Something I would like to see for the haunt community

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4, 2014 by propmaster

I know that the majority of people who use controllers for lighting and effects are running systems such as Windows or Mac OS X. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I’d like to see some Free, Open Source Software compatible controller mechanisms. I am a Linux User almost predominantly, and don’t like attempting to figure out how to operate a Virtual Machine environment. I am not a programmer or software professional. I prefer Linux for a few reasons. First, it is free. Second, it seems more intuitive than Windows or OS X, and is therefore slightly easier to use. 

I know that there is Raspberry Pi, and while it is a very versatile system, we need something a little more robust for larger props and intricate lighting systems or sound systems. Don’t get me wrong. The Pi is an awesome tool, and can be used in a pinch, but it is not as cost effective as an intricate all in one system could be. There is also the Arduino microcontroller, which can be used for controlling small motors and solenoids, but you need a separate controller board for each action on a prop. This is not cost effective, even though the Arduino software is free and open source. 

What I am trying to say is that we need a larger system that you can run an entire haunt from. There is Vixen, but that is mostly for the people who do singing pumpkins and/or Christmas light shows. We need something along the same lines for the haunt community. Something which can control pneumatic solenoids, servo motors, ambient and triggered sound, etc. I have had ideas for a few different effects for years now, but do not have the knowledge to put them into effect. Nor do I have enough ties to the microcontroller communities to get someone I know to help me out with the coding.

If there are any Haunt controller vendors who read my blog, I implore you to explore this avenue of research. You would find that there are a lot of haunters who are interested in Free, Open-Source Software for haunt controllers. I’m hoping that this will provide the motivation for someone to consider developing a system like this. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my rambling.

Exceptional Lighting and detail is your friend.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2014 by propmaster

A haunter can either succeed or fail, depending solely on that haunter’s attention to lighting and scene detail. Our haunts are generally geared towards a younger demographic than professional haunted attractions.  This, in itself, places a heavier burden upon us. It has been proven that the mind of a child is more active, in the imaginative sectors,  than an adult’s mind. I believe that this is because the child isn’t preoccupied with bills, work, and other responsibilities. Therefore, the child is more susceptible to believable scenery, thereby allowing the child to be scared more easily.

Detail and effective lighting make the scene more lifelike. Small details will snag a child’s attention and cause them to focus in an area away from a scare sector. This can translate to a professional haunt to a certain degree, as well. The more elaborate and detailed a scene, the more effective it will be to the majority of patrons. I’m not talking about minute details, but more noticeable small details. These things cause  the eye to focus in an area where you decide you would like it focused. It is a form of forced misdirection. Effectively layered lighting assists with this.

Effective lighting should consist of, at minimum, three different shades layered together. For moonlight, I generally enjoy a cool blue shade. As a counterpoint, a red or green layer that just barely illuminates the outer perimeter of the scene works quite well. This layer is meant to only light the lighter shades on scenery or props. I also enjoy using warm yellows or oranges as accent lighting to make the scene “pop”, looking like it is partially illuminated with fire light. This is just one scenario, and my lighting model is based from the Skull and Bones lighting tutorial. I attempted to link to the tutorial here, but was unable to do so, for some reason.

All of this is based on a completely light sterile scenario, meaning with your lighting turned off, your entire scene is completely dark, with no outside light contaminating the scene. As home haunter’s this is difficult, almost impossible, to achieve. Neighbors with outside floodlights, street lamps, and passing vehicles all contaminate your lighting scenario. It takes ingenuity to either incorporate or nullify this lighting contamination. This is an example of using high powered floodlights to nullify lights from passing vehicles. I used 2 blue compact fluorescent floodlights and 36 red 3 mm LEDs to achieve this effect. It worked quite effectively against passing vehicles and the flashes of parent’s cameras.


What I am trying to say is that with minimal research and moderate effort, you can design a very effective scene with amazing lighting. I spent less than 3 hours researching and roughly 4-6 hours constructing the lighting for this particular scene. It took me longer to build and sculpt the front of the arch than it did to build the entire lighting of the scene.

I hope this helps anyone attempting to complete a scene for their haunt or local theater, and that if anyone has questions, you’ll feel free to contact me here or through facebook. Best of luck!


Scenic Detail and Continuity

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2014 by propmaster

I have recently begun to notice a saddening issue with haunted attractions, both the home haunt and the pro haunt variety. This issue is lack of detail and no continuity. Let’s be real folks. Any idiot can buy a bunch of stuff, set it up and call it a haunt. Your theme and continuity pulls your audience into the story you are trying to tell, and the details of the scenes and props trick their minds into accepting it as real. I have seen $30 per person haunts fall flat on their ass because of low detail, badly lit scenery. On the other side of the coin, I’ve seen a guy who built a haunt from recycled material in his garage knock one out of the park because he obsessed over lighting and detail. It is all in how you detail things.


Just a little something to think about this morning. Happy Haunting!