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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I would like some sort of controller I guess it would be to turn certain light on and off. (I hope this is not a duplicate post I thought I posted already but don't see it) I have seen several great posts where lights in a scene come on and off. I will be doing a pirate scene and want some sections to go dark while others light up. I am sure that LOR is exactly what I need but are there cheaper solutions to accomplish this ? There are some fine examples here of exactly what I want to do. The Hi Rez display comes to mind and the pirate ship I have seen here also. I am trying to avoid very technical and expensive way to do this. It may also need to trigger sound sequences as the light come on and off. Thank you for any suggestions and help you may have.....Dan.
 

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I originally started with a LOR controller but quickly sold it to buy several DIY controllers. Here's my setup for Halloween -


64 channels on top to control my red/green/blue/white floods (16 flood units) and 16 AC channels from the bottom controller.
I use the free software Vixen to control it.
The controllers come from the other holiday group and info can be found on their site at http://diychristmas.org/vb1/index.php
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you J-Man... Here's a wonderful example of something I would like to do with lights. Maybe as as many but I would like sound and lights in certain scenes to come on and off. I'm thinking I could get by with about 8 lights total if I use floods to light the scene. Then go dark while another lights up. I would also like some sound to activate in the areas when the lights come on.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_MmzC5LLsRA
 

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There are many LOR alternatives, but LOR is a bit easier to get started with if you are less technically inclined. That said, it is considerably more expensive than the DIY approach.

On the DIY front, Have a look at some of the other holiday forums (Do It Yourself Christmas is a great place to get started). The big thing now in lighting is RGB LEDs, so take the time to familiarize yourself with "dumb" and "smart" RGB LEDs, the appropriate controllers for each type, and the sequencing and playback software/hardware. Traditional incandescent relays/dimmers can be used as well, or in combination with LEDs, but it's generally simpler to pick one type for a small setup.

Things can get complex very quickly, so make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew.

As J-Man suggested, do a little research and sketch out a rough idea of what you want to do, then translate it into the number of output channels. If in doubt, we can help you with that part.
 

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Thank you J-Man... Here's a wonderful example of something I would like to do with lights. Maybe as as many but I would like sound and lights in certain scenes to come on and off. I'm thinking I could get by with about 8 lights total if I use floods to light the scene. Then go dark while another lights up. I would also like some sound to activate in the areas when the lights come on.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_MmzC5LLsRA

This is really well done. A couple comments on what you are seeing in the video:

  • The lights dimming/flashing in sequence with the voice/music was sequenced (by hand). Most of the sequencing software LOR/Vixen/Xlights Nutcracker/etc are designed to let you do this, but it takes some time to do. IMHO XLights 4 has added some great features for adding timing marks to audio for doing this much more quickly than was possible before.
  • This show uses the DMX-512 output from a LOR dongle to control professional stage lighting (Martin/Chauvet). They also seem to use a combination of incandescents, floods and flashes as well (likely controlled by a LOR dimmer)
  • This show runs on a loop, and isn't triggered by ToTs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I use an arduino, personally.

This one is the ATMega with 16 relays and PWM control over the RGB strips

Spent about $50-60 bucks for the parts

Here's the end result

http://youtu.be/23H6Mbt-h5Y
Thank you for that. How tech savvy do you have to be to do something waaaaay less than that? Which parts do I need and about how much total to buy what I need to do about 8-10. Lights with sound. I looked at th other holiday site but I did not see anything for sale. Just how to use things.
 

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Dan,
There's still some details that need to be specified for your set up. What voltage are your lights? Number of lights you want to control independently? What are you using for the audio playback? How do you want to trigger this? I use EFX-TEK controllers and audio players, if you wanna shoot me an email I'll be glad to help you out.
 

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Thank you for that. How tech savvy do you have to be to do something waaaaay less than that? Which parts do I need and about how much total to buy what I need to do about 8-10. Lights with sound. I looked at th other holiday site but I did not see anything for sale. Just how to use things.
That is quite well done z0mbie st0mp! My worry is that the OP may be a bit overwhelmed with the technical complexity of the Arduino approach. It certainly might be the cheapest option, but writing sketches, reading schematics, hooking up relay boards, working with 110VAC, etc can be daunting for some.

Danski, you haven't yet shared with us your comfort level with a few key areas to make appropriate recommendations. Are you looking for a boxed solution, or something that you would be willing to put together (and wire) yourself? What is your price range? Will you be able to use a computer to drive your show, or are you looking for a stand-alone controller?

