Guides to mechanical movements just discovered 507 movements, what a great resource! Back in my active Halloween days, I used to spend a lot of time figuring out how to turn simple rotary motion (as available from a myriad cheap motors) into some form of erratic or lateral motion. Or lateral motion (as available from a pneumatic piston) into some other form of motion. I have the 4 volume set of Ingenious Mechanisms, which is even more excellent. But the 507 site is free!

Starting to dabble with Arduino

A few years ago when I was very active in Halloween decorating, I used the “Basic Stamp”: 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”: designs, probably because of the open nature of Arduino.

So I’ve ordered a handful of test kits from “Adafruit”:, “Sparkfun”: and “Maker Shed”: seem to have a lot of nice products too.

“Arduino programming”: is C-like which seems like a bit of a step back, I wish I could use something more like Python.

Halloween 2011

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”: The videos are awesome and we have some large windows. I admit I do get sucked into sites like “Monster Guts”: — a great selection of prop supplies. But I will resist. Oh and I love these awesome light fixtures from “Schoolhouse Electric”: — 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.

6 months to Halloween — are you ready?

The nice folks at “Monster Guts”: 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”: but that seems extreme. Or a liquid nitrogen based system which is really extreme!
* You need to have some quality “bones and skeletons”: 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”: 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”:

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”: This thing looks awesome. It does demand a projector and some sound equipment but I love it.
* “Webcasting gun”: 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.

Cannon roundup — EMP cannon, Shock cannon, Vortex cannon

* “EMP cannon”: Mount one of these babies on your trunk and eliminate that tailgating problem.
* “Shock Cannon”: and here is how to get that solicitor off your porch.
* “Vortex Cannon video”: Probably a bit more powerful than I ever thought about building at Halloween.

Halloween links

Not doing a big Halloween thing this year due to other commitments. Saving these tips for the future…

* “Monsterlist”: Starting point to find any kind of halloween project
* “Kurt’s tool wishlist”: I can only aspire to Kurt’s skill and tool collection
* “Kurt on prop setup”: The guy knows more than I ever will about this
* “Scott on controllers”: Need to read and parse this, Scott is ahead of me here.
* “Kurt on foam construction”: Foam is my best friend at halloween time
* “Measure tape tape”: Simple but brilliant
* “French Curves”: Who doesn’t need these.

Stuff I Want But Don't Need — Themeless

* 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.

Stuff I want but don't need — Post Father's Day edition

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.

Physical Stuff:

* 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.

Virtual Stuff:
* 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.

Halloween Ideas and Tips