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Arduino powered Haunted Mansion Singing Busts

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Picture of Arduino powered Haunted Mansion Singing Busts
Last year I wanted to put together a Halloween display emulating my favorite Disneyland/world ride of all time. Originally this was just going to be four heads on a table with the Haunted Mansion's "Grim Grinning Ghosts" playing on a loop. But that all changed after I picked up my first Arduino UNO.

After I started learning to program my Ardunio this evolved into a photocell actuated video "on demand" Halloween display. I used an example I found on Arkadian.eu to control a Dell Mini 9 netbook running AutoHotKey. When the photocell switch is tripped the Arduino sends a serial message to the Dell laptop which is converted to a keystroke by AAC Keys which in turn triggers the below AutoHotKey Script and finally plays back using VLC. The "AAC Keys" could probably be replaced by setting up your Arduino as a USB HID but at the time this was all a foreign language to me.

So, lets get to the build!
 
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Step 1: Hardware: Don't lose your head over this.

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Sometimes (OK, lots of times) it's handy to have a retired Electrical Engineer as a father. In particular for this project he was able to provide me with a nice "industrial" photocell switch (just like at Disneyworld!) This ran off a seperate 12v power supply and was really easy to setup on a digital pin of my Arduino (more on that later). 

In addition to the switch my hardware list included:
  1. 4 styrofoam heads (found on eBay)
  2. Dell Mini 9 netbook for video playback
  3. A 800x600 VGA projector
  4. Old Karaoke machine for audio playback
  5. Arduino UNO
  6. Radioshack project box to keep the Arduino dry and happy
  7. And the previously mentioned photocell and 12v wall wart
As you can see in the photos I setup the photocell to span the width of my parent's front steps (this would not have worked so well in my apartment...). The photocell wired into a pin on my arduino to register when it was tripped. The Arduino is hooked up to my Netbook over USB and lastly the netbook hooks to the projector and karaoke machine using their respected ports. Then I setup the styrofoam heads and aligned them with the video (more on that in step 3). Whew, ok who's ready for some software?
propgirrl6 days ago

Love it! Nice job!!!

I gave it my best shot, but couldn't come close to what you accomplished. I ended up getting the pre made Ghost Bust from Night Frights since I'm not as technically skilled as you. It was a little pricey, but SO COOL, it was worth it! It's the hit of the neighborhood at Halloween! Thanks for the inspiration! What's next?

Naters1 year ago
Someone is going to be scared this Halloween! Gonna try this!
mdegiova2 years ago
How do you download the video from youtube?
Thanks
Videodownload helper or ant video for firefox.
Use the Firefox browser and search the add ons. Lots of downloaders.
TheNewHobbyist (author)  mdegiova2 years ago
Keepvid.com does a pretty good job. You can find other similar services pretty easily on Google.
Chirpoff2 years ago
This is a good one! Glad you got a prize!
U4562 years ago
i had the comment and too many wows
Sovereignty2 years ago
Awesome!
maewert2 years ago
This is cool and I copied it with a few modifications. I bought styrofoam heads but used only one, which I had to sand off much of the facial features. I then projected my own face on it.
hallow1.jpghallow2.jpg
U4562 years ago
wait i mean WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW
lperkins2 years ago
You could also use a webcam on the laptop and one of the dozens of pieces of motion-detecting software. Or wire the output of the motion detector into the DTR pin of a serial port on the computer. Both options would be cheaper than using an Arduino as a glorified button-pusher. ;)
AE8994 lperkins2 years ago
I investigated this solution and you can use a webcam and freeware motion sensing software called YAWCAM ( Yet Another Web Cam) to trigger an executable. Check it out at http://www.yawcam.com/index.php and look at the help page http://www.yawcam.com/help/help_motion_actions_exe.php for instructions on how to trigger the video for your singing ghosts.
You are exactly right. Arduinos are really overused, when there are much simpler ways to accomplish the same task.

If the Arduino is overkill, it is over-engineering, which is not good engineering. I do think I'd like to see a buffer between an external device and DTR on my PC.
I generally use a small relay to separate the electrical systems from each other. Especially where the voltages involved quite often differ between devices.
AE89942 years ago
Could you use a garage door sensor (http://www.amazon.com/Genie-Safety-Beam-Photo-Sensors/dp/B0006UGQVG) to accomplish this instead of the photocell?

