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Discussion Starter #1
Hi folks,

I have been giving some thought to a potential new project for our 2015 haunt and was curious if anyone has done some something like this before or would be willing to share your thoughts.

Here is the effect I was thinking about:

On the approach the candles distributed about the graveyard flicker randomly like the store-bought flicker candles. Once a guest reaches a certain position in the graveyard, the ambient audio fades out and a whooshing wind audio effect is played while simultaneously simulating the candles being blown out (bright white fade to blue then dim orange and fade to black or something along those lines) the scene is now silent and dark. A pop-up ghoul with lighting and appropriate audio effect would then appear from the dark right in front of the guest as if out of no where after a pregnant pause...

For that sort of sequence to have some realism, the candle flicker would have to appear random and different from the other candles and be able to control the candle "flame" color and brightness. This seems to rule out any of the store-bought light strings I have been able to find as they either use an incandescent bulb or white LED. I was thinking that using RGB pixel LEDs (with an embedded WS2811) would allow each candle to be controlled individually. Sequencing of the candles could be controlled with off the shelf pixel drivers and DMX/E1.31 sequencer/players (e.g. FPP).

The candles could be the DIY PVC version, hacked up store-bought stuff, or a Frankenstein's monster combination of the two in suitably random variants.

Fellow haunters, have you done something like this before and would you be willing to share your thoughts?


Thanks!

-Setarcos
 

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I know just the person you need to talk to, Jon at EFX-TEK.com. He has the perfect controller and all the knowledge you need to pull this off. Sign up for the EFX-TEK forums and contact Jon, he'll take care of you. Tell him I sent you there. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I know just the person you need to talk to, Jon at EFX-TEK.com. He has the perfect controller and all the knowledge you need to pull this off. Sign up for the EFX-TEK forums and contact Jon, he'll take care of you. Tell him I sent you there. ;)
Thanks for the recommendation J-Man. They do have some cool stuff at EFX-TEK that may be complimentary to what I have in mind. Generally I am going to try to re-use as much as possible from my haunt in other seasonal stuff where possible so FPP/Vixen/Nutcracker for computer-controlled lighting and audio sequencing are already familiar territory, but I haven't used them in a haunt thus far.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Just for fun I mocked up a quick scene in xLights/Nutcracker that captures the effect I was thinking about. The crossfading and brightness levels of the "blow out" still need some work, but I think it gets the point across.

 

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Just for fun I mocked up a quick scene in xLights/Nutcracker that captures the effect I was thinking about. The crossfading and brightness levels of the "blow out" still need some work, but I think it gets the point across.

That was awesome! What a cool effect.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
That was awesome! What a cool effect.
Thanks!

The audio track is just something I found on YT to fill-in the missing audio, so it wouldn't be what I would ultimately use for the haunt. I still need to figure out how to do proper sequence/audio crossfading with FPP when the trigger events happen, but all in good time...
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Project update

Hi folks,

It's been a few months, so I figure it's time for a project update.

I have ordered most of the major electronic elements for the candles:

Controllers

Pixels

Power Supply

Cabling

Enclosure

Most of these were pre-sale items, so I won't have them in-hand until July/August and will need to start construction in-earnest once they arrive.


I also spent some more time familiarizing myself with XLights/Nutcracker 4 and just finished a proof-of-concept full sequence with synchronized audio.
The lower four candles are synced with the wind in the audio, and the cluster of four candles at the top-center are just flickering randomly for the entire sequence (for reference). I will probably have something like this as the main loop and fade to the "blow out" sequence when a ToT triggers a sensor.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I finally have enough odds and ends to start prototyping the candles, so I knocked together a few prototype components after a trip to the hardware store earlier today.

I picked up a few sizes of PVC pipe, but the one that I favor for the pathway candles is the 2" schedule 40. I hacked off a ~5" section of pipe and after cleaning off the printed text on the pipe with acetone, I applied a few layers of hot glue drips.
IMG_20150822_145854136_HDR.jpg
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While the glue was drying I started on two different "flame" mixes to cover the LED on the tip of the bullet node. The first was straight clear silicone sealant, and the second had a small amount of cornstarch mixed in. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two. The pixel in the foreground (right) has the cornstarch mixed in to the silicone and the one in the back (left) has no cornstarch.

