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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 6 channel gemmy light and sound unit that I want to pair with an American DJ Snow Flurry snow machine. Some issues:

1) Neither device can be DMX-controlled
2) The Snow Flurry goes through fluid much faster than a fog machine

To account for both #1 and #2, yet still have automated snow blasts, the only thing I've come up with is the idea of having power cut on to the snow machine in the absence of sound. When the Gemmy ends a song, I believe there's a pause of a few seconds before the next one begins--possibly enough for a short Grand Finale snow blast.

How could I trigger power to the snow machine when the Gemmy goes silent without having to use a soldering iron (or breadboard... I prefer using off-the-shelf stuff in creative ways vs. building circuits)? The good news is that the snow machine has zero "warm up" time. Unlike a fog machine, it produces artificial snow immediately at power-on. I could get the sound from the Gemmy closer to the snow machine by using a splitter and an FM transmitter. But not sure how to use the the absence of sound to trigger power. Maybe sound-to-light, then have the snow machine plugged into a power strip off of a dawn-to-dusk outlet. But I'm missing the link between sound triggering light.

What about other methods for using the Gemmy to trigger the snow machine? Thinking I could use 1 of the 6 channels to provide power-on to the snow machine. That would be a more random / erratic method and consume a lot more snow fluid. I'd have to test the 10 song cycle on the Gemmy to see how much fluid got consumed for my chosen channel.

Also thought about having non-synced snow blasts, say, on the hour. But then the challenge is to keep the power on duration short--possibly 2 minutes or less. Most timers you can purchase in a typical store probably don't have On durations that short. Evidently, aquarium timers may be the way to go for that. Any suggestions for an "On the Hour" implementation? Possibly have video out on a PC or laptop "go dark" for X minutes an hour, with a dusk-to-dawn sensor plugged into the snow machine? Not a real programmer, and barely a scripter, so not sure how I'd do that. Maybe use Perl or Python to trigger a "black screen" video to play when I want the snow to blast?

Here are videos of the two devices I want to pair. I'd be placing the snow machine on the overhang above the front stairs:

Snow machine:

Gemmy light and sound 6 channel unit in action:

Been trying to do more decorating for Christmas since Halloween is a One Night Show in my bible belt neighborhood.
 

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Could you just use a relay that has two settings of "Normally on-Normally -Off?
Power your first device to be on, then switch it , shutting off the the first item, which then the other side of the relay becomes powered turning your second item ON, much like a two-way light switch, except it's a relay.
I wired up the refrigerator door like this so the lights in the spooky kitchen would go off when the refrig, door was opened and turned on the talking chip to make screams in a dark room.
I got REALLY SCARED when a man opened it, everything worked as I just described it , then he expressed wonder and amazement concerning how I electrically had made this all work.. Then he said he was an Electrician at the local Nuclear Plant!
AND HE CAN'T FIGURE THIS OUT!?
VERY SCARY!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Could you just use a relay that has two settings of "Normally on-Normally -Off?
Power your first device to be on, then switch it , shutting off the the first item, which then the other side of the relay becomes powered turning your second item ON, much like a two-way light switch, except it's a relay.
I wired up the refrigerator door like this so the lights in the spooky kitchen would go off when the refrig, door was opened and turned on the talking chip to make screams in a dark room.
I got REALLY SCARED when a man opened it, everything worked as I just described it , then he expressed wonder and amazement concerning how I electrically had made this all work.. Then he said he was an Electrician at the local Nuclear Plant!
AND HE CAN'T FIGURE THIS OUT!?
VERY SCARY!
Thanks Gym. Love the effect you created in your kitchen!

Still not sure I follow on how a relay would activate the snow machine during the brief sound intermissions between songs on the Gemmy. And if there's any wiring involved, I'd probably have to pass--no good with a soldering iron and don't want to electrocute myself if I have to work with AC power. :-(
 

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Funeral Crasher
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That would be a great effect if you can pull it off. I can't think of any solutions to the problem, though.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That would be a great effect if you can pull it off. I can't think of any solutions to the problem, though.
Thanks Dave. Too early to say for sure if it will work--need to progress with testing--but I may have found a solution.

Part 1 of proof of concept to have Gemmy Christmas light show trigger American DJ Snow Flurry machine during song intermissions.

