Introduction: Scariest Monster in a Box - Halloween Prop

Picture of Scariest Monster in a Box - Halloween Prop

Every year my three sons and myself put up an elaborate Halloween display at our home and every year we design a new Halloween prop to add to the display. This year, after viewing several Monster-in-a-Box videos on YouTube as well other Monster-in-a-Box articles on Instructables, we decided to build our own version of the popular Monster-in-a-Box. My one son said he wanted to make a "really scary" prop to scare all the Trick-or-Treaters, so this project is aptly named, "Scariest Monster-in-a-Box."

To begin, we wanted to design a box that was very dynamic in nature. There would have to be mechanism to "rock" and "move" the box, one to shake the lid up and down, one to fully open the lid, and another one to raise a scary monster out of the box once the lid was opened. These functions would all be accomplished through the use of pneumatic valves and cylinders. We also wanted to have a red glowing background and white strobe light as well as a powerful speaker system with serious bass. Of course, we had to have a fog machine as well. The fog machine is important and serves two purposes. One, it looks really cool and adds great effect to the prop, and second it helps conceals the inner workers of the box as well as the monster inside when the lid first opens.

The next steps will outline the design and construction of the prop. I will not go into great detail into the actual construction of the box - it is assumed that the reader will have some basic carpentry skills and know how to connect and power simple electrical circuits. However, I will include PDF block diagrams showing electrical and pneumatic circuits and distribution as well as dimensional prints showing how the box is constructed.

To start, here are some of the tools that were required for the build:

  • Miter saw (for cutting box side panels and supports)
  • Jig saw or Table saw (for cutting plywood bottom piece)
  • Pneumatic nail gun with nails
  • Cordless drill and drill bits
  • Air compressor
  • General tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, and hammer
  • Electrical assembly tools (small screwdrivers, wire cutters, wire strippers)
  • Handheld Multimeter
  • Laptop (for programming)

Note about Vendors

I was hesitant to list the vendors I used for the build of this prop initially as I didn't want to over commercialize this Instructable, however, after thinking about it, I came to the realization that by listing them would save people a lot of time on research in trying to find certain components or materials. I know personally, that with things such as this, there is always that one hard to find part and sometimes knowing the supplier makes things so much easier. So that said, below is the list of suppliers that were used in the build of this prop. DISCLAIMER: It is important to note that these are not the only suppliers available, but simply the ones I found through my own research and experience, and they may not be the least expensive either. Finally, as of the date of this writing, I have no affiliation with anyone one of the suppliers below.

  • LOWES - Top Choice pine box, general building materials and hardware
  • FRIGHTPROPS - Boobox Flex controller, pneumatic components, Nano Spot LEDs
  • AMAZON - Air hose, LED strip lighting, LED brackets, PA speaker, relays, wireless relay, power supply
  • HORRORDROME - Werewolf mask
  • MCMASTER-CARR - hardware, springs, cable ties, screws
  • JOANNE FABRIC AND CRAFTS - Styrofoam head, black speaker felt

Step 1: Building the Box

Picture of Building the Box

The first step is to build the box. The box design was inspired by the How-To created by Jarame here on Instructables. This included the general design of the box as well as the front "jail bar" window. Because we plan on using this crate for many years, we wanted to use high quality wood. We chose to use premium pine boards purchased at a local giant hardware store. We used both 1x6 planks for the walls of the box and 1x3 planks for the perimeter and outer edges of the box. The sides of the box were all framed separately, secured by nails and high strength wood glue.