FYI: If you are looking for the hardware referenced on the other holiday site, check out Holiday Coro, DIY LED Express and Seasonal Entertainment. These do assume that you can handle your own wiring and setup.

Since you are only looking to drive a small number of lights, there are many options. Here are a few that come to mind. We can refine this once you answer a few of my questions:

PC control (Incandescent lights only)
  • Use VIxen or Xlights/Nutcracker to sequence and run your show (both are free software)
  • Control incandescent lighting with DMX dimmers ($80-$115 for a four output dimmer. You would need two or three depending on your channel count)
  • Drive the DMX dimmers with a USB DMX dongle ($35-$150)
  • Audio would be sourced directly from your PC, but you probably want to use an external amp and speakers.
  • Total cost ~$115-$265 (not including the lights/fixtures, gels, DMX cables and extension power cables)

PC control (with RGB lights)
  • Use VIxen or Xlights/Nutcracker to sequence and run your show (both are free software)
  • DMX controlled RGB spots, floods, wall washers ($30-$250/ea)
  • Drive the DMX lights with a USB DMX dongle ($35-$150)
  • Audio would be sourced directly from your PC, but you probably want to use an external amp and speakers.
  • Total cost $275+ (including the lights, but not including the DMX cables and extension power cables)

Stand Alone (using FPP and a Raspberry Pi)
  • In addition to the above options, add a Raspberry Pi ($35)
  • Run the show with FPP from your pi. (free software)

Stand Alone (Incandescent lights only using BooBox)
  • BooBox ($224+)
  • Control incandescent lighting with DMX dimmers ($80-$115 for a four output dimmer. You would need two or three depending on your channel count)
  • Audio would be sourced directly from the BooBox.
  • Total cost $384+ (not including the lights/fixtures, gels, DMX cables and extension power cables)
 

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That is quite well done z0mbie st0mp! My worry is that the OP may be a bit overwhelmed with the technical complexity of the Arduino approach. It certainly might be the cheapest option, but writing sketches, reading schematics, hooking up relay boards, working with 110VAC, etc can be daunting for some.
Thanks! That was actually my first time, and I programmed everything myself.

I would say at the very least, with 8-10 strictly on/off (no fading)... If you want fading lights, you'd need solid state relays which are nearly triple the cost.

An Arduino Uno and a Sainsmart 8 relay board would do the trick.

In my video, I am only using 13 of my 16 relays.

I have a sketch that hasn't failed me as of yet on several arduinos I could share.

If you need help, let me know, i'm always lurking
 

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I should mention, I'm a total newb when it came to the light show thing. I had never worked with the arduino before tackling this.

I also know enough about electricity to not kill myself, but I really ride the line when it comes to safety... I actually change outlets "live" in my home... Because I'm a dumbass.

Here's the controller, before all the wiring was completed. I know, it's not the safest way to do this, but it worked great and nobody was ever near it, besides myself.

It was about 150 feet of wire total to complete this. Each little blue box on the circuit board in the middle (sainsmart 16 relay board) was wired to one outlet at the bottom. The two outlets at the top are always live, the smaller circuit board at the top is the arduino "brain"



I am actually rebuilding this for this year in a weather proof, more safe box.

Please don't flame me for this one... I know it was dangerous!

Here's a quick video of it doing it's thing

http://youtu.be/NQWhP6CpVqI

This is a video of the first song I programmed in Vixen... Took about 18 hours. You can hear all the little relays clicking away in the background!

http://youtu.be/0oPkhkln17I
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks everyone for the help.
I would prefer something I wouldn't have to build. I might be able to spend around 300 on a setup. I do have a computer I can use also. Not very mechanically inclined so if I can get away without building it would be great. Pc control with RGB light looks like something I might be able to handle. Setarcos I am extremely greatful for such a well explained reply. That was very well done and explained. I know very little about electrical stuff and prefer not to mess with it if I can avoid it. Ever since I thought I turned all power off to an outdoor security light and still got shocked I have been leery. I see your in San Jose. I'm in Tracy.
 

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OK, I'll have to give my $.02 on this one. I use LOR in our haunt and while the initial outlay is a bit more than some DIY options it does have the advantage of being plug/play and has a much lower learning curve. However, for your money you are getting a proven UL approved consumer product designed to pass inspections and live outside in the rain/snow in winter. Further, while I'm the first to admit its not perfect it is a totally synced system that will have you up and running out of the box. The forum and tech support do provide assistance when you need it. Most importantly, it is expandable and flexible.

