How To Video
Animate scary props for HalloweenMake your Halloween decorations come to life using a programmable relay switcher.
-Hey, I'm Donald Bell. Today I'm going to show you how to take ordinary Halloween decorations and bring them to life as a music and animation. To do this, I've got some plug-in Halloween decorations like this strobe light and this spooky light up skull and some green lights. I also have some clean household extension cords, some wire strippers, a momentary switch, some cheap speakers and some Halloween music and sound effects on my iPod. But the key to this whole thing is this. It's a relay switch sequencer also known as a key banger. This one's the monster guts' nerve center. You can find it online for about $70. We're gonna plug in our Halloween decorations here on the back and then you use the interface to make a sequence of them turning on and off on command. And it's going to be awesome. The first step is to hook up the connections on the back of the nerve center. These are two basic relay switches. They're like the light switches in your home, only they're connected to a little computer inside here that automatically switches them on and off. To make this easy, we're gonna hook these up to extension cords, so for that to work I've gotta graft this connector onto the extension cord so that I can plug it in to the nerve center. First, we're gonna make sure our cord is not connected to a socket yet. I'll use a screwdriver to split the cord near the socket end, then I'll make a cut on one side, doesn't matter which one. Next, I'll expose about a quarter inch of the copper from the cut section of the wire. Now, you can give this a twist then run it right into the relay block and screw it down. But for more durable solution, I sutured the tips here to prevent the wire from fraying. So now you've got two pieces of cable, but three places to connect. So what gives? Well, one side goes to the column on the far left then depending on what effect you want, the other side can go to the normally open connection to turn things on or normally close to turn things off. In this case, we're going with normally open which means that anything I plug in here by default is gonna be turned off. One of these connections will give you one thing that you can blink on and off, but there are two on here that you can use independently, so why not go all out and hook up two extension cords? Alright, so we've got our two extension cords hooked up to the nerve center now. I'm gonna plug in our decorations. I'll plug in the strobe light over here on this guy and plug in our skull and our green lights into the other cable. Alright now, we still need to get power to the extension cords. The nerve center's not actually providing power to these cables, so we have to plug them in now. Don't be afraid. Hopefully, you've made your connections correctly. We're also gonna plug in the nerve center finally. Alright, so everything's got power. Let's move on to adding some music or sound effects. I've got some spooky music here on my iPod. The nerve center came with this mini jack cable to connect these together, so that I can record my sounds directly into the controller. I'll plug in my iPod here using the cable. Hit the menu button one time so that it reads ES1. Hit the start button and hit play on my iPod. I can record up to two minutes of music, but mostly I'm just going for shock value here, so I'll fade out my iPod after a few seconds. Alright. To hear it back, we're gonna press the menu button again so that it reads AC1. We're gonna plug in some passive speakers into the speaker output jack on the front here. Now when I press play, we're gonna hear the music come out. Alright, if we like what we hear we can move on to the next step which is gonna be programming the relay switches that control the decorations. Now, the term keybanging got its name because we are literally sequencing these actions in real time by banging on these keys. This key is gonna operate whenever it's plugged in to this cable and this key's gonna operate whenever it's plugged in to this one. So we're gonna hit start. We hear the music, and then we can go nuts. Alright. Now when we're all done, we hit the same button to stop things. We're all set. Alright, now to preview everything you've done, hit the menu button one more time 'til you see AP1 then hit the start button. And it's working. Music's playing, lights are blinking, rverything seems extremely awesome. I can hit the stop button and everything's gonna stop. Hopefully. There it goes. Now if I didn't like it, if I wanted to redo the music or redo the lights, I could go- I could use the menu button to go back to that particular menu and I can re-record and keep moving on. But I'm pretty happy with that so I'm gonna hit the menu button a couple times until I see SC1 which is gonna be the live mode for this controller. Now, if we control the whole thing from the nerve center that would be pretty cool, but not that great for surprising people. Instead, the nerve center gives you a trigger input on the front. You can hook it up to a pressure sensitive doormat or a home security sensor. But in this case we're gonna hook it up to a momentary switch. This deluxe one comes from Monster Guts but I also have a few that I wired up myself for just a few bucks. You're gonna hook the ends of the wire to the far ends in the block here on the front. We're gonna plug the block back in to the front and now when I press this button, everything should activate right? All systems go. -Alright. So that's one cool way for taking your Halloween decorations up a notch this year. Visit howto.cnet.com for more Halloween tips and tricks. You can also subscribe to my updates on Facebook. For cnet.com, I'm Donald Bell.