Halloween Forum banner

1 - 20 of 56 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
The trend with LEDs is becoming more popular in our daily lives (stop lights, TV, computers, instrument panels, etc...), in this post I will try to convince you that LED lighting is way to go for 99% of your haunted house lighting needs. This post isn't for promo purposes but simply to inform about safe lighting practices and to illustrate the benefits of placing more focus on lighting in your haunt. Please feel free to post any technical questions you may have and I'll try to the best of my knowledge to answer them.

Why use LEDs?
  1. Safe --- LEDs are low voltage and generates very little heat, reducing risk of fire dramatically, this reason alone should convince you to use LED lighting in haunts. You can also hide LEDs in virtually any material w/o worrying it'll catch on fire.
  2. Durable --- LEDs typically won't shatter when dropped, there are no moving parts or hollow spaces. LEDs can even be made water resistant or water proof with the correct type of casing.
  3. Energy efficient --- the amount of light per watt of power used is significantly better than traditional incandescent lights. This year, LEDs will exceed the efficiency of compact florescent lights (the curly light bulbs).
  4. Environmental friendly --- there are no toxic substances in the LED, there is mercury in fluorescent lighting. In case you do manage to break an LED, you won't have to worry about dealing with hazardous materials.
  5. Easier to install --- Although I don't know all the local fire codes, I don't believe low voltage lighting wires require running it through conduit, this will save a lot of time when running your wires around.
  6. Directional light --- LEDs inherently emit direction light, making them great spotlights.
Why are people still using the traditional bulbs?
  1. Perhaps their haunt was built way before LEDs got popular, it was probably a lot of work to install the electrical system and they haven't felt the need to switch over
  2. LEDs may seem like unfamiliar territory because they come in so many types and very few (until recently) are compatible with traditional light fixtures
  3. For making your own LED lighting system, it does take some basic technical understanding of electricity.
LED Basics
LED stands for Light Emitting Diode, this is a type of semiconductor that will light up when a voltage is applied to it. Because LEDs are diodes, polarity matters --- that is, in order for the LED to light up, the positive voltage must be applied to the anode and the negative voltage must be applied to the cathode. LEDs typically light up with only 1.3V - 4.0V applied to it, this voltage is specified in the LED's documentation and varies between colors and models. One important thing to understand is, simply hooking up a small battery to a bare LED is NOT good practice. This is because your battery is not limiting the current that will be applied to the LED. The LED may still light up, but you may be significantly reducing its lifespan or burning it out. If you ever buy a really cheap key chain LED light (for about $1) and open it up, often you'll see a bare LED straddling a 3V button battery --- this is as cheap as it gets, the LED will light up but not reliably (you'll probably notice in the long run your LED may not be as bright as it used to be). The proper way to light an LED is to have a RESISTOR in series with the circuit to limit the current flowing through the LED (I'll explain how this works below). For more details, go to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Led

Differences between LEDs and traditional lights
  1. Polarity matters: if you reverse the polarity on an LED, it just won't light up
  2. LEDs are not dimmable in the same way that traditional lights are -- will go over this in more detail below
  3. LEDs run on low voltage, even if you have LED bulb that screws into traditional 110V or 220V sockets, there is circuitry inside that steps down the voltage
How to light up a SINGLE LED from a 9V battery properly
Assuming you have a single RED LED with a turn on voltage of 1.7V and handles up to 20mA of current (usually these specs are on the website from which you purchased the LED or on some type of packaging that came with it), here's how you get it to light up reliably (we require some basic electronic principles).

