What would a Wizard of Oz themed Halloween house be with out the Wizard of Oz? One of the most striking images in the original movie involved the head of the Great and Powerful Oz floating in front of a throne/altar surrounded by smoke and fire.
We knew we wanted a wizard somehow, but weren’t sure what would be the best way to do it. We could just make a cardboard version, but we didn’t feel that would convey the excitement that we wanted. We could have also gone for the steampunk mechanical version used in Wicked. That would have made this Mechanical Engineer happy, but still, it wasn’t quite what we envisioned. So, we decided to swing for the fences and try to have our own floating Oz head.
To start the design, I re-created Oz’s backdrop in Photoshop and created a quick mock-up in paper, to put along side my 1 in. = 1 ft. model of the house to check the size relative to visitors (young and old).
Then, I cut up pieces of paper representing the tubes I would use to help me determine how many I would need (they are about 12 feet long, 4 in. wide). I needed about 14 tubes.
After that, I had to search for long tubes. I had had success before using tubes from the middle of carpet roles. I tried many carpet stores, without much luck and eventually discovered that Home Depot was willing to part with several of their tubes. After several trips to several stores, I had a yard full of carpet tubes.
Next, on our painting days, we painted them green, the kids making short work of the long tubes.
One predicament I encountered was that these tubes had plastic caps wedged into each end, which were impossible to remove. I tried many means to extract them, until some clever folks (thanks Macias family!) figured out that all you had to do was simply twist them to unscrew them. Nice! That made their removal astonishingly fast.
The plastic caps were fascinating in their own right, and careful observers will see that they make great Munchkin hats!
From there, we constructed the Oz throne, one tube at a time, finally adding the front pieces and ‘altar.’
To achieve the floating effect, we considered several options. Option 1 involved projecting a video of an Oz head on a thin curtain of fog. We researched many ways of doing this (including one really cool way of creating laminar flow using 800 drinking straws!!!). While that would have been amazing, a slight gust of wind might blow the fog away, ruining the effect. So, we opted for Option 2—projecting an Oz head on a scrim, or semi-see-through fabric. I purchased some green tulle to match the background. Initial tests revealed I needed to adjust the scale, focus and brightness.
To get Oz to speak, I filmed myself saying the lines from the movie, using a green screen and green fabric around my neck. Then, in After Effects, I isolated my head, added a graphic of the Wizard (minus the mouth area) above my image, adjusted the colors to match and modified my voice to sound deep and menacing [dot on nose and forehead were used to stabilize the footage so my head would lock to the added wizard head image].
Throwing that video into PowerPoint (to allow it to loop and be controllable via a clicker if necessary), I re-tested the projection, this time adjusting the image until it matched the original look and feel.
Finally, everything came together for Halloween night to allow visitors to experience what Dorothy and her friends felt when they stood in front of Oz himself.
Have questions? Put them in the comments section and we will get back to you.