 

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Discussion Starter #10
I picked up a few more supplies and spent some more time prototyping and believe I have worked out the details for the final design. On the first prototype I didn't allow adequate time for the layers of hot glue to cool so successive layers seemed to just merge together. I made two more prototypes, but this time I let the glue dry between layers.
IMG_20150827_184222269.jpg

Many of the PVC candle build threads recommended using Rustoleum American Accents Heirloom White (satin finish), for the base coat of paint, so I went this route as well. It covered really well and had no issues adhering to the glue or PVC.
IMG_20150827_184228714.jpg

Many of the PVC candle builds use pipe insulation to support the light in the candle, but I couldn't get the bullet node to stay centered/straight using this method. Instead, I opted to use plastic end caps for mailing tubes (2" to match the 2" ID PVC) and trimmed off the lip at the edge of the cap with scissors to allow them to slide inside the tube. The mailing tube caps are much cheaper ($20 for a bag of 100 on Amazon) than PVC inset end caps, but seem to be sturdy enough to hold the bullet node in place once they are glued in.
IMG_20150827_184248498.jpg
IMG_20150827_184333259.jpg
IMG_20150827_190143321.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #11
After test-fitting the bullet node, I took it back out and tacked the end cap into place and flowed more hot glue into the inside of the candle.
IMG_20150827_191610300.jpg
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After applying the base coat
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I applied Liquitex BASICS Acrylic "Raw Umber" with a wet brush and a wet rag to distress/age the nooks and crannies around the drips of "wax" to give the candles some character. I then applied a layer of clearcoat finish over the paint to protect it. Once I complete the wiring I will insert each pixel and flow more clear hot glue into the area inside the candle surrounding the pixel to give the effect of melted wax around the wick.
IMG_20150830_225314717.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #12
This past weekend I started production for the rest of the candles for the walkway. I hacked off ~10" sections from the 10' lengths of 2" Schedule 40 PVC pipe with a coping saw. The coping saw provided more control than the hacksaw for adding irregularities to the cuts. I then used a fine grit sanding sponge and acetone to clean off the printed text from the outside of the pipe.
IMG_20150830_174000442.jpg

I then used a ratcheting PVC cutter to cut each 10" section roughly in half. The pipe cutter leaves nice clean edges for the bottom of the candles.
IMG_20150830_175159613.jpg

After cutting, I cleaned up the rough cut ends of the pipe with a deburring tool. Here are the first 44, only 16 to go.
IMG_20150830_190603338.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Just having some fun... First music sequence done (save some tweaking). Going through the process has taught me quite a bit about xLights (4.2), but I have a long way to go. The triangle-shaped things are floods, and the two vertical rows of evenly spaced dots are the pathway candles on the lawn. I still need to add the candles on the concrete walkway leading up to the door.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
This evening I finished cutting/cleaning/deburring the remaining sections of pipe and tacked on the trimmed mailing tube caps.
uploadfromtaptalk1441182495647.jpg

Next step requires quite a bit of hot glue. Hopefully this will be enough. ;) uploadfromtaptalk1441182532862.jpg
 

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I can't wait to see the finished product! Your biggest problem will be trying to imagine ways to improve it for 2016. :) The great thing is that I see this as something that maybe in the future I can do. This year I'm just starting with electronics, switches, and bought a few LEDs that I can fire off but now I can look at what you're doing as what I can possibly achieve a few years down the road.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks for that :)

I am trying to make all of the lighting as modular as possible so I can add on and change things up each year. Also, at some point we are going to tear out and replace the driveway/walkways and I wanted to make sure whatever I end up building will be adaptable to those changes down the road.

Definitely keep digging in and learning about electronics. There is a wealth of information out there and all kinds of fun projects that you can build to that end.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I managed to finish off the last layer of hot glue today (for the remaining 58 candles). Needless to say it took a lot of glue...



Next up, paint...
 

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Still chugging along... All the candles have been painted with the base coat of antique white, and I made it a little over half way through distressing them this evening uploadfromtaptalk1442390202498.jpg
 
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