With a 9V battery, 1.7V will be dropped across the LED, that means 7.3V still remain --- this voltage will be dropped across a current limiting resistor, which is in series with the circuit. Since we want at most 20mA travelling through the LED, that also means at most 20mA will travel through the resistor. By basic Ohm's Law: Voltage = Current * Resistance we get: 7.3V = 0.020A * R, if we solve for R, we get 7.3/0.02 = 365 Ohms. This means you want to use at LEAST this resistance in your circuit because this limits the current to at MOST 20mA. You probably won't find an exact valued resistor for what you calculated, just use the closest standard value that is HIGHER than what you calculated. More resistance = less current. Below is a simple diagram and a really useful tool for calculating the resistor value needed for your LEDs.

http://www.pcboard.ca/kits/led_notes/


You'll realize most of the 9V we started out with was dropped through the resistor (7.3V) and only a small portion of it (1.7V) was through the actual LED ---- this is pretty inefficient as most of the energy was simply burned off as heat through the resistor and not as light. A more efficient way to do this is hooking up several LEDs in series on the same circuit:


In the picture above, 3 LEDs are hooked up in series, meaning 5.1V (3 x 1.7V) is dropped across it and only 3.9V needs to be dropped across the resistor. By the same calculation method above, you'll get 3.9V = 0.020A * R, and solving for R we get 195 Ohms. Of course there is a limit to how many LEDs you can put in series, the total combined voltage drop MUST be less than your voltage source. If you're running off of a 9V battery like in the diagram, you'll also want to account for the battery's voltage lowering as it starts to run out of juice. Say the battery can potentially drain down to 8V, then at MOST you can hook up 4 LEDs in series.


Dimming LED lights:
Traditional light bulbs dim out when a lower voltage is applied to it. This will work for LEDs to SOME extent but you won't a very smooth transition between ON, DIMMED, and OFF. The brightness of an incandescent light is proportional to the voltage applied to it. The brightness of an LED is proportional to the CURRENT running through it, however this is much more difficult to control. There are two ways of dimming an LED, one way is simpler and less efficient, the other is more complex but very energy efficient.

  • Simple but inefficient: if you add a potentiometer (a variable resistor) to the circuit above, you can throttle the current through to the LED.
  • Efficient but more complex: LEDs work more efficiently when they are either fully ON or fully OFF. If you're switching the LED ON and OFF very fast (more than 100 times per second), you won't be able to see the flickering. During this ON and OFF cycle, if the ON time is more than the OFF time, your LED will appear brighter. If the OFF duration is more than the ON duration, the LED will appear dimmer. By varying the relative pulse width between ON and OFF, you'll be changing the perceived brightness of the LED, kind of like taking an average of the light output. This technique is called "Pulse Width Modulation"


Most low voltage LED dimmers work in this fashion. For example here:
http://www.ecolightled.com/product/led_pwm_dimmer_inline_12V/pwm_led_light_dimmer


Using a LED lighting system in your haunt
Most low voltage lighting systems on the market are using 12V, it's pretty standard because you can find 12V in a bunch of places:
  • Standard wall warts (you can rip it off some existing appliance or buy a universal one from Radio Shack)
  • Car batteries
  • Regulated power supplies specially designed for LEDs
Most of your haunt probably is using 110V AC power --- you'll need to find a way to convert it down to 12V DC, most of the time people can just go to Radio Shack and buy a 12V power supply. Just make sure the the total current being used by the LEDs do not exceed the current rating of your power supply. For example, if you have a 2.0A power supply at 12V DC, and each LED you have uses up 20mA, that means you can took up at MOST 100 of these LEDs in parallel. Once you have your 12V source, you can use terminal blocks to distribute the power to your individual LED lights.


One great thing about low voltage lighting is the ease of installation --- since you're not running much voltage (or current), you won't need really thick wires (unless you're running your wires several hundred feet). For the most part, 24 AWG speaker wire is a cheap and effective way to light up your LED system. You can also use ethernet or telephone cable, pretty much any wire around the house will work. For wire management purposes, it is recommended to use one power adapter for every few adjacent rooms instead if wiring up an entire haunt with just a single adapter.

If I haven't addressed any technical part to this point, please comment below and let me know.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
lighting techniques with LEDs

Now, for the the lighting techniques: this part is more subjective and everyone's opinion may vary --- discussion is welcomed

I want to start off by asking the rhetorical question: "What good is your $5000 animatronic if no one can see it?" Many people spent tens of thousands of dollars on building their set, awesome animatronics, but pay little attention to the lighting. I dare to say that lighting can make or break your scene. It brings out what you want your visitors to see and hides what you don't. It's great for misdirection, mood setting, and showing off all the hard work you went through to put your haunt together! I've been through several haunted houses on tours where we go back during the lights-on saying "I wish I had seen that in the dark, I didn't even know it was there!" On the contrary, you also don't want to walk in to a haunt where you CAN see everything, then there's no mystery --- this is why LEDs are perfect, they're not as bright as traditional lights, and can highlight JUST enough of what you need, nothing more and nothing less.

