We have had people over many times for SuperBowl parties, NCAA tournaments, USC/UCLA football game, World Cup, etc.  We have also hosted movie night for my nephews and nieces, where we would push the couches across the room and lay blankets and pillows on the ground. Everyone loves it.

My wife still maintains that the image size is overly excessive. But that is exactly the point.  For the same price, we got a huge screen compared with the flat screen.

Nowadays, we use the projector almost on a nightly basis.  Whether it is watching her favorite shows (Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance) or playing Dance Central on the Xbox, she loves the larger screen. And when the kids go to sleep, we enjoy our own movie night–something we have not been able to do for years.

Notes:  

I chose the Epson 8350 ($1099) – 2,000 lumens, so we draw the curtains during the day. I’m looking to upgrade to the PL 1980WU model which has 4,400 lumens, WUXGA resolution.

Using Projectors for Home Decorating

WebOur house has this giant white wall that we call–no joke– “The White Wall.” It desperately needed some sort of decoration, but we didn’t have a clue as to what. So, my wife Stephanie and I called a family meeting.

Needless to say, soliciting ideas from a three-year-old and two, seven-year-olds (the one-year-old wasn’t invited) didn’t necessarily make for a productive meeting. “No, we’re not painting a floor to ceiling Frozen mural,” I said. “And, we’re not building an indoor rock wall either,” I said, hiding the fact that I secretly liked that idea.  Stephanie suggested that whatever we added to the wall should exemplify the whole family. After much deliberation, we decided on adding a simple, typographic quote. Now all we had to do was come up with a saying that best described the Palmer family.

As the father of four adorable, yet exhausting and overwhelming kids, I first thought of Keep Calm and Carry On. Then Bob Dylan’s, Chaos is a friend of mine, came to mind.  Luckily, more sensible heads (a.k.a. Stephanie) prevailed and the family settled on the classic quote, Home is where the heart is…”

Our plan is to use these instructions to decorate our “White Wall.” If the project works out as well as I expect, I may even entertain my three-year-old’s idea for a Frozen mural…of course in HER room, not the living room.

Do you have a blank wall and a projector? Download these starter ideas and let me know what you came up with.

Pomplamoose: A Couple’s Musical Creativity Illuminates the Internet

pomplamoose

When you think of musical couples, they usually follow one of two polar opposites: the cutesy duets like Sonny and Cher or doomed love in the style of Ike and Tina Turner.

But now there’s a couple on the music scene who are showing us how it’s done, without schmaltz or violence. Enter Pomplamoose, aka Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, a band taking over the world through a healthy dose of creative mojo and a collection of glockenspiels.

This is a love story based on more than just a penchant for antique pianos and unusual musical instruments—since Jack and Nataly formed Pomplamoose in 2008, they’ve been creating music and making videos in a unique and inimitable style. Songs from Beyonce’s Single Ladies to Lady Gaga’s Telephone quickly gained the couple a following, and it didn’t take long to go from 10,000 to 50,000 subscribers. In fact, it almost happened overnight. Soon, they were even making enough money to support themselves.

It’s not just the songs—both covers and originals—sung in Nataly’s dulcet tones that create the hordes of loyal followers, it’s their unconventional videos that spring from their fertile imaginations. “We definitely spend way more time figuring out the song, and there are a lot of criteria that go into choosing the songs we cover,” explains Nataly. “Then once we do that, we realize we have to figure out what kind of video we make for it. That’s when Jack usually sits down with a notebook and listens to the song on repeat until he has an idea.”

And for their mashup of Lourde’s Grammy-winning song Royals with 2Pac’s California Love and Beck’s Loser, there needed to be a video that matched the musical genius. And by using nothing more than white foam core and a projector, Pomplamoose managed to produce one of the most inspired and interesting videos seen in recent memory. Rampant viral sharing brought the video to the attention our social media manager, who noticed a particular Epson-like shape to the projector. So we just had to reach out to the band to learn more.

“I was projecting an image on just a normal screen, moving objects on and off the screen to make it more three-dimensional,” Jack recounts. “I held up my hand in front of the screen to position something, and the image of a face appeared on my hand. I held up a piece of white card to make it clearer, and I started thinking—what if we sort of grabbed the corners and actually shaped each image to fit the white cards held up in three-dimensional space?”

A stationary video camera along with a handheld iPhone recorded the performance in a single take, and Jack liberally employed Final Cut Pro’s distort tool for the post-production work on the video. Posted on YouTube in November 2013, the video has over 650,000 views to date. Jack and Nataly liked the format so much they used it again for a video to illustrate their delightful Pharrell Mashup (Happy Get Lucky), which garnered over 200,000 views by the end of its second day on YouTube. If that wasn’t enough to describe its popularity, YouTube itself had this to say about the new Pomplamoose video: “Being that this is the most amazing music video on the Internet so far today, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Do I feel happy?’ Well, do you?” We can’t speak for everyone, but our answer is YES.