Parts and supplies needed for the box:

  • 1x6 Top Choice pine planks
  • 1x3 Top Choice pine planks
  • Plywood x x y inches, 1/2" thick
  • Wood glue
  • Nails for pneumatic nail gun
  • (2) heavy duty hinges for the lid
  • (2) 1 1/2" PVC Schedule 40 Elbows
  • 24" length of 1 1/2" PVC Schedule 40 (cut to size for your particular box)
  • (2) U-Clamps for 1 1/2" conduit
  • Dowels for jail window

Constructing the Box

Box construction is very simple. The first step is simply framing the 1 x 3 planks for all sides, including the top lid, of the box according to the attached drawing. I use high strength wood glue and a pneumatic nail gun to quickly assembly them. Then, for each side, place the 1 x 3 frame on a table and then start laying the 1 x 6 planks across the frame. Arrange so that there are approximately 1/8" gaps in between each of the 1 x 6 planks. This is important for two reasons. The first reason is that 6 x 5.5" of planks does not equal the combined length of the 1 x 3 frame of 28". Secondly, the box was designed to have the red LED background lighting come through the seams between the planks. The 1/8" space between the planks will accommodate the eerie red glow through the box. Once the 1 x 6 boards are in place, attach with wood glue and use the pneumatic nailer to secure. When all box panels are completed, assemble the four sides according to the attached drawing. Initially, use wood glue and the pneumatic gun. Finally, I secured all corners of the box using long deck screws for added strength. Then cut a piece of 46" x 28" x 1/2" plywood and attach to the bottom of the box. Finally, use two heavy duty hinges and attach the lid the to rest of the box.

The list below summarizes all the wood materials required for the box:

  • (15) Top Choice Pine 1 x 6 x 46" Length
  • (10) Top Choice Pine 1 x 6 x 25" Length
  • (6) Top Choice Pine 1 x 3 x 41" Length
  • (10) Top Choice Pine 1 x 3 x 28" Length
  • (4) Top Choice Pine 1 x 3 x 20" Length
  • Plywood 48" x 28" x 1/2" thick

Conduit for Fog Machine

As the fog machine is mounted to the base of the box, I needed to have a pathway for the fog to reach the top of the box as I didn't want to fill the bottom of the box with fog. To do this, I used 1 1/2" Schedule 40 (or similar) PVC to create a small fog conduit. This consisted of two PVC elbows and a single straight length of PVC. The straight length of PVC will be trimmed to your specific box size. The bottom PVC elbow is placed about 1 inch away from the fog machine nozzle. This is very important. The fog machine requires a cooler ambient temperature at the nozzle and if you placed the PVC pipe directly over the nozzle of the fog machine, it would not work as well. The top PVC elbow was pointed directly towards the monster head in my box. I experimented with different top PVC elbow orientations, and found this orientation to work best for my box. I was initially concerned that the fog would put too much fog residue on the monster head, but found this was not the case.


Attached is a PDF drawing of the dimensions of the box and how the sides and top panels go together.

Step 2: Pneumatic Design

Picture of Pneumatic Design

Pneumatics are used for all the mechanical functions of the Scariest Monster-in-a-Box. The reason for this is simple - cost. Both pneumatics and electric actuators both work extremely well and in fact electric actuators can provide much more precise mechanical motion than pneumatics, but electrical actuators can be very expensive, and it is this reason that pneumatic devices are used in our prop.

Our prop has the following four mechanical functions:

  • Lid pusher - This provides a short upward motion to lift the lid a couple of inches.
  • Lid opener - Opens the lid of the box to full height to allow the monster to "pop" out.
  • Box lifter - A bottom mounted device which lifts the back portion of the box off the ground.
  • Monster head - Raises the head of a monster up and out of the box to scare the observer.

Lid Pusher

The lid pusher uses a 1 1/16" bore double action universal mount pneumatic cylinder with a 2" stroke. The cylinder is controlled via a standard 12V 4-Way solenoid valve. The cylinder is mounted on the right side of the box towards the front and allows the lid to lift up by about 3-4". Exhaust mufflers are utilized to help quiet the sound of escaping air from the solenoid valves.

The lid pusher also needs to operate when the lid is closed, so the lid opener cylinder needed to be a single action cylinder with no spring-return that is plumbed only from the bottom side.