LEDs are also great because they come in so many different colors and tend to give more of a pure color than your traditional par cans with gels over them. Because LEDs are directional by nature, you can use it as a spotlight for many of your scenes.

  • A single LED enclosed in a tube can pinch off the light spread making a solid spot, this is great for highlighting props or casting creepy shadows
  • Several LEDs with a wider dispersion angle can give a nice soft flooding effect to a scene, you can get a nice glow in a corner of a room
  • There are many high powered LEDs on the market now (1Watt or even 3Watt), just a single one of these can flood an entire scene with color.
For completeness, I'll list a few examples of where to use certain colors (some may be quite obvious):
Reds: dungeons, hellish areas, any scene with fire, blood, or guts
Greens: alien scenes, labs, jungles, graveyards, creates a creepy mood
Blues: cold mood, freezer, water scenes, graveyards, futuristic scenes
Amber: this color makes anything look old (like in old color faded pictures), great for attics, barns, warehouse, also use with fire scenes
White (cold): almost the same color as fluorescent tubes, use in offices scenes, or to highlight props that need to show full color
White (warm): similar in color as a traditional light bulb, use it to make your scenes more natural looking, also use to highlight props that need to show full color

Remember if you're highlighting with any of the colors other than white, you'll most likely wash out the colors you used to paint your scene. Often times your scene detail make look awesome when you have normal lighting on it, but if you hit it with a red light, everything in that scene will be some shade of red.

I suggest to detail your set in actual haunt lighting --- this way you'll know what the final product actually looks like (or at least switch between your normal light and haunt light during the detailing process).

Alright, I know this was a pretty long post and really thank anyone who took the time to read this. If I had left anything out, let me know and I'll try to offer my advice as best as possible. Thanks!
 

·
Ghouls Rule
Joined
·
2,589 Posts
yes most interesting! Im such a bad girl I was hoping to see how to actually hook up some LEDs to a battery, lol. :)
 

·
Hauntless
Joined
·
8,371 Posts
Thank you on an excellent primer for LED lighting.

I have a question :) Made a giant Demon Horse ground breaker for the yard. Using a ring of stones around it I hope to create the illusion of the horse erupting from a Hell Hole in the ground. Want to complete the look with LED lighting. Because it will be outdoors for at least two solid weeks, the lighting must be outdoor rated. So, was thinking of surrounding the horse at ground level with red and yellow LED rope lighting that pulses slowly on and off. Is there an adapter that I could buy that would allow me to do that? Worse case I was going to create the show using DMX. Just FYI: in addition to the rope lights, for Halloween night, there will be a strobe light and fog.

Also, if you have products that would do this as well, what would you recommend?

Here's the Hell Horse for reference (it's 7 1/2' tall):

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
LED recommendations

Thank you on an excellent primer for LED lighting.

I have a question :) Made a giant Demon Horse ground breaker for the yard. Using a ring of stones around it I hope to create the illusion of the horse erupting from a Hell Hole in the ground. Want to complete the look with LED lighting. Because it will be outdoors for at least two solid weeks, the lighting must be outdoor rated. So, was thinking of surrounding the horse at ground level with red and yellow LED rope lighting that pulses slowly on and off. Is there an adapter that I could buy that would allow me to do that? Worse case I was going to create the show using DMX. Just FYI: in addition to the rope lights, for Halloween night, there will be a strobe light and fog.

Also, if you have products that would do this as well, what would you recommend?

Here's the Hell Horse for reference (it's 7 1/2' tall):

Hi Terra, that's a beautiful prop you've made! I haven't looked in the market for rope lights but I think by nature, they are outdoor approved, you just may need to find the right colors.

