Halloween decorating has come a long way since carved pumpkins and synthetic spider webs. These days it isn’t uncommon for trick-or-treaters to happen upon spooky fog-filled lawn-cemeteries, or creepy lurkers in the shadows. For many of those reasons, Halloween is my family’s favorite holiday for decorating around the house.
This year we’re celebrating in our home in beautiful New Mexico. We’ve got the pumpkins, the webs, the creepy lighting and fog. But we’ve added some new technology to our arsenal: the AtmosFX Digital Decorations. You’ve probably seen them on YouTube. They’re animated video clips featuring disturbing and/or family-friendly creatures you project on a TV or with a projector onto a screen in your window. See the video below for more details.
We’ve coupled AtmosFX Digital Decorations with our Arlo Pro Smart Home Security System for an automated jump scare. Any trick-or-treaters that come knocking at our door when we’re not around, get a scary surprise! In a nutshell, when the Arlo senses motion, it sends an email that triggers the AtmosFX jump scare video file. My method does not require an Arlo system (although, we highly recommend Arlo Pro) as long as your security camera can send email alerts when it senses motion. I’ve included the instructions for doing this in OSX on a MacBook Pro (with HDMI out), but keep in mind, the process here leans on the advanced side. There can be a slight delay due to how quickly (or slowly) the email alert works its way through mail servers, but until Arlo adds support for OSX notifications, this is probably the best we’ll get.
Automated Jump Scare Setup
Prepare AtmosFX Assets
First things first, you’ll need to search for and purchase a digital decoration from AtmosFX. Extract the video file that contains the jump scare animation. I purchased “Phantasms” and the file was titled “startlescare.” Save it somewhere easy to remember, like in your “Movies” folder.
Create a new security “mode” that you’ll use just on Halloween night. Set up this new mode to only include the camera that’ll be monitoring for motion. Settings are up to you, but I chose to record the motion to capture the trick-or-treaters reaction! The main setting we need to ensure though, is that the camera sends an email whenever it senses motion. Save this new mode for Halloween night!
Open “Script Editor” from your Mac’s “Utilities” folder and create a new document. Include the following code in this document and ensure you’ve changed the file path to point toward your saved AtmosFX video file.
tell application "QuickTime Player" set theMovie to open file "Macintosh HD:Users:YOURUSERNAME:Movies:startlescare.mp4" --set to your AtmosFX file path tell theMovie activate --sets Quicktime to active window present --sets Quicktime to fullscreen set the looping to false --only play file once play end tell end tell
Save your new AppleScript as “script” file format to your desktop for now.
Create Mail Rule
In the “Mail” application, create a new “Rule” from the “Preferences” menu. The rule should look for messages with “Arlo” in the subject line. In the “Perform the following actions” selection, choose “Run AppleScript” and select “Open in Finder”. This should open a hidden folder called “com.apple.mail”. Drag and drop the AppleScript from your desktop into this folder and make it the selection. Save the rule and voila, you’re done. Anytime the Arlo system sends an email, OSX will automatically play the jump scare animation in full screen on your MacBook.
Extra: Projector and Audio
Connect your MacBook Pro’s HDMI port to a projector and set it up accordingly. My projector can be used behind the screen, so that everything is safely in the house while projecting the video to everyone outside the house through a window and semi-transparent screen/cloth. I then routed my Macbook’s audio to a Bluetooth speaker located outside the house so that trick-or-treaters get jump scared properly!
I know all this is very specific to Arlo and MacBook Pro users, but the basics can surely be applied to Windows users as well. Enjoy your new automated jump scare! You can now leave a bowl of candy outside and do your own trick-or-treating, and all the trick-or-treaters will still have some scary fun at your home!
We’ll update this post after Halloween with a video of our trick-or-treaters getting jump scared! Stay tuned.