Parts used for the lid pusher:

  • 1 1/16" bore double action universal mount pneumatic cylinder (2 inch stroke)
  • 12V 4-way 5-port solenoid valve with 1/4 inch ports
  • (2) speed control mufflers
  • (3) 1/4 thread push-on male connectors
  • Pneumatic cylinder foot bracket
  • 5/16-24 rod bumper

Lid Opener

The lid opener uses a 1 1/16" bore double action universal mount pneumatic cylinder with a 15" stroke. The cylinder is controlled via a standard 12V 3-Way solenoid valve. The cylinder is only connected at the bottom end and the top end port uses a male connector with a flow control. The reason for this is because if the cylinder was double action, then in the "CLOSED" state, the cylinder would have air acting on it and keep the lid held firmly in the closed position. This would thus prevent the lid pusher cylinder from working, prevent me from opening the lid to adjust things while the prop is operating, and also pose a safety hazard in which someone could get their hand caught in the box while it is operating when the lid comes down. With a single action cylinder action, the lid can easily be lifted up when it is in the "CLOSED" state. The top port of the cylinder has a flow control valve on it. This allows one to adjust the rate at which the box opens and closes. There is also a flow control valve inline with the pneumatic connection on the bottom of the cylinder which also provides adjustment to how fast the box lid opens and closes. The goal being of course to have the box lid open and close as quickly as possible without causing too much mechanical stress as those air cylinders can open and close very quickly with a lot of power. Note, that if your box is a different size, you may need to use a different length air cylinder.

Parts used for the lid opener:

  • 1 1/16" bore double action universal mount pneumatic cylinder (15 inch stroke)
  • 12V 3-way solenoid valve with 1/4 inch ports
  • (1) muffler
  • (2) 1/4 thread push-on male connectors
  • air cylinder rod clevis
  • air cylinder clevis mounting bracket
  • air cylinder rear pivot mount

Box Lifter

The box lifter uses a 1 1/16" bore double action universal mount pneumatic cylinder with a 2" stroke.The cylinder is controlled via a standard 12V 4-Way solenoid valve. The air cylinder is flanged mounted on the bottom of the box near the back center. This air cylinder lifts the box and tilts it forward considerably, even with a 2" stroke. However, the prop ended up being over 100 lbs, and thus the air cylinder wasn't as responsive as it could be. If your box is large and heavy, I would strongly recommend using a 1 1/2" bore air cylinder. Again, exhaust muffers were used to help quiet the sound of escaping air from the solenoid valves.

Parts used for the box lifter:

  • 1 1/16" bore double action universal mount pneumatic cylinder (2 inch stroke)
  • 12V 4-way, 5 port solenoid valve with 1/4 inch ports
  • (2) speed control mufflers
  • (3) 1/4 thread push-on male connectors
  • Pneumatic cylinder flange mount bracket
  • 5/16-24 rod bumper

Monster Head

The monster head is raised up and down using a 1 1/16" bore double action universal mount pneumatic cylinder with a 15" stroke. The air cylinder is controlled via a standard 12V 4-Way solenoid valve. The air cylinder is mounted on a cross-brace in the middle of the box and is pointed upwards. I had to mount the air cylinder diagonally as the total stroke length was a bit longer than expected and the monster head didn't clear the bottom of the lid when the box was closed.

The monster head itself was an adult-sized Styrofoam head that was purchased at a local arts and crafts chain store. A 5/16-24 all thread rod purchased from McMaster-Carr was cut to size and connected to the air cylinder shaft using a 5/16-24 rod coupling nut. The all thread was then pushed through the Styrofoam head and secured using nuts and fender (wide) washers. Threadlocker was used on all connections to prevent them from loosening during use.