As for our own products, everything we have is water resistant so you can use it outdoors. If you're looking for DMX control, we have the perfect light for you, the Precision DMX. It's RGB fully controllable via DMX, compact enough to fit in your palm, AND should be bright enough to light up the horse.

http://www.darklightsystem.com/products/Precision-DMX:-RGB-Theatrical-Light.html


Please note this light is on pre-order and will be available in July.

--- only thing that I think you should pay attention to is the fact that the horse is black. Pointing any light directly at it may not light it up well... you probably also want to have back lighting so the horse becomes a silhouette with glowing body parts. The fog will definitely help spread out the light as well.
 

·
Hauntless
Joined
·
8,371 Posts
Hi Terra, that's a beautiful prop you've made! I haven't looked in the market for rope lights but I think by nature, they are outdoor approved, you just may need to find the right colors.

As for our own products, everything we have is water resistant so you can use it outdoors. If you're looking for DMX control, we have the perfect light for you, the Precision DMX. It's RGB fully controllable via DMX, compact enough to fit in your palm, AND should be bright enough to light up the horse.

http://www.darklightsystem.com/products/Precision-DMX:-RGB-Theatrical-Light.html

World's Smallest DMX Wash Light

Please note this light is on pre-order and will be available in July.

--- only thing that I think you should pay attention to is the fact that the horse is black. Pointing any light directly at it may not light it up well... you probably also want to have back lighting so the horse becomes a silhouette with glowing body parts. The fog will definitely help spread out the light as well.
Love the idea of back-lighting it to help show it off (scribbling a note). With the rope lights, is there an adapter that I could buy that I attach to them to allow very slow dimming and brightening (to give a pulse effect)?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Love the idea of back-lighting it to help show it off (scribbling a note). With the rope lights, is there an adapter that I could buy that I attach to them to allow very slow dimming and brightening (to give a pulse effect)?
there may be an adapter depending on the rope light:

if the rope light is using traditional incandescent bulbs, you can use a DMX controlled dimmer: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&keywords=dmx%20dimmer&rh=n%3A11091801%2Ck%3Admx%20dimmer&page=1, you'll also need a programmable DMX controller that sends the fading signals.

if the rope light is LED based and runs off of 12V, our company carries a new product this year that can dim/flash/strobe/chase/flicker a bunch of LEDs with OR without DMX (this is also on pre-order and will ship before July):
http://www.darklightsystem.com/products/DarkBox-DMX%3A-DMX512-Receiver-and-LED-Driver.html


with our DarkBox DMX, you can use DMX to fully control up to 6 channels of LEDs, or if you just want simple control we have a bunch of built-in functions that run without DMX... one of which is the pulsing you're looking for. I noticed in another post that you made really cool flickering candles, our controller can also output 6 unique channels of candle flicker at various speeds and brightnesses ---- since you can hook up multiple lights to each channel, you can actually hook up to 120 of our lights to a single control box.

cheers,
Quan
 

·
Hauntless
Joined
·
8,371 Posts
there may be an adapter depending on the rope light:

if the rope light is using traditional incandescent bulbs, you can use a DMX controlled dimmer: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&keywords=dmx%20dimmer&rh=n%3A11091801%2Ck%3Admx%20dimmer&page=1, you'll also need a programmable DMX controller that sends the fading signals.

if the rope light is LED based and runs off of 12V, our company carries a new product this year that can dim/flash/strobe/chase/flicker a bunch of LEDs with OR without DMX (this is also on pre-order and will ship before July):
http://www.darklightsystem.com/products/DarkBox-DMX:-DMX512-Receiver-and-LED-Driver.html


with our DarkBox DMX, you can use DMX to fully control up to 6 channels of LEDs, or if you just want simple control we have a bunch of built-in functions that run without DMX... one of which is the pulsing you're looking for. I noticed in another post that you made really cool flickering candles, our controller can also output 6 unique channels of candle flicker at various speeds and brightnesses ---- since you can hook up multiple lights to each channel, you can actually hook up to 120 of our lights to a single control box.

cheers,
Quan
That DarkBox looks nifty. It's steep but looks like it can give a lot a versatality. Thanks so much for the info.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
That DarkBox looks nifty. It's steep but looks like it can give a lot a versatality. Thanks so much for the info.
no problem at all.

cost wise, yes it may seem a bit pricey for some. However, this equipment is comparable to, if not has more feature than many of the other professional lighting controllers out on the market. A few other companies such as Ethereal FX and Gilderfluke make controllers with similar capabilities and they are $300-$1000 but they do not have the assortment of built-in programs so you still need a DMX controller, where as our product will allow you to run in stand-alone or DMX mode.
 

