A few years ago when I was very active in Halloween decorating, I used the “Basic Stamp”:http://www.parallax.com/ for prop control. This is still a solid product and you can still buy a lot of stamp-based kits and products.
I’m starting to work on some new projects and it seems like all the cool kids have moved onto “Arduino-based”:http://www.arduino.cc/ designs, probably because of the open nature of Arduino.
So I’ve ordered a handful of test kits from “Adafruit”:http://adafruit.com/, “Sparkfun”:http://www.sparkfun.com/ and “Maker Shed”:http://www.makershed.com/Arduinos_Accessories_s/43 seem to have a lot of nice products too.
“Arduino programming”:http://arduino.cc/en/Reference/HomePage is C-like which seems like a bit of a step back, I wish I could use something more like Python.
OK so I am out of the business of doing a huge Halloween setup. For probably 10 years we did a monster setup with 4-5 fog systems including a yard-wide water-based system, 5-6 sound systems, many many tombstones, pneumatic props, mechanical props, voice modification boxes, 5-6 thunder and lightning set ups, a bunch of skeletons, and on and on. We had as many as 400 visitors on a night, just super amounts of fun. We would tone down the displays early in the evening so that the little ones would approach the house — but we still had a number who just would not come up the driveway. We also gave out a lot of candy because, well, if you made it to our door, you earned it. Great times but we’ve moved on, for now anyway. (Well I do have two storage pods full of gear that I need to resolve. If you’d like to buy one full of Halloween crap sight unseen, let me know).
So no big display this year. But may do something small. If I do just one thing, it might be “Hallowindow”:http://www.hallowindow.com/. The videos are awesome and we have some large windows. I admit I do get sucked into sites like “Monster Guts”:http://monsterguts.com/index.php — a great selection of prop supplies. But I will resist. Oh and I love these awesome light fixtures from “Schoolhouse Electric”:http://design-milk.com/schoolhouse-electric-table-lamps/ — A steampunk, mad scientist vibe.
See this is the problem, I say I am going to do a limited thing, and before I know it I have planned out a whole scene and purchased another storage pod full of stuff. Slippery slope.
The nice folks at “Monster Guts”:http://monsterguts.com just sent email reminding me it is 6 months to Halloween. I’ve been on hiatus the last couple years but it may work out that I can do a smallish display this year. I may have to tone down my ambitions but we will see.
My recipe for a quality halloween experience:
* Fog. Love fog. You have to have some fog. There are a million options out there. At the minimum, you need a machine that has a duty cycle timer on it so that you can let it run unattended all evening — you don’t really want to have to manually control the fog all night. I have about 4 of these. If you want to go bigger, well the sky is the limit. I have a whole-yard water-based fogger that puts out an impressive amount of fog via a 1/4″ tubing distribution network. What I’d really like is one of these “babies”:http://www.google.com/search?q=Jem+Glaciator+X-Stream+Heavy+Fog+Machine&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a but that seems extreme. Or a liquid nitrogen based system which is really extreme!
* You need to have some quality “bones and skeletons”:http://www.anatomical.com/category.asp_Q_c_E_57_A_HALLOWEEN+ITEMS to spread around. Not the crap sold at the seasonal halloween stores. The 10lb bag of bones at anatomical is pretty nice.
* Thunder and Lightning. You’ve got to have thunder and lightning. If you don’t do any other lighting, do this. I’ve liked the “i-zombie”:http://www.i-zombie.com/ controllers in the past.
* Ambient music. If you want some music playing the background, it is hard to beat Bach organ fugues in a minor key. Almost any of them will do.
* Tombstones. You can buy some nicelooking but pricey foam stones at the Halloween specialty stores. And there are a million guides on the internet to making your own out of foamboard. You can whip thru a lot of them in little time in foamboard, I would make your own. And they store easily and are usable year after year.
* Coffin. Whip one or two up out of plywood, your “basic plans here”:http://www.shallowvalley.com/pincherplans.html.
If that is all you do, well, you will probably have the best place in the neighborhood.
Optional but very very good additions to your project:
* “Hallowindow DVD”:http://www.hallowindow.com/. This thing looks awesome. It does demand a projector and some sound equipment but I love it.
* “Webcasting gun”:http://monsterguts.com/miscellaneous-prop-parts/the-webcaster-gun/prod_202.html. Simple but makes great webbing.
* Another simple webbing idea — get some black thread and dangle a bunch of it from the trees over your driveway, etc. No one can see it and everyone feels like they are walking thru spider webs.
I probably won’t get to my more extreme efforts this year
* Talking animated tree with voice modification box. This has always been a huge hit but it takes some work to set up.
* Pneumatics. A lot of work to set up and maintain.
* My full size mausoleum that I built out of foamboard a few years back.
