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Hilloween Sound Design

for Projection Mapping

Mitchell County, North Carolina
Projectionist: Taylor Gordon

Some folks in Mitchell County, North Carolina, approached UNCSA to help them retell a local legend – the story of Frankie and Charlie Silver – through a projection mapping project as part of “Hilloween,” a Halloween festival they produced. I was able to work as the sound designer alongside Taylor Gordon, the projections designer, to tell the story and develop what the show would look and sound like from scratch. Frankie was accused of murdering her husband and subsequently convicted under questionable circumstances. She was hung for her crimes, becoming the first woman to be executed by the state of North Carolina.

The producers wanted us to use this account as a basis for a spooky story, but more importantly, to not take a side in whether Frankie was guilty or not. I used this to approach the story looking at emotional beats rather than through character themes. Instead of creating a ‘Charlie is evil’ motif, for example, I used sparse instrumentation to highlight the emptiness Frankie would have felt in jail, or a single cello to emphasize the somberness at her execution. With the content being projected onto the courthouse where the trial was held, I wanted to create immersive environments during the various ‘scenes’ of the story to create a general spooky and mysterious tone throughout. I utilized a multi-speaker playback system that enveloped the listening area to immerse the audience in the backgrounds of the church they got married at, or the grave where Frankie was laid to rest.

Developing the content worked a lot more like creating sound for film than more traditional theatre that I’ve done. Since Taylor had created all the content beforehand, I imported it as a video track into ProTools, allowing me to write music and build soundscapes to picture. This was the first time I had written music like this, which was a unique challenge I hadn’t faced before. Having the video ahead of time let me create several revisions based on feedback from the producers and from my faculty advisor. Using ProTools to create my content also let me run my session straight through the system on-site, which was something I hadn’t done before. I chose to play all my content from a Q-SYS core as it eliminated one more device that could break and let the show (which repeated every 20 minutes) run more autonomously. I had configured my Q-SYS core such that I could play from ProTools into the sound system, which let me mix straight from my DAW, allowing me a lot more granular control than a more traditional playback system.

Because the show was added late to our season, we didn’t have the resources available to support the show from our shop. This afforded me the opportunity to approach the project like a lot of professional theatre - sending out requests for bids to secure equipment rentals and planning with a producing company to figure out the logistics of traveling and lodging at an off-site venue. As the designer, I created a speaker plot and a rough block diagram that I was then able to turn over to our production engineer, Jaedon Harpe, who oversaw creating all the paperwork and organizing our system mockup on campus and our load-in.

While we didn’t have all our equipment until we arrived at the venue, I was able to work with Jaedon to reconfigure a lab space on campus to preprogram and test our Q-SYS core. This also let me work with Grey Nicholson, the lighting programmer, to troubleshoot and test our show control network before leaving. Figuring this out beforehand was beneficial because when we arrived on site, we were informed we weren’t going to have access to the courthouse like we had been planning, which necessitated a lot of last-minute changes to the overall system. We had to adapt the system to only be outside of the courthouse, not inside from the top floor like we had originally planned. Thankfully, the rental company was accommodating and helped us adjust the speaker system to get close to what we had originally envisioned. I only had to make minimal changes to the content, allowing us to stay on schedule throughout the week. After a few nights of mixing and testing with the projections, we were able to open and present the show to the public with great success.

Hilloween: The Story of Charlie and Frankie

This film was played every 20 minutes. The part following the credits was then played on a loop until the next showing of the main story.

Play Video

Projection Design: Taylor Gordon


Paperwork Package
Project Overview
Shop Order
Original Plot (for shop order)
Speaker Predictions


A look at the Q-SYS File that controlled the show. It handled all the DSP, playback, and mixing of a few 'in case of emergency' handhelds. It also ran a Lua script that I adapted to receive OSC commands from an ETC Element and control playback in sync with the video content.

Kona Church Recording

Charlie Silver is buried at a local church just a few miles away from where we were presenting our story. We were able to get access to that church to record some of the sounds so we could incorporate them into the story. Below is a sampling of some of those sounds. 

Recording Samples - Matthew Kupferer, Jaedon Harpe
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