Finally, while testing the monster head in action, it was found the head was rotating. The shaft of the air cylinder is not fixed, and thus is free to rotate. To fix this problem, I attached two piano wire springs on either side of the Styrofoam head and attached them to the bottom of the box. The springs that I used were McMaster-Carr 9640K32 piano wire springs. These are 3/8" springs with an initial length of 11" and a maximum extended length of 32". Maximum load of the springs is only 2.5 lbs which allows easy pull.

Parts used for the monster head:

  • 1 1/16" bore double action universal mount pneumatic cylinder (15 inch stroke)
  • 12V 4-way, 5 port solenoid valve with 1/4 inch ports
  • (2) speed mufflers
  • (3) 1/4 thread push-on male connectors
  • Pneumatic cylinder foot bracket
  • (2) springs (McMaster-Carr 9640K32)
  • Styrofoam head
  • 5/16-24 all thread (McMaster-Carr)
  • Misc. 5/16-24 hardware and fender washers
  • Threadlocker

Pneumatic Air Supply

Our air source ended up being a Campell-Hausfield 20 gallon, horizontal air compressor which was powered in our backyard. Since these air compressors are noisy, we did not want it in the front yard, so we used a 100 foot line of 3/8" air hose to bring the air to the front yard. Because we have several pneumatic props in our front yard and have the air compressor so far away, we also used a 11 gallon air accumulator. These small tanks act like their electrical counterparts - capacitors - and provide instantaneous air when it is needed by the props that are connected to them. Air hose between the air accumulators and our props utilized 3/8" push-on air tubing.

Pneumatic Distribution

Once the 3/8" air tubing entered our prop, it connected to an air regulator. The air regulator allows the air to be regulated to a specific air pressure that all the pneumatic air cylinders were set and fine tuned to. This allows the prop to work in the most efficiently way possible and to also maintain reliable operation even when there are variations in the main air feed lines. Of course, the air pressure in the main air feed lines must still be greater than the set air pressure on the regulator for this to work properly.

After the regulator, the 3/8" air line was stepped down to 1/4" and then a triple branch union (5-ports) was used to split the air supply into four additional lines for all four of the solenoid valves. The remainder of the air distribution utilized 1/4" flexible push-on air tubing. We used polyurethane tubing as it is more flexible and less prone to kinking.

Parts used for the pneumatic air supply and distribution:

  • Campbell-Hausfield 20-gallow air compressor
  • 3/8" Air Hose w/ 1/4" inch NPT ends, 100 foot length
  • 1/4" NPT couplers for the 3/8" air hose
  • 11-gallon air accumulator with check valve
  • 3/8" polyurethane push-on air tubing
  • 1/4" polyurethane push-on air tubing
  • Triple branch union (has five push-on 1/4" ports)
  • Air regulator

Attached is the Pneumatic Diagram (PDF)

Step 3: Electrical Design

Picture of Electrical Design

The prop required a number of components which were electronically controlled. This included the solenoid valves, LED lighting, fog machine, and external triggers. The following is a list of all the electrical devices used in our prop:

  • 12V Solenoid Valve - Lid Lifter
  • 12V Solenoid Valve - Lid Opener (and internal UV black light LED strip)
  • 12V Solenoid Valve - Box Lifter
  • 12V Solenoid Valve - Monster Head
  • Red LED Lighting (12V)
  • White Strobe (12V)
  • Fog Machine
  • Monster Eyes LEDs (12V)
  • External Trigger - Pushbutton
  • External Trigger - Remote Control

Looking at the above list, we need eight outputs and two inputs for our prop. Frightideas makes some of the best prop controllers available on the market today so we decided to use their Boobox Flex 8-Input Controller. This controller has eight solid state outputs as well as two inputs. Solenoid valves were previously discussed in the last section, so below we will only discuss the new electrical outputs.

Red LED Lighting

Red LED lighting is used for a background light effect as well as a strobe effect. Red LED strip lighting was used for this. This type of lighting comes on self-adhesive tape strips which can be mounted anywhere. The LED strip was attached to V-shape aluminum channel extrusion which I manually drilled holes for screw mounting. I used three separate aluminum mounting channels mounted to each side and the front at the bottom of the box pointing upwards. Each of the three strips was wired in parallel and connected to the Boobox Flex controller.

