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Can anyone give me some insight on lightning machines?

I contemplated getting one, late in the season last year and ended up with a crappy strobe light, which didn't satisfy my desire for the lightning effect.
So, I want to get a head start this year and I'm wondering exactly how these things work. Is this something that I need to plug lamps into? Or, is there a way to get it to actually make the lights in my ceiling fixtures flicker?

Also, if anyone can suggest decent brands, it would be appreciated :D
 

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Ya I got a dumb one after halloween sale too.from what I read you would hook it up to lights or some have lights build in.the better ones are hooked up to a sound source MP3 etc then plugged into and then lights are plugged into it also and as the sound (thunder)is played the lights flash.use photo blubs (camera store have them) reg ones burn out quick. I belive you can buy a "color organ"I think that's what there called at some place like scary terry or go to the list of online vendors list on this home page and look around.all you need and basiclly all there store ones are is a card with plug ins in a case.
 

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Bête noire
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This works well for me:

Christmas Tree FX - LTD Commodities

I have two of them and use four 250 watt photoflood bulbs. Lotsa lightning for cheap. Just plug in a CD or MP3 player with your lightning soundtrack and you're good to go. Remember that background sounds (rain, wind etc) will cause the lights to flicker, as well. Best effects come from a thunder-only track.

As far as getting your hard-wired house lights to flicker, that's a job for a qualified electrician.
 

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I'm admittedly biased, but I believe our FireFly lightning simulators are the best available. There are three models, with one, two, or five channels. If you want dimming of your room lights, the FF-101 can do lightning or dimming, the FF-201 can do stereo lightning or one channel lightning and one channel dimming. The FF-501 is microprocessor controlled, and had four channel lightning plus a dedicated dimming channel.

We include either one or two thunder CD's, created by Virgil.

As to lights, LED's are the best, for their white color and fast response. Large incandescents are slow to flash and slow to dim, plus the color is an un-lightning-like yellow. Several smaller daylight bulbs work better than one or two large floods.

FireFly will work with LED, incandescent, halogen, and some CFL fluorescent lights.

Photoflood bulbs have a short life-span, typically 2-3 hours. I wouldn't suggest them.

Steve
Lights Alive
Halloween Props, LED Lights, Holiday & Animated Lighting by Lights Alive
 

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Bête noire
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Hi Steve,
I was concerned initially about the possibility of short lifespan with photofloods, but I've been using the same four bulbs (two white, two blue) for three years now. They run approximately 5 hours each Halloween (plus several hours of testing for light placement) and I haven't seen any reduction in light intensity nor have I had any failures. Remember that they flicker for just a few seconds with each thunderclap so the total "on" time is actually quite low. I agree that LEDs would look great, but photofloods have a very fast response, no yellow, and are very low cost compared to large LED arrays (typ. $4-$7 per bulb).
 

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You Rang?
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I'll second Otaku's observations, I've used the same two photoflood bulbs for the last 3 years but the haunt is usually only open one evening so they work great for a yard haunt. I guess if you ran your haunt longer or operated a commercial haunt the other options might work better.
 

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Keeper of Spider Hill
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I ran a single channel home made setup using a audio relay board from Simple Circuit Boards. Worked great outside of a little noise from the relays chattering. This past year I tried to incorporate a second channel using a second board, but they changed the design of the board and I could not get it to work properly in stereo. :(

After Christmas I snagged 3 of the Tree F/X boxes from Tuesday Morning for like $7 each and they are awesome. I wish I would have bought them a couple of years ago. :) I think for the home haunter, the cost of them is really hard to beat.
 

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Bête noire
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That's the same bulb I use - a pair of 3200 K whites and a pair of 4800 K blues. I like the blue tint in the flash. Makes it have a kind of electric "arc" effect. So far the heat issue hasn't come up, but I do use ceramic inserts in the sockets.
 

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Doomed to walk the earth
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I'm no expert.. but i'll add a link to the one i bought ..mine is the Mc-2401 ...I was very happy with it and it is simple to use and comes with a thunder cd.. just hook up your lights, stereo ,hide the speakers and go... It really made a diffrence and i love when its time to bring it out..I'm sure on whatever you decide to get will make you happy, theres many out on the market today...just do a little research and chose to fit your needs.....ok heres the link check out this website and others too....i-Zombie.com • Welcome
 
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