·
Disney Inspired
Joined
·
840 Posts
Do you have any pictures of how far the light throws and brightness at different distances? Particularly for outdoor settings, Ex. wash lighting on the side of a house, lighting up windows (from a distance), etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Do you have any pictures of how far the light throws and brightness at different distances? Particularly for outdoor settings, Ex. wash lighting on the side of a house, lighting up windows (from a distance), etc.
that is still something we're working on. we have a basic comparison chart between some of our different lights on here: http://www.darklightsystem.com/pages/Reference-Images.html

In terms of outdoor throw, I recommend our Precision Z and Precision DMX lights. These are high powered lights designed for long distances and places with ambient lighting.

The X and Y models are usually used indoors in pitch black areas for highlighting props and scenes.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
50 Posts
Love the idea of back-lighting it to help show it off (scribbling a note). With the rope lights, is there an adapter that I could buy that I attach to them to allow very slow dimming and brightening (to give a pulse effect)?
Terra,

There are a couple options I use that might help you out. The first is Jeff at Simple Circuit Boards, http://www.simplecircuitboards.com/HauntedHouse.html, has these boards for sale by request:

* Random AC Lamp Flickerer - Shorting out bulb effect
* Programmable/Random Lamp Dimmer - Dimming effect

The first board use a PIC with a set program. For a small fee, Jeff can program any dimming program you need like ramp up to 100% over 10 seconds, dim to 10% over 20 seconds, etc. Works with 110V lights and I have used them successfully with Rope lighting as well. Great pricing and Jeff is awesome to work with as we all know.

For my LED lights with DMX, I really love the items from Seasonal Entertainment. I use their Rainbow Brain, http://seasonalentertainmentllc.com/rainbowbrain.htm (kit or assembled) which gives me DMX control over 5 individual RGB ports. It does use RJ45 instead of XLR for DMX connections (adapters are easy to build and also available from their site). Their Rainbow Floods offer a huge amount of RGB LED lighting and they have smaller units available like spots and wall washers. For the Rainbow floods, you can install them in an outdoor rated flood light enclosure from Lowe's or Home Depot. I use mine outdoors for both Halloween and Christmas with no issues. They also offer great support - if you mess up a DIY kit, they will fix or replace it.

Just a thought... the Darklight systems products are awesome, but like many haunters, I am on a budget.

Joe
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
great suggestions!

Terra,

There are a couple options I use that might help you out. The first is Jeff at Simple Circuit Boards, http://www.simplecircuitboards.com/HauntedHouse.html, has these boards for sale by request:

* Random AC Lamp Flickerer - Shorting out bulb effect
* Programmable/Random Lamp Dimmer - Dimming effect

The first board use a PIC with a set program. For a small fee, Jeff can program any dimming program you need like ramp up to 100% over 10 seconds, dim to 10% over 20 seconds, etc. Works with 110V lights and I have used them successfully with Rope lighting as well. Great pricing and Jeff is awesome to work with as we all know.

For my LED lights with DMX, I really love the items from Seasonal Entertainment. I use their Rainbow Brain, http://seasonalentertainmentllc.com/rainbowbrain.htm (kit or assembled) which gives me DMX control over 5 individual RGB ports. It does use RJ45 instead of XLR for DMX connections (adapters are easy to build and also available from their site). Their Rainbow Floods offer a huge amount of RGB LED lighting and they have smaller units available like spots and wall washers. For the Rainbow floods, you can install them in an outdoor rated flood light enclosure from Lowe's or Home Depot. I use mine outdoors for both Halloween and Christmas with no issues. They also offer great support - if you mess up a DIY kit, they will fix or replace it.

Just a thought... the Darklight systems products are awesome, but like many haunters, I am on a budget.