We also wanted to have the background lighting have multiple effects such as candle flicker and pulsating modes. For this, we used a Fright Research Flicker 1.0 Controller. These controllers are really awesome and have up to twenty different modes of operation. They wire in series with the LED power and a single pushbutton on the controllers allows you to change the modes to your liking. They are available through Eastern Voltage Research. We found the pulsating and candle flicker gives the background red glow a very eerie effects, especially during ambient mode.

Parts used for the Red LED lighting:

  • Red LED Strip, 16.4 ft Waterproof, 12V
  • V-shape LED aluminum channel extrusion
  • Fright Research Flicker 1.0 Lighting Controller (Eastern Voltage Research)

White Strobe LED Lighting

For the white strobe effects, we used the same type of LEDs and mounting scheme as the red LEDs. We used a single length of white LED strip mounted at the top front of the box. These LEDs were positioned so they would illuminate the monster head when it was in its raised position.

Parts used for the White LED lighting:

  • White LED Strip, 16.4ft Waterproof, 12V
  • V-shape LED aluminum channel extrusion

Black Light UV LED Lighting

This was added lastly. Before the box is opened during a scene, the fog machine first operates for a few seconds and fill the box with a mysterious looking fog. I also wanted the fog to have an eerie glow, so I added a UV LED strip. Since I didn't have any additional outputs available on the Boobox Flex controller, I wired the UV LED strip in parallel with the Lid Opener output. To vary the brightness of the UV LED strip, I first connected this to a Fright Research Flicker 1.0 Light Controller. This allows me to vary the effect of the UV LED strip and tailor to make the fog as creepy as possible when the box lid opens.

Parts used for the UV LED Lighting

  • UV Black Light LED Strip, 16.4 ft, Waterproof, 12V
  • V-shape LED aluminum channel extrusion
  • Fright Research Flicker 1.0 Lightning Controller (Eastern Voltage Research)

Fog Machine

For the fog machine, we used a small Chauvet Hurricane 901. These units are small, but put out a large amount of fog. To trigger the fog machine, the fog machine's handheld remote needs to be slightly hacked. The fog machine remote has a single pushbutton switch in it. To trigger the fog machine, the switch needs to be closed. So to use the fog machine with the Boobox Flex controller, there needs to be an intermediary relay to close the contacts of the fog machine remote. For this, we used a simple 12V, 2 Channel relay, although we only needed one channel. These relays can be purchased for a few dollars each on Amazon or Ebay. We didn't need the remote control, so we first opened up the fog machine remote control to determine which wire colors connected to the pushbutton switch, and then cut off the remote control and took that cable and wired it directly to the NO and COM terminals of the relay board. The input connections of the relay board were then wired to one of the solid state outputs of the Boobox Flex controller. We found Froggy's Fog Swamp Juice to be one of the best fog fluids on the market.

Parts used for the Fog Machine

  • Chauvet Hurricane 901 Fog Machine
  • 12V Relay board
  • Froggy's Fog - Swamp Juice

Monster Eyes

The monster eyes are simply two red LEDs mounted on the inside of the box pointed out of the jail windows in the front of the box. We used two red Nano spot lights. These were very bright and had mounting brackets to allow for easy mounting in our box. They can be purchased from FrightProps.

  • (2) Red Nano spot lights w/ mounting brackets


External Trigger 1 - Pushbutton

The Boobox Flex controller is programmed to play many different scenes. To cycle through the scenes, an external trigger is used. Each time a person presses the pushbutton (trigger), the controller will cycle to the next "scare" scene. We used a large illuminated red pushbutton which is mounted to a wood sign reading "Press to Wake the Monster."