These are a few of the couple’s first forays back into Pomplamoose after a hiatus in 2011, after their popularity got a little overwhelming. “This side project that we really loved had turned into a bit of a monster,” Nataly remembers. “We took a few years off to focus on our solo careers, and it’s only in the last 12 months that we’ve been slowly revisiting Pomplamoose.” And with an album due to be released next month, their gradual revival of the band has increased rapidly. The duo tells us to expect several videos and songs to be released soon, followed by a U.S. and European tour.

Watch the two videos and check out their solo projects: Nataly’s album How I Knew Her and Jack’s EP Conte. Jack also started crowdfunding site Patreon, a website created to support creatives by connecting them with patrons of the arts. For more information on Pomplamoose and their upcoming tour, check out their the Pomplamoose website or their YouTube channel, Pomplamoose Music.

Photo courtesy: Pomplamoose

Be the Coolest Dad in the Neighborhood

My daughter chasing snowflakes on her playroom wall. It might not be a white Christmas outside, but for a girl from Texas, it’s pretty darn close.

As a father, there are many rites of passage that no parenting book can ever prepare me for. Early morning soccer games, tackling picky appetites and playtime clean-up can be challenging (how can something so small make such an epic mess?). However, few paternal challenges test my fatherly abilities like hosting the holidays.

Keeping everyone happy and entertained under one roof is one thing, but the real pressure comes while determining how to stand out in the sea of neighborhood holiday decorations. Blinking lights and the oversized inflatable Santa are great, but there’s nothing like putting a large, dynamic image up on a wall. That’s when I turn to AtmosFX, a company offers a holiday line of digital decorations called AtmosCheerFX. When projected onto a flat surface, the digital content offers a life-like holiday experience.

I’ve projected AtmosFX’s DVD collections for several holidays and birthdays–including Halloween–and adults and kids alike are amazed by it. Last Halloween, my neighbor blew up a giant inflatable King Kong and stuck it in his front lawn.  Not wanting to be the lame Dad, I projected Nightmare Before Christmas on the front of my house using an Epson Moviemate projector.  Within minutes, my doorstep look liked the mosh pit at a raucous Taylor Swift concert.  Even in a society that’s grown a little numb to the magic of things, I’ve had crowds of people stop on our front lawn to take it all in.

The best part is that everyone assumes it’s a complicated and expensive setup, when in reality, all I need is three things: a projector, a flat surface (in truth, it doesn’t even need to be all that flat) and a DVD player. In much less time than it takes to hang the lights on my house, I’ve got a 300-inch digital Santa display that puts the old man’s leg lamp to shame. You can project onto the front window, the side of the house and even onto the garage door.

I’d love to hear from other dads on their holiday secrets. Please post your comment here.

Photo Credit: Jason Palmer

Are You Ready for a Marathon?

Now that the kids are back in school and busy with their homework, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to train for a marathon.  Not a real marathon—I ran a half marathon once and couldn’t move for 3 days. Instead, I’m talking about couch marathons, where I catch-up on some great shows through binge-watching. Perhaps you can train for your own couch marathon and get current with some popular television series?

So, grab your remote control, crank up the home theater projector, and consider marathoning your way through some of my favorite shows:

Breaking Bad

A mild mannered father-next-door and chemistry teacher gains a new perspective on life, becomes fearless, and decides to enter a dangerous world of crime and drugs after being diagnosed with advanced stage cancer.  Emmy® Award-winning drama from AMC is now in its final season, season 6.  The first five seasons are available via Netflix.

Orange Is The New Black

After 10 years of living a law-abiding new life and newly engaged, Piper Chapman is sentenced to 15 months in a women’s federal prison for transporting a suitcase full of money for an international drug smugler.  Orange Is The New Black was developed by Lionsgate and is a Netflix original TV series.  This is one of 21 straight-to-Netflix programs released in 2013.

Arrested Development

Another Emmy® Award-winning series.  Netflix brought the comedy series, Arrested Development, back to life in 2013 after it originally aired on Fox from 2003 – 2006.  The critics loved it but the viewership fell below expectations according to Wikipedia.  The show follows a incredibly dysfunctional formerly very wealthy family and their fictitious life of luxury set in Newport Beach, California.

The League

Now in its fifth season, The League is a semi-improvised comedy about a fantasy football league, a group of longtime friends, and their lives.  The friends are endlessly making fun of each other and have great chemistry.  Some compare the show to longtime favorite Seinfeld, according to IMDB.

All intellectual property rights in the television programs referenced above are the property of their respective owners, who have no affiliation with Seiko Epson Corporation or Epson America, Inc.(“Epson”).  Epson disclaims any interest in such marks.  Mention of these television programs does not constitute an endorsement of Epson for any purpose nor an endorsement by Epson of such programs.