Before you jump in, do this first -- know anyone with a projector? Borrow it for a night and see how it's going to look. Any image will do....
I have done that. The short throw projectors do a really nice job. It's a lot easier than trying to string lights on the house...
I've been mulling this over, and if it were MY house, I'd re-think hangin' them lights in a heartbeat.... and I detest ladder work in November!
Here's what I took into consideration:
- Each side of the house -- plus the niche where the porch might be on the front -- has to be treated as a separate planar surface...and each surface would probably have different proportions to the others.
- I'd need a projector for each planar surface, and each projector would have to play a section of the total video, each in the proper proportion of each planar surface... and they'd have to play in sync. If I tried just one projector, things would look unbearably goofy -- the image would get distorted in different ways as the viewer moved down the street.
- I'd need a playback system for all these different projectors.
- I'd need to have those projectors weatherproofed..... cold, wind and precipitation, y'know.
- I'd have to section off each planar surface in AE, taking into account those proportions and their precise position in the total video.
- Since projectors just don't play pictures in random proportions but in a standard image proportion, I'd have to place each section precisely, with the appropriate amount of black around it to make the projector light falloff invisible.
- I'd have to mount each projector precisely, and it would take hour after hour of tweaking to get the separate projectors' proportional images lined up properly.
That's just the stuff I thought of as I toiled away at something else. Maybe someone's done this in the past, and they'll set me straight on that stuff above. But you'll notice I didn't write much about After Effects. Importing an image is the least of your worries at the moment.
This is an interesting intellectual exercise, and I hope other folks join in with their opinions. But for me, the prospect of fooling with inflatable Santas and reindeer and a big snowman or two with lights in them sure sounds a lot more attractive!
Do you want to create this effect inside After Effects? If so then you have two fairly easy options if the camera is not moving and you don't have things like people walking through the shot. It's still doable if the camera is moving, it's just a lot harder.
First easy option:
- Import the video of your house (hopefully shot at night) into After Effects
- Drag the video from the Project panel to an empty timeline panel or select the video and use File>New Comp from Selected
- With the timeline selected select from the menu Composition>Save Frame As>File
- This will add the frame to the Render Cue to export as a Photoshop file
- MS Paint won't open Photoshop files so change the output module to Jpeg sequence, select a folder to store the jpeg and then render
- Open the JPEG in your Paint program and start painting in your lights
- IF MS paint supports layers (I haven't used it for years and years and years) after you've painted in your lights remove the background layer and export an image - PNG with a transparent background if possible
- IF MS paint does not support layers save the image
- Import your new image into After Effects
- Place the image you created in the timeline and experiment with blend modes to overlay the lights on the house
Second easy option:
- Follow step 1 and 2 above
- In MS Paint create an image of a string of lights that is the same size as your video
- If MS Paint will export PNG's with transparent background then export a PNG with transparency
- IF MS Paint will not export PNG's then paint your lights on a black background
- Import your lights image into After Effects and place it above the video layer
- Experiment with blend modes to overlay the lights on the house inside AE
- When the lights look like they are added lights (screen or add blend mode most likely) add Effects>Distort>Corner Pin
- Adjust the corners of the Corner Pin effect to match the walls of the house
- Repeat for each wall
If the camera is moving you'll use basically the same technique except you will have to learn about tracking. If there are people walking through the shot you'll have to learn about Rotoscoping techniques. The key to success is that your Lights image will have to include the glow that would be created on the house from the lights as well as the color of the lights. It's gong to take some skill to do that. The best thing I can suggest would be to use some blurs to create the Lights.
This brings up an entirely different option. You could use shape layers in After Effects to create your string of lights by using just a stroked path with dashed lines. Then you could duplicate the shape layer and blur the top copy to create the glow. Several copies of the shape layer could be combined to create a string of lights, pre-composed and then corner pinned to the walls of the house. Here's what a string of lights created from a stroked path would look like:
This would be a good starting point and could give you something like this that you could start adjusting to make look more believable:
Size and placement now just need to be adjusted and finessed. This comp took me less than 3 minutes to create.
Rick...this is very good information. I'm not really looking to project christmas lights onto my house. I was looking to project a video onto one surface of my house, then maybe another video on another surface, some interesting graphics on another surface. I'm attaching an example where someone has made a map of their house and then laid the videos, graphics in like I would like to do...
Oh, that helps. Yeah, After Effects can do that. But learning how to do it? The curve is steep. And it's like math -- you learn arithmetic before you launch into algebra, and you can't learn geometry without algebra.
If you aleady have that map, make sure to export it out of Paint as a jpeg file. Then Open AE, and drag the jpg into the project window to import it. Then drag the imported jpg onto the little Make Comp icon at the bottom of the project window. It'll make the AE comp for you. You can constrain the picture elements you plan to use to a certain part of the house by using track mattes (huh?)
But to tell a beginner how to do this stuff step-by-step? That's waaaay beyond the scope of a post in a forum. You need to learn the basics on your own.
Here'a a really good freebie way to learn the basics of AE:
But I gotta tell you: I looked at that projection deal, and before you jump in, I STRONGLY recommend that you project circles and squares on the house Why circles & squares? They're regular geometric forms -- it's easy to tell when they're distorted. Then take a walk past the house from the street. I think you're going to discover that the only place it really looks good is right at the projector.