In the past, it seemed that no two holidays could be at more opposite ends of the spectrum than Christmas and Halloween. Today, however, Halloween is viewed more as theatrics and entertainment than the celebration of something dark and has subsequently made major gains in popularity.
Home haunters, professional haunts and theme parks are all growing their Halloween offerings to include much more technology… much of which overlaps into Christmas as well as other holidays and even other areas outside of holidays.
As an example, when we first designed the FireFly lightning simulator family, it was all about Halloween. Churches now use them for Easter programs, schools use them for plays and zoos use them to create realistic rain forest simulations for their tropical animals. I will have to confess that I haven’t seen much thunder snow for Christmas, though.
The use of synchronized lights and music for Christmas has been around for a long time. In recent years, this has become a popular attraction at a lot of home haunts at Halloween as well. Identical equipment is required and even many of the lights can be used for both holidays. With just a little imagination and some creative programming, you can have impressive displays for both holidays with a single investment. Don’t forget to pull out the red, white and blue lights along with some patriotic music for Independence Day as well.
For those who are interested in an easy way to synchronize lights to music without the need for custom programming, there are a few options. This type of system will allows you to display quality light shows by using your own music by converting sound to light, based on the frequency of the sound. Be careful with your selection of hardware, though. The color organs of the 1960s, while inexpensive, will likely be a major disappointment. You should consider a device with automatic gain controls and one with more than the customary three channels. Again, this works for Halloween and Christmas or it can be used just for fun anytime.
Halloween is leading the industry in terms of sensors and triggers, but the use of triggered scenes is crossing over to Christmas displays these days. Adding sensors or triggers to your display will allow scenes to change as visitors approach. More sophisticated systems will allow some interactivity between visitors and the light show. A little creativity in this area will let you add that “wow” factor to your display and it will help you to keep your display unique.
Another area where Halloween is ahead of Christmas is in the use of low voltage. Due to the confined areas and large numbers of people, many haunted attractions are switching to low voltage (typically 12-volt) for increased safety. While Christmas decorators have been slow to adopt low voltage, the synchronized lighting companies now offer low voltage controllers and the use of LEDs is making this transition attractive for Christmas setups as well. The major advantage of LEDs, of course, is a much reduced power requirement, thus trimming equipment costs and electric bills.
A few years ago we developed a little controller with small LEDs that flash at random. We called it “Paparazzi” because it resembled flashes coming from a large number of photographers. Originally, this device replaced older technology (curtain strobes) and was used as a distraction or something that caused disorientation in the Halloween world. Then came the DJs and magicians. Today, this device has crossed into the Christmas world as a way to make Christmas trees (or tree toppers) twinkle. If static lights are used, this is a way to add some animation to a tree. If synchronized lighting is used, the twinkling lights are great during show intermissions.
Flicker controllers are great for candles, lanterns, jack-o-lanterns, fire simulation and other spooky scenes for Halloween. But they are equally at home for Christmas candles… from the small window types to large municipal installations. They also allow you to “shimmer” LED light strings if you are not investing in synchronized lighting. Of course we don’t want to overlook the idea of flickering those rope light type snowflakes.
Along similar lines, a multi-function cross-fade device is also a must in the Halloween world for effects such as Pepper’s Ghost or to create moving shadows. This too crosses into Christmas decorating for use with rope light snowflakes or other situations where you want one scene to fade out and another fade in. A cross-fade controller can also be used with two colored lights to change the color of a scene.
The bottom line is that Halloween is growing at an unprecedented rate and is second only to Christmas. Many (if not most) investments made in technology for one holiday can be used ported to the other with minimal efforts, thus helping to justify the cost.
Lights Alive is a manufacturer, value added reseller and direct importer of lighting devices, special effects controllers and accessories. The primary focus is theme parks, commercial haunted attractions and home haunters. However, Christmas is playing an increasingly larger part due to many products having dual use.
Lights Alive brand products are proudly designed and manufactured in the United States. Among those products are FireFly® lightning simulators, microFLICKER and miniFLICKER-2 flicker generators, Digital CrossFade, Paparazzi controller for twinkling lights, Chameleon professional light to sound controller and many other unique devices. Please visit us at: www.Lights-Alive.com or send email to info@LightsAlive.com.
This article was included in the Spring 2015 issue of PlanetChristmas Magazine.
By Ron Musgrave