I'd be curious to see a setup like the one suggested by lperkins.
U4562 years ago
This is cool!
tinker2342 years ago
wow
bpark10002 years ago
Let me tell you how to make this even better, incorporating another Disneyland effect. Mold hollow heads from white thin plastic, or use clear plastic and paint thin white coat. Mount heads so you are viewing them from the hollow side. Place black board in front of heats, with cutouts fit well around heads. Project the video from the back side. In addition to the talking heads effect, you will also see the heads apparently turning to face you no matter what angle you view. This effect is used in the Haunted Mansion in the hallway, just before you get into the cars. There are 2 busts on each side of the hall, which are really concave.
Sounds pretty good... Do you have any pictures ?
tehbanz2 years ago
Sorry if this double posts, but I'm very interested in this project, I've almost got everything needed except the photo-cell switch do you know of any alternatives that don't run in the $120 range, that can still hook to an arduino?

Maybe something like this - http://www.zorotools.com/g/00065530/k-G0443091?utm_source=google%20shopping&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=Google%2BShopping%2BFeed

TheNewHobbyist (author)  tehbanz2 years ago
I imagine something like one of these would probably work fine

IR distance sensor w/cable (10cm-80cm) - GP2Y0A21YK0F
http://www.adafruit.com/products/164

PIR (motion) sensor -
http://www.adafruit.com/products/189
Wow, excellent thanks for the quick response! these are even cheaper than what i was looking at ! thank you very much, hopefully i can whip one of these up before halloween!
vincent75202 years ago
great but scary !…
(to me at least !…)
johnpwiles2 years ago
Why not add whig hair and dangle them from the ceiling, add in some body parts coming out the bottom and make them 4 body-less singers. Just a thought.
LAWNMUSIC2 years ago
Awesome! But I think the project might be a little over my head since your second paragraph actually made my head hurt.
don't get discouraged, you can do this - I think you could simplify this alot - all you really need are the foam heads, a projector, a laptop/PC and some speakers.

He fancied it all up by connecting the arduino and other electronics to make it completely automated.

If you wanted to simplify it, just launch it manually or run it on a loop.

I'm doing it this weekend - this is a project my wife would actually like me to do.
carlitos2 years ago
Love it! Now if only I had a projector. An idea: put a little stage curtain in front that opens and closes in sync with when they start and stop singing so people don't have a chance to stare at the blank styrofoam heads. Your title has "Signing"
TheNewHobbyist (author)  carlitos2 years ago
That would be pretty incredible. I've got a motor shield for my Arduino...

Good catch on the title, fixed!
alcurb2 years ago
Awesome project. I often dreamed about reproducing that effect, but my mom would never allow me near the Super-8 projector. Am I dating myself?

Regarding the installation, did I miss something? I did not see a picture of the installation of the projector, the most important component. Is there another instructable for that? I'm curious how the projector is set up so that the trick-o-treaters don't block the light. I imagine up high near the ceiling taking advantage of keystoning feature of the projector.
TheNewHobbyist (author)  alcurb2 years ago
Nope you're right I pretty much forgot to include projector details. I just set up the projector on a table in front of the table. And blocked off that part of the porch with some chairs and rope.

I put together a quick mockup of what the decorations looked like when it was setup. The projector is on the black table near the rocking chairs.

http://thenewhobbyist.com/img/halloween_display.png
dr4c012 years ago
yea iv gotta say that this is amazing well done iv gotta try this sometime
vulgrin2 years ago
This is amazingly well done. Great work!
gdhenson2 years ago
Very cool - I actually know the guy who is the main voice in that little ditty. I grew up in central Florida and was a cast member at the Magic Kingdom during my high-school years. A guy I grew up with, his grandpa is a chap named Thurl Ravenscroft who voiced alot of Disney things as well as The Grinch that Stole Christmas and the voice of Tony the Tiger.

Excellent work.
zazenergy2 years ago
Probably one of the coolest halloween projects I've ever seen! I'm inspired!
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