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Very nice. I'd love to have control over lighting and sound. I like the house walkway layout, lots of room to add stuff for ToTers to see before they get to the candy! Nice FCG upstairs too.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks. The FCG and the computerized lighting obviously took most of my time. The ghost went through a lot of modifications. Used a wiper motor mounted to a board. The whole thing is held up by a large PVC frame as I didn't want to hang any hooks in the ceiling. Next year we're hoping to buy a single family home. Looking forward to a yard with possibilities! ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I didn't have to spend too much money on the lighting control because I already owned most of the Insteon modules for the purpose of home automation. Check out www.insteon.com or www.smarthome.com for more information about Insteon. It's a pretty cool technology, and allows you to do a lot of neat stuff. Every light switch in my house has been replaced with an Insteon light switch, giving me full control over that switch from any location in my house. I have a web server that allows me to control my lights from the internet. Heck, I even have a PocketPC that has wireless ethernet, and sometimes I control my lights from that! For Halloween, I just "borrowed" my plug-in modules that normally are controlling table lamps. There's a computer interface (called the PowerLinc Controller, or PLC) that is a USB device that plugs into a wall outlet. You can send and receive commands to any Insteon device in the house through the powerline. Insteon is kinda like X-10, only 100 times better. Anyway, here's the breakdown in cost if you were to buy all of the pieces that I used for Halloween:

USB PLC: $59
2x RF SignalLinc's: $59 (required for Insteon to function correctly. They basically just bridge the signal between the 2 phases in your house)
6x LampLinc modules: $24 a piece (dimmers)
2x ApplianceLinc modules: $24 a piece (relays)

Obviously this is expandable. You can add an unlimited number of devices to an "Insteon" network. Of course the beauty is you can plug in a module or wire in a switch anywhere in your house, and there's no cabling involved.

I spent a few days writing the software, and a few more days refining it. I then spent countless hours trying to get the lighting effects timed right. My program just reads in a text file that specifies the music file to play and lists each of the lighting effects and the timestamp for each effect. I had to listen to the music, decide where to kick-off a lighting effect, and then type it into the file. Then I had to play it through and decide if I need to adjust the lighting effect forward or backwards in time by editing the timestamp. Pretty simple concept, but very time consuming. I'm actually rewriting the program right now for Christmas, and it will feature a fully mouse-driven track/sequence editor which will make it far easier to do.

So how does this compare to animatedlighting? Not sure, since I don't know much about animatedlighting. I can give you a comparison to Light-O-Rama, though. Generally speaking, Light-O-Rama is probably a better way to go. That controller is far faster than the Insteon technology, and can do stuff that Insteon just isn't made to do. For example, Light-O-Rama can send 100 commands per second! You can't get anywhere near that with Insteon. About the best you can with Insteon is 3-4 commands per second, and not for more than a couple of seconds at a time. The PLC locks-up and stops taking commands if you send it too much data in a short period of time. I found that I had reliable service if I limited myself to about 2-3 commands per second, with a short pause every few seconds. There is one cool thing that you can do with Insteon, though. You can pre-program a whole scene into your Insteon modules that is triggered by a specific group number. What is a scene? It's simply a pre-programmed lighting scene that involves 1 or more Insteon modules. You program the on-level (brightness) and ramp-rate (speed) that the lights use to fade on/off. Each module will have it's own on-level and ramp-rate for a specific scene. Now the cool part. You can trigger that scene at any time with just a single command. Example: SendGroupBroadcast=136,ON. You could have hundreds of devices programmed to respond to group/scene #136, and they would all instantly respond by turning on to the pre-programmed on-level using the ramp-rate for each individual device. It looks awesome. The one main advantage to Insteon is I didn't have to drill any holes in the side of the house to push cable through. Since Insteon uses powerline communications, I just plugged the modules into an outside outlet (actually I had them in a plastic storage container with an extension cord going to an outlet) and presto... my computer can talk to them no matter what outlet they are plugged into. Of course you could buy wireless communications options or computer-less operation options with Light-O-Rama that eliminates the need for cables going through the house, but those costs more money.

Next year I'm going to buy a 16-channel Light-O-Rama starter kit. I'd buy one now for Christmas, but I've got a wedding to pay for in less than 6 months, so... it'll have to wait for next year!
 

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Oh I so wanted to have controll over my lighting like that this year. Maybe not so much like a show but just fading in and out, flashing, stuff like that. Just want to add some umph to the display. Wanted to get a LOR kit this year but funds were already tight, but really making it a priority next year along with getting my pneumatic props beefed up and running.
 
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