Concept is this: use splitter to send Gemmy audio to FM transmitter. Receive signal on radio and route to a goofy "Sirius Mind State Optimizer" relaxation device I have lying around while it is in mode U3--so LEDs on glasses will turn on in presence of sound. It's like a one channel color organ. Then pair LED glasses with dusk-to-dawn light sensor in closed shoebox, with snow machine plugged into light sensor. In video, computer audio is routed to Sirius unit.Lights on glasses are turning on when I hit play for a YouTube video having sound. Lights turn off when I stop the video.

I'm not sure how the snow machine will respond to the current coming out of the dusk-to-dawn light sensor--both whether I'll get the effect I want when I want it, and if the life of the snow machine will suffer running it this way--but the idea is that it will stay off as long as sound is coming in from the Gemmy.

This is similar to the brown out effect I use with the same dusk-to-dawn light sensor; except that the light source is a flicker bulb.


It would be nice if I could get the LEDs to be even brighter so that the light sensor "thinks" it's receiving constant light. Will have to experiment and see.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Perfect Storm lightning machine could work too

Playing around with the Sirius relaxation device, I discovered it had a microphone-mode. Where it lights up in response to ambient sound. Played a lightning soundtrack next to it and, low and behold, it behaved like the Perfect Storm lightning machine. Leads me to believe I could also purchase one of those, have it on hand for next Halloween, but also use it to sync up my Gemmy to my snow machine. Love it when I can repurpose stuff I already have. Or buy something that serves multiple purposes.

Of course it's early and I'm still having my morning coffee.

Still welcoming other ideas since I don't know how things will turn out.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Almost there!

Watch for the blue flood light turning on in the video down below--that will eventually be Power On to the snow machine.

The only thing stopping me from testing with the snow machine is that the outlet on my dusk-to-dawn socket accepts only two-pronged plugs, while the snow machine is three pronged (has a ground). So I either need to find a dusk-to-dawn socket that accepts 3 pronged plugs or find a prong converter. Since the snow blasts will be so brief, might that be a significant safety issue, bypassing the ground that way?

The other item to complete this effect will be testing with an FM transmitter to get audio signal from the Gemmy unit downstairs to a radio receiver upstairs. Not worried about that at all. It will work. @Dave, I just ordered another FM transmitter like the one we both own--different vendor from the last time I made a purchase. And also purchased a similar but slightly different looking FM transmitter that read "over 30 feet" in the product description--where the one we both have typically says "10 to 30 ft range" in eBay listings.

Anyway, here's the write-up that goes with the video. Hope this helps give people some ideas for Sound-to-Light-to-Power control for Halloween applications. Poor man's synchronization. :)

"Almost there. Proved I could use the audio pauses between songs on the Gemmy Christmas light show unit to supply power to whatever I plug into the dusk-to-dawn sensor. All accomplished by splitting audio out from the Gemmy, with one going to the speaker and one to the audio in of the Sirius "Mind State Optimizer" relaxation device. Sounds drives the LED lights in the glasses. The light from the glasses makes the dusk-to-dawn plug-in think it's daytime, therefore keeping the power to the blue light *off*. One the music cuts out so do the LEDs and the dusk-to-dawn thinks it's dark--so it provides power to the blue light plugged into it. Hope I described that correctly. Next step: plug-in American DJ Snow Flurry snow machine to see what a 2-3 second blast looks like, etc"

For improvements, anyone know how I might somehow prolong the silences between songs to leave a second or two more for a snow blast? Like some sort of guitar effects pedal like a gate? Grasping at straws here. But I'm pleased with how the basic principal of the effect / controller has worked out so far.

 

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Discussion Starter #8
Maybe I need a dusk to dawn unit designed for three prongs like this one? Sounds like I could be asking to be electrocuted using a "cheater" plug (to fit a 3 prong plug into a 2 prong socket). From what I've read so far, evidently any device having metal housing needs a true three-prong ground:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Good-Choice-Outdoor-Daily-Electronic-Heavy-Duty-Countdown-Timer-606/203729989?cm_mmc=shopping-_-googleads-_-pla-_-203729989&skwcid&kwd=&ci_sku=203729989&ci_kw=&ci_gpa=pla&ci_src=17588969#specifications
 

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That's probably your best bet. You can physically ground a cheater plug to the earth or an outlet ground, but at that price, better to just use a proper plug. Nice solution! The things you come up with to avoid soldering really are impressive. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #11
That's probably your best bet. You can physically ground a cheater plug to the earth or an outlet ground, but at that price, better to just use a proper plug. Nice solution! The things you come up with to avoid soldering really are impressive. :D
Thanks CDW. :) Ordered the 3 prong d-2-d sensor from AMZN this morning. Yeah, I'm hyper-averse to doing electronics mods with a soldering iron. Probably because I've destroyed a few items in the attempt. Also enjoy doing effects on the cheap; esp. with stuff already on hand.