Parts used for the pushbutton trigger:

  • Large illuminated red pushbutton

External Trigger 2 - Wireless Remote Control

I also wanted to have a wireless remote control keyfob to control the prop. The Boobox Flex controller is set-up to have several different banks of scenes. Trigger input 1 will cycle through 7 different scenes on bank 1 while trigger input 2 will cycle through 7 different scenes on bank 2. I used a wireless remote control relay that had four pushbuttons and four relays. The wireless remote control comes with two keyfobs and a receiver with four relays. I mounted the receiver near the jail window and connected two of the relay outputs to input 1 and input 2 respectively on the Boobox Flex controller. So to cycle through either bank of scare scenes, I simply press button A or button B on the keyfob.

I also wanted to have manual control of the lid opening and closing, so I use a third relay output on the wireless control and connected that to the solid state output on the Boobox Flex controller that controlled the Lid Opener solenoid valve. By pressing the C button on the keyfob, the box lid will fully open.

Parts used for the wireless remote control trigger:

  • INSMA 433Mhz Wireless RF Switch DC 12V 4CH Wireless Control Switch (Amazon)

DC Power Supply and Power Distribution

All of the DC electrical components required 12VDC for operation. For this, I used a 12V, 10A switching power supply. These are powered directly through 120VAC AC power. For AC power distribution, I used a small AC power strip mounted to the bottom of the box. This provided power to the DC power supply, fog machine, and amplified PA speaker.

Parts used for DC power and power distribution:

  • 12VDC / 10A power supply
  • AC power strip
  • Misc. hook-up wire

Attached is a PDF electrical / pneumatic schematic of the design.

Step 4: The Brains of the Prop

Picture of The Brains of the Prop

The prop controller is the brains of the prop. This controls all aspects of the prop including pneumatics, lighting, fog machine, and other devices. For this we used a Fright Ideas Boobox Flex controller with 8-inputs and 2-inputs. The Boobox Flex controller can be programmed using their free Director non-linear editing program. The Boobox Flex controller is a PIC microcontroller based device which provides the same function as a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), but in a much smaller package. The Boobox Flex controller has 8 solid state outputs rated at 1.5A each and 2 inputs which are used as external triggers. This controller also has a built-in MP3 player which can store and playback high quality audio that is synchronized with the programmed scenes.

Outputs are mapped to the controller as follows:

  • Output 1 - Lid Lifter solenoid
  • Output 2 - Box Lifter solenoid
  • Output 3 - Fog machine relay
  • Output 4 - White strobe LED
  • Output 5 - Lid Opener solenoid (also connected to Wireless Remote Relay 3)
  • Output 6 - Monster Head solenoid
  • Output 7 - Red LED
  • Output 8 - Monster Eyes LEDs

Inputs are mapped to the controller as follows:

  • Input 1 - External Pushbutton / Wireless Remote Relay 1
  • Input 2 - Wireless Remote Relay 2

Step 5: Audio

Picture of Audio

For audio, we really wanted a powerful sound system with strong bass and high quality sound effects.

High Power PA Speaker

We used a Behringer CE500A-BK PA speaker for audio. This mono PA speaker features a 5 1/2" woofer and an integrated 80 watt amplifier and is extremely loud for its size. When installed in the base of the box, it produces fairly deep bass. For example, we have several sound effects of knocking and creaking wood and the bass is very strong in these effects. The speaker has two 10-32 mounting holes on the bottom of this and we used these to mount the speaker to a 1/2" thick piece of plywood using 10-32 flathead screws. The plywood was then secured to the bottom of the box using deck screws. It was important to hard mount the speaker as the box will be moving quite a bit during use.

Sound Effects

For high quality sound effects, we purchased and downloaded a number of audio CDs from various sources on the internet. We also searched the internet for any free sound effects we could find. Once we compiled the sound effects, we spent a long time going through hundreds and hundreds of sound effects to find ones that we really liked.

