Over the years I’ve organised some pretty awesome parties and even entire summer camps. I like to think I know how to throw a cool party, and technology always plays a part of that. Here’s 6 essential bits of technology to MakeUseOf at your Halloween party!
Most people will find it awkward if you just provide a room and some music. But add a dance game, and anyone is up for a bit of fun.
With an Xbox 360 and Kinect, you’re all set for some Dance Central action, though do test out your rig beforehand if you have lots of special lighting as it may mess with the Kinect sensors – your ambient lighting will need to be fairly constant for the post-processing to work.
Even better, if you have a Wii or Playstation 2 (not a Playstation 3 though, it’s incompatible with the older games), browse eBay for some old Dance Dance Revolution dance mats and games. Since these don’t use lighting to sense your movements, you’ll be fine with any dark / ambient lighting setup.
Whatever the event you’re planning, a projector is an incredible versatile tool to have around. For a start, it’s far more difficult to break a white wall than it is a large screen TV, so in places with lots of movement (dancing, or Wii games) or drunken party-goers, it may end up saving you a bundle. Second, you can move it around each year to wherever you need, unlike a TV that generally gets fixed in one space.
Here’s some cool ideas for your projector:
- Make a chill out room with an old console or trippy big screen visuals.
- Weather permitting, host an outdoor movie night by hanging a large white bed sheet.
- Project a ghost onto a frosted glass window or shower curtain from inside.
- Hide it in the bushes and project onto the side of the house.
- Mount it pointing downward for scary floor effects – like a bottomless pit or pools of acid.
- Point it at a wall, and have a webcam on the other side for spooky see-through wall…
There’s really no limit to what you can do with some Arduino’s in a haunted house, Halloween party decor, or costume. Combine a distance sensor tripwire, or a basic reed switch on a door; along with a sound shield, relay to drive larger circuits, or lighting effects.
If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas though, check out these great Halloween project resources:
- Hackaday Halloween posts
- Instructables Halloween category
- Spooky Arduino projects from TodBot
- LadyAda’s Halloween pumpkin
Lights & Lasers
I spent most of my university time behind a lighting desk until 4am, so you could say I’m quite passionate about stage lighting. Whether it’s in a club, a theatrical performance, or at home in your living room, lighting is powerful device that affects your mood and dramatically alters the ambience.
Unfortunately, replacement coloured bulbs can be quite expensive; LEDs ones even more so. If you have flush ceiling lights, using some relatively inexpensive stage lighting gels is probably the way to go; check on eBay for the best prices and for selection packs. If it’s says “for stage lighting” or for “par cans”, then they should be safe.
Pro-tip: I don’t know why, but I always learnt to avoid green lighting if you have guests with a dark skin pigment – it doesn’t mix well, or something.
A basic sound-activated red and green laser, or some generic disco lights, can also be found for around. Strobe lights (the kind that flash quickly with a bright white light) can also be cool, but use in moderation. Stay away from those really cheap toy disco lights though, as they will almost certainly disappoint.
For something more permanent, consider adding a few lengths of RGB LED strips around your living room; these can then be hooked up to RGB controllers that change colors in time to music.
- Don’t just place random bits of coloured cellophane over your existing lights, as it’s a sure way to start a fire. Gels used in professional lighting are built to withstand heat. Also, I really hope I don’t have to tell not to try and paint bulbs; that’s also insanely stupid.
- Be careful to warn your party-goers about strobe use as they are almost certain to cause epileptic fits – a large sign on the front of the house is a legal requirement for clubs, so if it’s a large party with unknown guests or being used to scare “trick-or-treaters” then be sure to do the same.
Fun With UV
If you already have a flourescent strip light fitting handy (check in the garage or offices where they’re often used), you can grab UV bulbs for it at around $20–30 each; a single 4ft tube will provide more than enough UV for a large room. Unless you’re going specifically for a UV theme party though, I’d suggest keeping out of the main areas and using smaller sections for accent – like in the kitchen.
Also, don’t buy those cheap normal bayonet cap or screw in type bulbs, as they simply don’t work. Once you got the UV lighting set up, try some of these cool ideas:
- UV reactive test-tube shot glasses.
- Jello made with boiling tonic water instead (there is a chemical called Quinine in tonic water that will make it reactive).
- Use UV reactive body paint to paint on an exoskeleton or other designs.
- Fill up old bottles with water and throw in a cartridge from a highlighter pen (toxic – don’t actually drink it).
- Check out this Pinterest channel for more inspiration.
All the lighting and lasers in the world is going to just look lame without a smoke machine; it’s an essential bit of kit in any party, I’d say. Again, you can get a small party size fogger for around $50 with enough fluid to last you a while. They come with a remote trigger, which you can either use manually or connect up to an Arduino for programmable fun. Chill the fog to get a low-lying effect.
- These things can spit hot smoke oil out; leave at 1 metre between the nozzle and where people are, and provide a drip tray to avoid damaging carpets.
- Though the smoke produced is safe to breath, you really don’t want to overdo it. Keep usage to very short bursts just so that you can see the lighting effects; that’s more than enough.
- Ensure good ventilation, and stay away from smoke alarms if you have them (I once emptied a club full of 2,000-odd people by placing a huge fog machine next to a fire alarm).
Anyway, here’s wishing you all a happy Samhain, and do try not summon too many demons. If you have any other cool technology ideas or links, please share in the comments, and be sure to check all the other Halloween related articles we’ve posted over the years (I’m especially enjoying Jessica’s collection of wonderfully spooky recipes ).