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Discussion Starter #1
Hi. I want to build a self-contained Madame Leota using rear-projection. I will make the head using a vacuum forming with semi-transparent plastic. But I dont' know a good projector for this. It does not need to be high res, or super bright, but it needs to be pretty quiet and small. And I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on it either. I have looked at some of the cheaper pico projectors on Amazon, but I think most tend to be loud. Does anyone have any recommendations? Thanks much - Jeff
 

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It's somewhat complicated to do it like Disney does with off-the-shelf stuff--especially cheap stuff since that kind of gear doesn't have the kind of optics you need for close-up projection. Disney filed a patent on its rear projection system for Madame Leota in 1989. You can find a link to the patent and diagram at http://www.doombuggies.com/secrets_seance.php. If the prop doesn't have to be full 360, in the sense that you can expose only the front side of the prop while keeping the back and sides hidden, you may be able to do it with a cheap projector and hide it behind the back of the display area. That may reduce some of the noise. Or mask the noise with an ambient soundtrack closer to the viewer's position.

Mr. Chicken made his own rear projection system for his Sybil prop that gives you full 360 around the prop. Given the price for which he sells it, that should give you an idea of how expensive it is to set it up.
 

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That gives you some options. It's easier to front project this one (which is how Disney originally did it). One is a "Pepper's Ghost" with a ball prop behind it. It won't be Leota per se, but you'll have a ghostly image with a ball behind it.

If you're using your own head form, Mr. Chicken has a video of his Sybil prop using a $40 projector. It looks decent, although obviously not super high quality. The projector can be hidden in another prop, like books, tombstones, whatever, and front projected onto you form. I'll test a couple of my cheap projectors tonight with my form and see how they look. Then I can give you a recommendation.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks. I was at home depot today and they had a demo of the Window FX Projector. Its very quiet, and might be bright enough to use and is $69. But I don't know how it compares to others in the price range. But it would be easy to return if it didn't work for me. It only displays files from an SD card or USB stick, but you can play whatever movies you want, not just theirs.
 

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I tested two projectors last night. One was my Optoma S316 ($300-ish), and the other was an Abdtech (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B010YZTOSO/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) that I bought last year. The Optoma is 3200 lumen DLP, and the Abdtech is purportedly a 1000 lumen LCD. So I'm really comparing apples to football bats here.

I do have a WindowFX projector, but I couldn't find any of my SD cards to use on it. And I only had half an hour to test while my wife was gone (she has not been briefed on all the stuff I've been buying lately. But she just bought three huge area rugs without telling me, so I'm entitled to buy stuff, right?)

I did the test on my patio, and it was pretty dark. I used Mr. Chicken's Sybil head form and the "large" Sybil video first. The Optoma cast a bright (duh) clear image at about 2.5 feet. It maintained clarity at less than 2.5 feet, but the image didn't fill the head form properly. That thing puts out a lot of light. Too much, in my opinion.

The Abdtech couldn't produce a clear image at less than 5 feet, so I had to switch to the "small" video. It did ok at about feet (the other side of the ping pong table). The image wasn't too bright, and the glare from the globe wasn't as bright. For a light controlled environment it would be fine. Image quality suffers, though. The LED pixel "grid" was clearly visible from 2 feet away.

I did try rear lrojection on both projectors. I didn't spend much time lining things up, but the Abdtech was too dim to produce a good rear projection. The Optoma's brightness was good, but the tip of the nose seemed to be "shadowed". That could be an alignment issue or the form may have been dirty. Given the distance needed to produce a clear image, and the dimness, I say the cheapo projector is a no-go. I wouldn't expect the WindowFX to perform any better than the Abdtech. When I played with it a few days ago, it had similar distance and brightness characteristics to the Abdtech. I'll post a picture of the image from the Abdtech when I get it moved to my laptop.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
That you very much. You are going above and beyond to help. If the abdtech at 1000 lumens is too dim, then the 80 lumen WindowFX surely will be. So rear projection needs quite a bright projector then. Hmm.
 

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Well, the Abdtech is 1,000 "Chinese lumens." Meaning the lumen count pretty much says whatever the vendor thinks will sell the projector. I've seen the exact projector advertised under a different name at 1,200 lumens on Amazon, too. The WindowFX is actually a bit brighter than the Abdtech, in my opinion. Here's the picture with the Abdtech at about 6 feet.

IMG_1114.jpg
 
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