Step 6: Programming the Prop Controller

Picture of Programming the Prop Controller

Programming the prop controller is the fun part, although it can be somewhat tedious. It does take a long time. The first part is to edit the sound files into the scenes that you want. This involves first listening to all the sound effects you have compiled and choosing a number that sound good to you. This part was the least fun for me as it took the most time.

The scenes in the controller are programmed in different banks. There is an ambient bank which plays ambient or background scenes when the prop is not in a scare mode, and then there are several scare banks which can be comprised of up to 8 scenes each. Each scare bank is triggered by a specific input and each of the possible 8 scenes per scare bank are cycled in sequential order after each input trigger. Here are the scenes that we completed this year for the prop:

  • Ambient Scene 0 - Breathing sound loop with minimal animation
  • Ambient Scene 1 - Breathing sound loop with minimal animation and fog event
  • Input 1 Scene 0 - Laughing Monster
  • Input 1 Scene 1 - Drone Background and Scare Event
  • Input 1 Scene 2 - Werewolf
  • Input 1 Scene 3 - Children's Eerie Mockingbird Song and Scare Event
  • Input 1 Scene 4 - Growling Cat
  • Input 1 Scene 5 - Cats Fighting
  • Input 1 Scene 6 - Dog Growling and Scare Event
  • Input 1 Scene 7 - Knocking and Scare Event
  • Input 2 Scene 0 - Whispering Ghost and Scare Event
  • Input 2 Scene 1 - Footsteps
  • Input 2 Scene 2 - Grandfather Clock, Chime, and Scare Event
  • Input 2 Scene 3 - Creaking wood and Scare Event
  • Input 2 Scene 4 - Children Ring around Rosey Song and Scare Event
  • Input 2 Scene 5- Whispering Ghost 2
  • Input 2 Scene 6 - Evil Laugh and Scare Event
  • Input 2 Scene 7 - Rack Torture and Scare Event

So when the prop is first powered on, the controller will continuously loop in Ambient Scene 0 mode. It will loop this event forever until either a pushbutton or remote control trigger is detected. If the pushbutton was pressed, the controller will playback Input 1 Scene 0 and then cycle to the next Ambient Scene. When the pushbutton is pressed again, the controller will playback Input 1 Scene 1 and so forth. If the remote control trigger is pressed, an Input 1 or Input 2 scene will be played depending on which remote control relay was activated.

Programming a Scene

Programming a scene starts with first identifying a key sound effect that you would like to use. For example, in the screenshot above, I chose a werewolf sound effect that was about 30 seconds long. The initial 20 seconds were sounds of werewolfs howling in the distance which were getting closer and closer. For the final 5 seconds, the werewolf attacks and makes horrific attack and growling noises.

Once the sound is imported into the scene, you are able to edit it to your tastes using Director's built in sound editor. You can add sounds, mix sounds, add silence, adjust volume levels, fade in and fade out, etc... At this point I connect my laptop and the Director cable to my Boobox Flex controller in my prop and can begin programming the scene.

The scene is programmed much like a multi-track sound recorder. There are eight output channels of the Boobox Flex controller and each one is programmed separately. Here is the process I use for programming each of the outputs. This is really a lot of fun as you can see the programming run in real time.

  1. As a default, all output channel tracks are protected. Simply unprotect the specific channel you want to program by clicking on the green dot next to the track name. The green dot will then turn red. For this example, let's assume we are programming the Lid Lifter output. Outputs on the Boobox Flex controller are mapped to the main keyboard number keys 1 through 8. Output 1 is key 1, output 2 is key 2, etc...
  2. Bring up the record dialog box. Enable the RECORD function by clicking on the red dot.
  3. Press the play button. Director will now play through the scene's audio clip playing the audio as well as any animations that were previously recorded. While the audio is playing, simply press the respective output key, 1 in this example for the Lid Lifter output, every time you want an animation to occur during the audio playback. Director will record this animation and save it.
  4. Stop playback, and then protect the output channel you just recorded. Continue to the next output and repeat the process until all eight channels are recorded. Each time you do this, you layer another animation on top of the previous ones. When you are completed, you have an entire scene programmed with eight different output animations.
  5. Repeat this for every scene that you plan to have in your prop.

