My goal was to make a simple halloween show and also a Christmas show for less than $1000. I wanted to try Vixen 3 which was new as of July, which is free software with new lyric integration for easy face programming. My white face was built with white LED strips, (2) 3 channel controllers which were meant to be (2) RGB controllers, but became 6 white channels to do one complete face for around $70.
The color face used (18) of (24) available RGB channels, giving me (6) RGB channels for the face. This face with lights, materials and controller cost around $200. There are cheaper ones direct from China for $64 which it looks like the community seems to buy. I already had this one from another DMX show. I had (2) RGB channels left over for window LED lights. The USB DMX adapter for the computer was around $70.
I also used (2) DMX line voltage dimmer packs for $90each for the pumpkin lights and 4 spotlights that would shine light on the house.
Step 1: Material List
38 channels for around $700 total
(8) rgb $11ea http://www.amazon.com/LEDMO-150LEDs-Non-waterproo...
(2) 3 channel rgb controllers to make 6 channels for white face $24ea
(1) 24 channel rgb controller $160 to make 6 color channels for color face, and 2 color channels for window lights http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9...
(1) power supply for 24 channel controller $20
(2) chauvet 4 channel dmx dimmers $80ea
(1) dmx 5 to 3 cable $5
(1) dmx converter usb $67
(5) dmx cables $9 ea
ethernet cat 5 cable $40
low voltage wire crimp connectors $5
1 sheet coroplast $10 (Its more expensive to buy less... google guinea pig cage coroplast)
8 Stake lights and bulbs $10 each
4 puck lights for the pumpkins $7 ea
misc extension cords
hot glue, soldering gun
Vixen 3 free software
Step 2: Cut Out Faces and Hot Glue LED Strips
I ran all the electronics and low voltage led lighting inside, as to not have to water proof anything, and just ran 8 extension cords outside for the 8 channels of 110v lighting
I started by cutting (2) 4' circles out of the coroplast using a razor knife after drawing a circle with a string. Then I drew a face with a slit cut for the wires to enter for the eyes and mouth. Channel 1 eyes, channel 2 mouth "O", channel 3 mouth top, channel 4 mouth middle, channel 5 mouth narrow, channel 6 mouth bottom.
The white face used the (2) rgb 3 channel controllers, and i connected the 12v to the + and the RGB wires on the cable I twisted together to make white, and only use one channel each. The colored face got wired to each color channel using 18 channels, leaving 6 channels left for adding color lights to each window.
Step 3: Wire Faces to Controllers
The hardest part of rgb strip lighting is connecting the strips to 4 wires, but since I bought 8 rolls, and each roll has wires attached on each end, that makes for 16 attachment points which is all I needed
I crimped the rgb wires to cat5 cable, using R as orange G as green B as blue and the brown as the positive. Untwisting 4" at each end, and then using solid and striped, I was able to send two channels through each cable
I wired them to the controllers, and began to program the vixen 3 software after installing the enttec dmx usb controller and wiring the dmx cables in series
Step 4: Line Voltage DMX Dimmer Controllers
Next I wired (2) 4 channel DMX dimmer controllers to the series. (4) will be used for halogen puck lights in four pumpkins, one will make a white spot light to shine on the house in two locations, and the remaining three will be 3 color light spotlights that will each shine a red, green, and blue halogen spot on the house. Finally I wired an old stereo and speakers to the front of the windows to play music that will be in sync to the light show. As of now, I have monster mash programmed, and a video of it all working together is here:
I will post pictures of it installed and working as we get closer to Halloween!
Step 5: Thoughts and Tips on Programming Vixen 3.2 As a Newbie
I am a sound and light engineer, and an electrician, and I have run and programmed some difficult light boards and controllers over the years. Vixen 3 is actually very nice, and was intelligently laid out. It is not a DJ type DMX light controller software, but is written specifically to tightly sync with words and RGB lighting. And, its Free!
The software occasionally crashes, but it consistently crashes in the same locations, so that is good news, in that it willl be fixed on an update. First, set up a second monitor. On the second monitor I set up the administrator, the effects editor, the mark editor and the overview window. The main screen I have for the sequencer.
First install and plug the USB DMX controller to the system, set the channel addresses on each controller, and then get Vixen to recognize it.
Next make all the elements. For this example I will show how to link the color RGB 6 channel girl face to the DMX controller.
The girl face uses a lipsync element, and you set the color handling to full RGB. Highlight the controllers (In my case output 101 thru 118) to the 6 RGB channels I will use. Eyes Open, and 5 mouth settings. Click patch! Now the computer will control each of those channels in color.
Next set up the preview for the face. By far this is the hardest, and least intuitive part of the software. The drawing will madden you by every time you click to move a part of the drawing, it will make new lights, but once you get it, its easy. So I drew the eyes and mouth.
Click on one eye, so it pops up in the PolyLine window. Click the triple period after (collection) (...) then physically drag Eyes Open to #1 Linked element.
Then so the other eye. Not intuitive, but very necessary. You can watch your entire show on the preview screen instead of guessing how it will look.
Next set up a lipsync map in tools. You will use this area A LOT, so be patient, it will become easy quick. Click on edit map. Vixen has some good tutorials, but they have lots of fill info, so to cut to the chase. This program has text to mouth movement software built in. The 'a and i' sounds are the first box. 'e' sound the second. 'short e, t and c sounds' third, and so forth. click the mouth movements you want associated with your LED face so when you type in a word, like FACE, it will automatically make an 'f' shape 'a' shape and a 'c' shape. Then the lyrics get nudged back and forth like editing a video to sync up with the music. Click the boxes, and set the colors. And now you have a face with blue eyes and red lips. Go back and clone this to change colors as you need.
Set this as your default map
Ok lets make a lyric! Click on the green plus in the marks window to make a new marks collection. Set two white lines on either side of where you want the phrase to go. In this case "He did the mash" Click on the top line of the face you are wording. Click tools, lipsync, lyric converter. Set it to Per Mark Collection. Type in the phrase. And here is the most frustrating part. Click alignment to "phrase" it defaults to word. If you leave this screen and come back, even though you clicked 'phrase', it goes back secretly to 'word'. Then you have mouth sounds all over the place. Hands down that is the biggest suggestions to fix.
Shift them left and right with the mouse to line them with the words of the song and that's it. Once you can master all of that, the rest is very easy!
Now repeat a billion times.