Joe
Joe, these are excellent solutions to what Terra wants to achieve. What we provide is usually for professional haunts and theme parks so it may be overkill to some home haunt applications.

Since this post is for educational purposes only, I have nothing against more cost-effective solutions than ours.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
238 Posts
Great Post Thrilltainment! I have been doing several projects with LED lighting recently. Having taken a few EE classes, it wasn't too bad. You broke it down and explained everything perfectly enought to take the fear out of it for anyone who wants to try it out. Thanks again!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
glad to help!

Great Post Thrilltainment! I have been doing several projects with LED lighting recently. Having taken a few EE classes, it wasn't too bad. You broke it down and explained everything perfectly enought to take the fear out of it for anyone who wants to try it out. Thanks again!
no problem, I'm an electrical and mechanical engineer by trade so I'm happy to share any of my experiences here. I'm sure there are other knowledgeable people out there that can contribute to this thread, so hopefully they'll see this and we can get a good discussion going to help everyone out =)

if you have any further questions, ask away!
 

·
Hauntless
Joined
·
8,371 Posts
Terra,

There are a couple options I use that might help you out. The first is Jeff at Simple Circuit Boards, http://www.simplecircuitboards.com/HauntedHouse.html, has these boards for sale by request:

* Random AC Lamp Flickerer - Shorting out bulb effect
* Programmable/Random Lamp Dimmer - Dimming effect

The first board use a PIC with a set program. For a small fee, Jeff can program any dimming program you need like ramp up to 100% over 10 seconds, dim to 10% over 20 seconds, etc. Works with 110V lights and I have used them successfully with Rope lighting as well. Great pricing and Jeff is awesome to work with as we all know.

For my LED lights with DMX, I really love the items from Seasonal Entertainment. I use their Rainbow Brain, http://seasonalentertainmentllc.com/rainbowbrain.htm (kit or assembled) which gives me DMX control over 5 individual RGB ports. It does use RJ45 instead of XLR for DMX connections (adapters are easy to build and also available from their site). Their Rainbow Floods offer a huge amount of RGB LED lighting and they have smaller units available like spots and wall washers. For the Rainbow floods, you can install them in an outdoor rated flood light enclosure from Lowe's or Home Depot. I use mine outdoors for both Halloween and Christmas with no issues. They also offer great support - if you mess up a DIY kit, they will fix or replace it.

Just a thought... the Darklight systems products are awesome, but like many haunters, I am on a budget.

Joe
Thanks so much for those links! I'll have to check those out further when officially get into the lighting part of the horse. Been collecting thoughts and ideas on how to get this done that can survive outside for 30 days. Looks very promising.

Also been talking with Hauntek about those 10 watt LED floods I talked about in the Transworld thread. I may just go ahead and get some. If they don't work for the horse, at least they could be used in other applications because they are outdoor resistant.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Thanks so much for those links! I'll have to check those out further when officially get into the lighting part of the horse. Been collecting thoughts and ideas on how to get this done that can survive outside for 30 days. Looks very promising.

Also been talking with Hauntek about those 10 watt LED floods I talked about in the Transworld thread. I may just go ahead and get some. If they don't work for the horse, at least they could be used in other applications because they are outdoor resistant.
do you have a link to that thread or the HaunTek product? i went to their website but it's down. I'd like to see how our lights would compare, all the lights we make are water resistant, some are even water submersible.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
128 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
LED lighting in action

notice the vivid colors that can be achieved with LED lights. The great thing about LEDs is that the color is INHERENT to the LED semi-conductor material being used, in layman terms, you get a much more PURE color with LEDs than you do with traditional bulbs and a color filter (gel).

here are a few examples of what LEDs can do for your scenes:









 

·
Hauntless
Joined
·
8,371 Posts
do you have a link to that thread or the HaunTek product? i went to their website but it's down. I'd like to see how our lights would compare, all the lights we make are water resistant, some are even water submersible.
Yesh, he said he's going to try to get the info on his site ASAP. Here's the picture I took of it. What was appealing was that it has a remote control that I can pick 12 or so colors, pulse and strobe:

 
1 - 20 of 56 Posts
Top