It is important to note that the fog machine is very important as it helps conceal the inner workings of the box as well as the monster inside. So for each scene, I make sure to fill the box with fog prior to opening the box. This makes the inside of the box appear very mysterious and creepy looking. I may actually add an additional UV black light LED strip which will share the same output as the lid opener. This would make the fog have a very eerie glow when opened.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

Almost done!

The last thing to do with the box was to mount the monster head as well as cover up some of the lighting and electronics and pneumatics in the box to hide them from sight. We also had to decorate the box a bit with stenciled graphics.

For the stenciled graphics, I merely created some small 11 x 17 stencils, printed them out, and had my son cut them out with an x-acto knife. We then overlayed them on the box and used flat black spray paint to paint them on. They came out a bit crude, but I think that that adds to the look. In hindsight, the stencils could have been a bit bigger or laser cut to make things easier. It was tedious work cutting them out by hand, even for the small size they were.

Inside, the electronics and pneumatics were covered up with black speaker felt which was purchased at a local fabric store. This kept all those unsightly wires away from view during operation. However, it didn't hid all the LED status and power lights on the various relay boards and controllers, so I simply covered those LEDs up with black electrical tape to hide them. Also, the power supply needs cooling to work properly and gets warm, so I made a rectangular cut-out in the black felt for the power supply to protrude through.

The white Styrofoam head was also quite apparent underneath the max, so I had to spray paint the Styrofoam black to make the mask blend better. On a side note, the spray paint does dissolve Styrofoam, so if you decide to paint yours, I would recommend using a water based paint.

Step 8: Initial Testing

Once the box was completed, I started to do manually testing of the various pneumatics as well as some test programs. The video above is one of the first test videos of the lid opener and the monster head. Note the two springs which were added on either side of the Styrofoam head to prevent it from rotating.

Initial testing involved operating each pneumatic cylinder and adjusting the flow control fittings. Flow controls were adjusted to prevent excessive banging or harsh opening or closing of the lid which could lead to damage. The fog machine and PVC pipe was also adjusted for maximum fog effect inside the box.

Mounted Pushbutton Trigger

I found that having an interactive display was a great idea. Kids love to press buttons and interact with props. I created the mounted pushbutton trigger with an oversized illuminated red arcade pushbutton. This was mounted on a small piece of plywood. I also added a Zombie sign below it for added effect! The pushbutton was wired to input 1 of my Boobox Flex controller and triggered Bank 1 of my programmed scenes.

Remote Control Trigger

I also had a remote control keyfob that was mapped to three functions on the Boobox Flex controller. Button C was mapped to input 1 and triggered the same bank of scenes as the mounted pushbutton. Button B was mapped to the Open Lid solenoid and allowed me to open and close the box manually. Button A was mapped to input 2 and triggered bank 2 scenes. The remote trigger is great in that I can time the scare scene to when people walk by or up to my house. I can also keep the animations going in the event a guest doesn't manually press the button themselves.

Other Notes

Also, I should mention that the box is not very scary during the daylight. It is certainly fun and entertaining, but lacks the creepy factor. It really needs to be somewhat dark for maximum effect.

Step 9: Final Prop and Videos in Action!

Well, the box was a complete success! Last night was our town Halloween parade and we ended up having several hundred people at the house after the parade. The kids love it.

And as an important note, the pushbutton is a great addition. Kids love to have something they can interact with so that was perfect.

Comments

Swansong (author)2017-10-26

That is so fun!!! The trick or treaters are going to flip :)

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Bio: father of four, piano, guitar, rock climbing, mountain biking, Halloween, dancing (latin and west coast swing)
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