Now, as anyone on this board will tell you haunting has a nasty little habit of getting bigger over time. While a stand alone system with 8 channels like a boo box may work now will it be able to expand and be flexible in the future when you want to go truly Grizwald in 3 years?

I started out a few years ago with 16 channels of lights and every year we are doubling our channel output. I am running EVERYTHING in our haunt from LOR: including incan, LED RGB, DMX, servos, ele motors, pneumatics, sound, video etc. I spend my time building our haunt and don't worry about bugs in my controller.

LOR is really trying to push the market and has now come up with their own servo control board and expansion software to control the servos with similar features of VSA. This is a big deal for the haunt market as LOR was not the best choice for running something like a 3 axis skull (though it can be done!) Now that they have solved this issue LOR is a solid starting foundation.

Now, if budget is a concern keep in mind that LOR does have a "kit" that will save you a few bucks. Basically all you have to do is just screw in the 16 pigtails into the board to create the exact same setup. Takes about 15 min and is really easy to save $50.

Finally, remember pay once, cry once. How many times have you skimped on features you didn't think you would ever use on a product to later wish you would have upgraded earlier?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
PC control (with RGB lights)
Use VIxen or Xlights/Nutcracker to sequence and run your show (both are free software)
DMX controlled RGB spots, floods, wall washers ($30-$250/ea)
Drive the DMX lights with a USB DMX dongle ($35-$150)
Audio would be sourced directly from your PC, but you probably want to use an external amp and speakers.
Total cost $275+ (including the lights, but not including the DMX cables and extension power cables)








Any chance you can expand on this? Like a parts source. What I will need. This seems in my price range and looks like something I might be able to accomplish by my lonesome.
 

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You have had some great suggestions so far, each with their own merits.

Here is what I imagined while looking at your list above.

I have one of these DMX dongles and it works great- plus it is just 50 bucks.
DMX dimmer packs like this are very versatile DMX dimmer packs IMHO. 80 bucks.
I bought 4 of these LED par cans last year and used the heck out of them. I paid about 18 each for mine, but here are some similar I found 4x for 90 bucks. People poo-poo cheap DMX lights, but I have them and they work just fine in my opinion.

Between all that you would be near $226 considering shipping on the dongle. That would leave some change for cables. You could have some fun with that, and expand on it later.

Good luck with your decisions- and bravo for doing your homework!
*edit, forgot to mention Vixen=free=yes! Why not try it?
-Mike
 

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All great suggestions and a lot of detailed info. Just to throw another choice into the mix, your application is pretty simple and can be done very cost effectively with a basic controller like the EFX-TEK Prop-1 and an 8 channel relay board. The Prop-1 is $40 (your initial purchase will also need a BS1 Serial Adapter $5). You can get an 8 channel relay board on ebay for under $10, a 16 channel for around $15. The Prop-1 does need to be programmed but the coding is easy to learn and you'll get all the help you need on the EFX-TEK forum. The Prop-1 can be re-programmed anytime for other applications and learning how to do it is fun and well worth the effort. In summary, control wise, you can get this setup running for around $60. You'll still need lights, speakers, and an audio player, preferably something that can be triggered.
 

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As you can see Danski, there are a ton of us on this forum that would like nothing better than for you to have an awesome Halloween show :D

To expand on the parts/suppliers for a PC controlled RGB LED light setup I referenced in my earlier post:

Use Vixen or Xlights/Nutcracker to sequence and run your show (both are free software)
DMX controlled RGB spots, floods, wall washers ($30-$250/ea).
Examples: Drive the DMX lights with a USB DMX dongle ($35-$150)
  • I second the HolidayCoro Enttec Pro compatible DMX dongle (available from Holiday Coro and Amazon for a little more) that mikkojay linked. There are cheaper non-isolated ones, but this is one of those areas you shouldn't skimp on as isolation can save your bacon when things go horribly wrong (as often happens with an outdoor venue)
Misc stuff:
  • Three pin DMX cables: Amazon search, ebay search
  • Three pin DMX terminator (your lights may have a built-in terminator that can be enabled for the last device on the bus making this unnecessary): 1, 2, 3

Adding all of this up again for 8 lights, with the cheapest options I found in a quick search:

General comments:

As Beaver State Rich mentioned, LOR has a huge user base and a great deal of flexibility with their product lines. They also have paid support if you need help. That said, the price point for a full working system is going to be quite a bit over your $300 budget.

As with most show systems, DMX and LOR are expandable, and you can always add and remove devices for next year's show. This sort of thing can be addictive, so be prepared ;)
 
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