How to make a theme park style living window

Escapeless in Seattle
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Making the world outside your windows realistic can be a fun way to expand your escape rooms world.  They set the scene, make the room feel bigger and can even make you seasick!

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This is our window in Tales of the Ghostly Galleon, which can actually induce sea sickness if you stare at it too long. Seriously, it can and people love it.

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Here is how we did it and how any window can look amazing! There’s an urban legend that people got seasick in the movie theater watching Jaws; we loved the idea of having that much realism within our room. To be fair, I don’t want people getting sick all over the place, but the idea we could trigger a small physical response is kinda cool.

 

First let’s look at the reason some puzzle room video windows look fake.

 

  • The video is static, no natural motion to the world outside. ( if its indoors to an empty room no movement is needed)
  • No Plexiglass on the frame to create the illusion of an actual window
  • The glass is too close, too clean and too small
  • The video is poor quality
  • No space between TV and Plexiglas to create depth

 

How did we do ours? Well, I come from the film industry and learned practical FX starting out. We used some old set building and film tricks only seen live in theme parks like Universal studios where I used to work as an artist.

Here is our secret recipe:
  • We found a free stock video of the ocean with the right weather and sound.  It had simulated condensation and water drips on the imaginary window, but we added a bit more as well.
  • Because a static shot of the ocean would look fake, we added motion to the camera in After-effects, which simulates being on a moving ship instead of feeling like a video.
  • We added a small sound bar at a low volume since the sound should feel like it’s from outside.
  • We used Aquanet hairspray on the inside of the window to give it a wet feel.
  • Because we made the window slightly smaller than the TV, the edges aren’t visible even when looked at closely.
  • Finally, we added crossbars to the frame for more dimension. This really added a lot.

But what if this was looking out on snow?  Just add some fake frost instead of rain drops to the inside of the Plexiglass. For a forest, setting the TV back a foot and having realistic branches between the glass and TV would make a world of difference.  Making sure the TV is much bigger than the window is always important as well, or a fan to make the branches move subtly. For a sunny day, lights between the TV and real foliage would cast believable light patterns in the room.

 

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About

When not wearing a paper pirate hat and making silly faces, Seth Wolfson is the co-owner and creative director of Hourglass Escapes in Seattle. He has been in the film and theme park industry since 1989 and has worked for Universal Studios, Disney, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Wax Figure Shop, and more. His work is at makeupfxartist and you can hear him speak on art, make-up effects and escape rooms on the podcast Original Lines episode #5 or on an episode of “So you’re in Seattle” with Gregr and 107.7 The End. See his other blogs here.  He is available for consultation on your next project by emailing him at info@hourglassescapes.com

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