* Various animated ghosts. Always winners but certainly won’t have time.
* “EMP cannon”:http://www.physorg.com/news183296601.html. Mount one of these babies on your trunk and eliminate that tailgating problem.
* “Shock Cannon”:http://www.physorg.com/news183142646.html and here is how to get that solicitor off your porch.
* “Vortex Cannon video”:http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/07/gas-powered_vortex_cannon_as_big_ba.html?CMP=OTC-0D6B48984890. Probably a bit more powerful than I ever thought about building at Halloween.
Not doing a big Halloween thing this year due to other commitments. Saving these tips for the future…
* “Monsterlist”:http://www.halloweenmonsterlist.info/. Starting point to find any kind of halloween project
* “Kurt’s tool wishlist”:http://www.grimvisions.com/tools/tools-i-want-to-get. I can only aspire to Kurt’s skill and tool collection
* “Kurt on prop setup”:http://www.grimvisions.com/halloween/setting-up-your-halloween-display-for-maximum-effect. The guy knows more than I ever will about this
* “Scott on controllers”:http://tangleofwires.blogspot.com/2009/09/arduino-vmusic2-xport-halloween.html. Need to read and parse this, Scott is ahead of me here.
* “Kurt on foam construction”:http://www.grimvisions.com/products/working-with-polyurethane-foams. Foam is my best friend at halloween time
* “Measure tape tape”:http://toolmonger.com/2009/09/03/fill-your-shop-with-red-tape/. Simple but brilliant
* “French Curves”:http://toolmonger.com/2009/09/04/french-curves/. Who doesn’t need these.
These labels are awesome. Hat tip to Kurt
grimvisions on Etsy – Grimvisions – Where Grim Visions Become Dark Art — nice pieces from Kurt for the halloween season. I’ve seen his work in person, very very impressive.
* Solar Camping Lantern — I remember the old coleman lanterns using white gas, the pumping, the mantles. What a pain in the a$%. This looks way simpler.
* King Cobra wristwatch — awesome looking. Tho I have completely given up on wristwatches.
* Carabiners make everything better. So true.
* Denture ice cubes. Seriously awesome.
* Resistor cheat sticker. I can never remember how to speak resistor.
* Antitheft lunch bags — brilliant.
* Woven wood chairs. Beautiful. Probably uncomfortable as hell.
* Single sheet plywood design contest. I’ve made a lot of single-sheet coffins for halloween, here are some other cool ideas
* Etched glass storage jars — I have old chemist bottles I bought from various sorts, here is how to fill out your mad scientist lab.
* Cosmic nightlight. Just looks cool.
Had a great father’s day, got some cool photo tools, some books that look great, and a couple of games since I have played Left4Dead and Fallout3 to death. Here’s some stuff I didn’t get and probably for good reason.
* Faux fountains via Scott Loftesness. Cool looking and an inspiration for Halloween.
* IP PBX tips for home. I was all excited about this several years ago but increasingly not so…having resident phone technology seems so backwards
* Projects Watches wristwatches. Cool looking but increasingly I have given up on wristwatches.
* Television emulator. I don’t know, I think the dogs would prefer to watch real TV.
* Olympus PEN. Having just hauled the Canon up and down a mountain Sunday morning, the idea of a smaller form factor camera with great lenses is appealing.
* Super Duper Denon pre-amp. Just can’t face all the cabling problems tho of disconnecting my current and connecting in a new.
* Mint.com. Like the idea of automated analysis of my financials, but I am just not going to give another party access to all my financial credentials. They should license these tools to financial service firms for use on their own websites.
* Cisco Network Magic. Nice review. Congrats to the former Pure Networks team.
* Filemaker Bento iPhone app. I regularly get sucked into thinking I need a database and this app is sucking me in again. I know tho I will enter 7 records and abandon the damn thing so I am holding off.
* Lamp with Pigtails | Design Milk. Seems vaguely creepy, a bunch of these with dimmers in the living room for a halloween party would be eerie.
* Love these egg lights too. Fully lit they are kind of cheery. Put a dim pulsing bulb in there and it feels like the lower deck of some alien spaceship wreckage.
Tangle of Wires. — Scott has a blog now. Amazingly great Halloween constructor.
* Twitchie robot kit. Looks like fun innards for a bunch of different props.
* Great singing skull.
* Haunted bookshelf. Don’t love the prop but really enjoy the cam mechanism, turning simple rotary motion into something more interesting.
Second time I’ve tried to post this. The WordPress PressThis bookmarklet is remarkably buggy.
CreativeTechs Tips: Mac Halloween Screensavers. The first one is nice and free. The second is $5 and a bit of a porker to download.
Bottomless pit. Endless hallway effect turned on its side. Nice and not that hard.