Virtual Santa

The “Virtual Santa” for our Christmas Light Show consists of a video projector and rear projection screen mounted in the second floor window of my workshop.

The video below is a short clip of  the “Virtual Santa” show.

I had expected the installation to be fairly easy, but complications quickly arose when trying to incorporate “Virtual Santa” into the show.  The details continue below the video player.




I purchased the video, screen, and projector as a package from Christmas Light Show.  The quality of the video is good and I chose the package with the video provided on a USB thumb drive.  The screen is a simple piece of frosted plastic that is shipped rolled up.  The projector’s light output is low, but it is more than adequate since I only run the show during the evenings.  The big advantage of the projector design is the use of LED lights for a light source so heat buildup and power consumption is low.

I installed the equipment for the 2013 season.  I simply secured the screen over the window with push pins.  The projector was mounted to a camera tripod I had on hand.  I plugged the usb drive into the projector and plugged it in.  This is going to be easy, I thought.

My plan had been to use a spare channel on one of my LOR controllers to turn the projector on and off during various parts of the show.  Well….  that cannot be done because of the design of the projector.

video projector, front view
video projector, rear view.

When power is applied to the projector you are greeted by a menu to select the media to use.  Then you must select the file to display and select full screen mode.  This procedure must be followed each time the power is cycled to the projector.  So much for the idea of cycling the projector on and off at various times during the show.

The first year I ended up just using “Virtual Santa” for the Christmas Eve show.  I had to go upstairs in my shop and set up the projector and turn it on before the light show started and just let it run throughout the entire show.  Not really the effect I had hoped for.  Time to give this a little more thought!

I settled on the idea of constructing a electrically controlled shutter to block the light from the projector.  When viewing the screen from outside the effect was similar to the window shade being opened or closed which created a smooth transition.

I constructed the frame from wood and used the motor and gear assembly from an HVAC duct damper to actuate the shutter blade.  The motor is powered by a channel on a LOR controller So “Virtual Santa” can be incorporated any time during the show.

This is the arrangement I used for the 2014 show and it worked flawlessly.

projector shutter

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