Now if I could just find a way to lengthen the silences between songs to get longer duration snow blasts. With a digital delay guitar effects unit outputting only the delayed signal, I could probably shift the snow blast to occur when the next song begins. But that wouldn't increase the duration of silence / snow blasts.

Are there any other audio effects from a multi-effects unit that might help me do what I'm looking for? In this case, probably looking for a good excuse to buy a used multi-effects unit--not just for holiday effects, but for actual guitar / music use. :)
 

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Funeral Crasher
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I'm glad you found another option for a different FM transmitter to try. Hopefully this one will give you more range. If not, you can try the "piggy-back" method and let me know if it works or not. :)

Great thinking on getting the effect you want. It's kind of a Frankenstien set-up, but I'd do the same thing if it solved the problem.
You should give soldering a try again. If I can do it, anybody can! LOL

By the way, how much did your snow machine cost? It's pretty cool!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I'm glad you found another option for a different FM transmitter to try. Hopefully this one will give you more range. If not, you can try the "piggy-back" method and let me know if it works or not. :)

Great thinking on getting the effect you want. It's kind of a Frankenstien set-up, but I'd do the same thing if it solved the problem.
You should give soldering a try again. If I can do it, anybody can! LOL

By the way, how much did your snow machine cost? It's pretty cool!
Thanks Dave for the feedback and encouragement. I'm ok with my franken/Rube Goldberg-controller. :) Will let you know what I find out re: my FM transmitter experiments.

Got my American DJ Snow Flurry machine new-in-box with a gallon of fluid and free shipping for around $130 off eBay. A bit expensive since there's not the same economy of scale you have with fog machines. But pretty nifty. Instant snow on Power Up--no waiting like with a fog machine. The neighborhood kids sure loved it when I ran snow tests during the summer. :)

Different subject, but I've put black light bubble fluid on my Christmas list so I can try out my new bubble fogger. That seems to be a real Halloween Hit with kids from what I've read and seen on YouTube.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Other concepts for controlling snow machine without DMX

My three pronged dusk-to-dawn sensor should arrive today. Don't know if I'll get a chance to test.

While waiting I've brainstormed other ideas. Wonder what folks think of them, or if there are other implementations possible (ok, some day I'll break out the soldering iron again, but not now). What I probably need to do is join a "local" home haunter group here in North Carolina if there are any active ones to observe some make-and-take sessions that involve electronics. Or attend a haunter convention where these sorts of build workshops are held.

Anyway, some ideas I have floating around are:

1) Add white flood lights, plugging them into a power strip where the snow machine would also be plugged into, and so being able to illuminate the snow for a better effect. Not sure if white or blue floods would look best. Any ideas?

2) Getting snow to blast for between 2 and 5 minutes on the hour (to conserve snow fluid)
To do this, I'd have to give up the snow blasts between songs. To implement, all I'd need is an MP3 track of noise, with silence inserted at the top of every hour. Then either loop the track or create an MP3 track that will last the expected duration each evening, e.g. perhaps a single three hour track for a 6pm to 9pm show. Same overall concept with "sound driving light driving power" in my current set-up. Could use a computer or MP3 player for the audio.

3) Combining on the hour snow blasts *with* short snow blasts between songs
Not exactly sure how I'd accomplish this with parts I have on-hand. One piece of one implementation may be to keep the original set-up (with FM transmitter in place feeding audio from the gemmy). Then to find a much more powerful FM transmitter and tune it to the same channel to provide Power On for 2-5 minutes on the hour--transmitting absolutely nothing for those few minutes, e.g. silence. Of course the question remains how to get transmitter to be on for those few minutes each hour. @Dave, I currently power the FM transmitter we both own with a Car Charger to House Power socket. So if I could find an affordable aquarium timer that would give me power on for 5 minutes an hour, that might work--assuming the FM transmitter instantly starts transmitting at Power On. Seems to.

