Years ago, I worked with a local guy on bringing in computer controlled lighting and sound to a local haunted house attraction. The original attraction just used light bulbs of different colors and actors to make everything happen. Our upgrade included the following:
- We used a cheap Windows PC and VenueMagic show control software.
- We ran a chain of RGB DMX lights was ran throughout the attraction.
- About 14 speakers were installed, all wired back to a stack of cheap Pyle brand amplifiers.
- A cheap USB hub and some $2 USB sound cards was used to get multi-channel audio from VenueMagic, and it worked great.
- We installed pressure mats to trigger audio and effects.
- I built an Arduino input box to read triggers from pressure mats and send them to VenueMagic as serial data.
- There was also a DMX controlled relay board that was used to trigger air jets and control pneumatic doors.
- When building regulations changed a few years into operation, the haunt was wired with illuminated exit signs and smoke detectors. Those were brought into the system so it could halt the show and turn on white work lights for safety.
The end result was a living, breathing attraction with flickering “flame” light, atmospheric moonlighting, strobe effects, as well as immersive surround sound throughout.
The VenueMagic software was, by far, the most expensive element of this project, and also the one that provided the most headaches. While the software itself was amazing and powerful, running on Windows was not. We had numerous issues over the years with Windows crashing, USB devices failing to be recognized, audio devices being remapped (requiring editing the show control configuration), etc.
Once the computer was in control, if it went down, you lost the entire show. The lights had a backup mode (we called it “party mode”) where they would begin randomly cycling through colors if there was no DMX signal. At least it didn’t leave the guests in the dark, but a silent haunt with circus lighting was far from scary.
In upcoming articles, I plan to discuss various ways you can show with complex lighting and audio, and make it play without needing a PC.
Just in time for the holidays ;-)