Alternatively, I could use a much lower powered FM transmitter for the Gemmy audio and/or just experiment with placement distance for the two FM transmitters in play. Hope that makes sense--not sure it does.

Going beyond Christmas and/or making this effect a lot simpler (no goofy Relaxation Device required), it would be cool to build the simplest possible circuit that will turn a single LED on in the presence of sound--possibly adding a flip switch to reverse the behavior, for flexibility. That's really all that's needed to provide power on and power off via a dusk-to-dawn sensor socket. Seems like there could be many opportunities for synchronizing effects this way in a yard haunt, possibly using Left / Right audio channels, multiple MP3 players, multiple FM transmitters, etc.

Think I'd want to pursue this angle before committing to purchasing something like a Light-o-Rama--entry level cost being... ??? Of course time is money. But pushing my brain to accomplish effects in "simpler" more primitive ways is fun time. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Sensor fail

The dusk-to-dawn sensor arrived today. However, it's worthless for this effect since there's about an 8 second delay before it senses darkness and turns on the power. It's not instantly responsive like my two pronged dusk-to-dawn sensor. Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Target store Westinghouse dusk to dawn sensor has same delay issue

For $10 I picked up a Westinghouse three prong dusk-to-dawn sensor having two outlets. It suffers from the same delay issue--takes between 5 and 8 seconds to detect darkness. Worthless for my needs so it's going back to Target later this week.

Noticed there's another similar unit being sold right now at Big Lots for $13 in the Seasonal section. But I have a feeling it will also suffer from the delay issue. Ugh.

If anyone finds a grounded dusk-to-dawn sensor with an immediate response profile, please let me know. If worst comes to worst, I could use a cheater plug to get the snow machine to fit the two-prong dusk-to-dawn sensor with the immediate reaction time. But I'd really rather not due to safety concerns.

If all else fails, I suppose I could use my existing setup and find some sort of a window decal in the center window (it's a bedroom closet) that would illuminate some sort of message like Merry Christmas using a flood light. Then at least I have something different going on upstairs. Any other ideas?
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Anyone know of a three prong dusk-to-dawn sensor with instant response time?

Took another look at the Big Lots three prong dusk-to-dawn sensor, but it looks a lot like one of the two I bought that had a 5 to 8 second delay. I know I could return it if it didn't work, but that's frustrating. Anyone know of a three prong dusk-to-dawn sensor that has an instant response time?

Failing that, if I can't find one that works the way I want, anyone have a suggestion for what to Power On in an upstairs Center Window during the song silences? This is a window in a closet off a guest bedroom.

I know at Halloween there are often window silhouettes / "decals" (for lack of a better word) that look cool in a window with a lit-up room. Is there anything like that available with a Christmas theme from any retail stores like Party City, etc? Idea being I'd use the same controller concept, but put the silhouette in the window and have any old light Power On during the song silences to draw interest to the upstairs window--got no lights or decorative Christmas items upstairs.

For $10 I picked up a Westinghouse three prong dusk-to-dawn sensor having two outlets. It suffers from the same delay issue--takes between 5 and 8 seconds to detect darkness. Worthless for my needs so it's going back to Target later this week.

Noticed there's another similar unit being sold right now at Big Lots for $13 in the Seasonal section. But I have a feeling it will also suffer from the delay issue. Ugh.

If anyone finds a grounded dusk-to-dawn sensor with an immediate response profile, please let me know. If worst comes to worst, I could use a cheater plug to get the snow machine to fit the two-prong dusk-to-dawn sensor with the immediate reaction time. But I'd really rather not due to safety concerns.

If all else fails, I suppose I could use my existing setup and find some sort of a window decal in the center window (it's a bedroom closet) that would illuminate some sort of message like Merry Christmas using a flood light. Then at least I have something different going on upstairs. Any other ideas?
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Running out of options

Purchased a grounding plug from Ollie's Good Stuff Cheap to have on hand as I'm running out of options. Opinions? How unsafe is it to use one of these? I may just run it to finish proving out the concept. Then wait until I can find a more response three prong dusk-to-dawn sensor.

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