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This is my first post here, and I'm going to lead in with mentioning that my neighborhood goes BONKERS on Halloween night. We live in a big circle of about 50 houses, and they literally bus the kids in from local schools to trick or treat in our area.

The kids don't have to go to anyones front door, as all the candy givers are out in their driveways or on their porches. There are typically several haunted houses, lots of fire pits, and people selling coffee, water, etc.

Well, I'm a bit of a showman, and always like to improve what we do every year, and this is our third year. (Technically the 4th year, but we moved in in late Sept, and were caught off guard, and didn't do much the 1st year.)

Year 1, we made the front yard into a massive graveyard, and dressed as zombies (with friends) and scared and lurked the kids and parents. Fun but a bit tame.

Year 2, we added a cheap disco ball light thing, and did a "Dead Man's Party" with zombie dancing, inviting up the kids and parents to dance with us. Was much more fun.

Year 3, (this year, and the first time it's been on a weekend night) I want to do a "Thriller" live dance performance about every hour, with the 12 or so people that always come over our house for poker. We are currently working on the routine and the dance steps.

My question to you all: I need some special FX. Real stuff, but on a budget. The wife gave me the go ahead to spend about $500 for fog, lighting, etc, since up until now we have been using really cheap "costume store" FX stuff (like the $40 fog machines, $10 lighted ball...) that really don't have the quality feel that I want, or the long term usage down the road. (Nor the reliability.)

At first I was thinking about getting 2 of the American DJ 1200HD foggers (about $149 each) but saw that most of the "controls" were not included with them except for a simple push button.

Then I looked at the American DJ 1700HD fogger, (about $300) because it came with a remote timer and saw a term I had never heard of before associated with a fog machine: DMX-512 connectivity.

A bit more studying showed me that is how you can control your effects from a specific location via a control board using this protocol. Friggen cool. Now we are talking about the kind of stuff that floats my boat.

So now my goal (for my $500 budget) is to put together the "base" of a decent control system, starting with a small but expandable DMX board, a decent fog machine and one good multi-colored "movement" light that all can be controlled by the DMX board. (speed, color, fog output, etc.) Nothing uber professional, but something that if I wanted to, I could add a few more lighting devices over the years, they could all be controlled by the same board.

I currently also own a Fender Passport 250. It is a bit of an older model, but still works great. I don't know if it can also be controlled (at least just the volume) through the same DMX board or not, but that would be nice, however that is not a priority. We do run the Passport from an iPod, so even if THAT could be volume controlled through the DMX board, that would be OK too.

I have no reason to think I can't buy a decent high-output fog machine, a cool looking "flower" type movement light and small scale DMX board (and all the cabling) for my budget to kick this system off the ground. I'm just not sure how it all works together.

I want something simple but expandable. If I EVER controlled 6-8 devices, I think that would be about the most we would ever go. Remember this primarily for Halloween, but might get used a few times during the summer for backyard parties. 3 times a year at the most. Not for professional usage, and probably never traveled with.

First, how does the DMX system work? Nearly every board has only 1 or 2 "outputs" but a mass of controls, and claim things like "controls 8 devices" or "16 devices"? But they only have a plug or two on the back.

Do they daisy-chain together? Do the lines need splitters? Does each device need a control board, or some other kind of device management?

Any product suggestions will be earnestly listened to, and any input on how to build a workable base system will be very appreciated.

Thanks in advance!
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Hey welcome to the forums! Yes i too love haloween and this year im going to be using my computer controller DMX software to run sequences with my two accu spot pro's.
For you application try to go LED with your effect and i also suggest a DMX operator 192. that is our basic controller that is easy to use and is a good entry point. for the LED perhaps maybe the Quad gem DMX? i have a packet on DMX 101 if you care to read it i can email it to you. or shoot me an email at James K At American DJ DOT COM
Well, let's look at a few things.

The audio/volume control on your Fender Passport system can NOT be automated via DMX. The system has no automation. Audio and DMX may live in the same general area, but they don't really like to mix. Besides, DMX-512 is a lighting control protocol.

I think if you hit Guitar Center, they are still blowing out the DMX Operators, at prices so low I want to have them re-hire the guy who sold me mine so I can smack him, that kind of price drop! That will make your budget stretch better.

DMX daisy-chains. You go INTO the first device, then OUT(follow the labelled ports), and then IN to the next one.... See how it works?

The controlling X-amount of fixtures is a bit of a misnomer, as it assumes certain things which may not be wholly accurate. These less expensive controllers limit how many DMX channels they use, so that is the limit on now many uniquely addressed fixtures.

I like hazers better than fog machines, but for this application, a fog machine is the better option, in fact the ONLY really useful option. But to get DMX control over the fog machine, you can STILL get any controller you want. The DMX Operator 192 has a dedicated FOG MACHINE port where you connect the console to the wired remote port on the fog machine.

So, DMX does daisy chain, in your instance, unless you're doing some really goofy stuff with placement and wiring, you don't need any splitters/distributors.

Now, while Jingles is recommending LED fixtures, I am respectfully disagreeing with him this time. But I'll explain. You're looking for cost savings and bang for buck, which you will get by not going LED. LED technology simply costs more since among other things, you have bulbs that theoretically should never need replacing. LED technology also uses less current draw. I think in your case, traditional halogen or whatever type bulbs would work better considering the amount you'll use them. Plus, they can still grow with you.

For example, a Par64 costs around say $70 or so, but I bet you can get those for less. Check the price on the 64B LED Pro, which I have 8 of. Looking at the individual price, well there's a big price difference. Say, I think list $400. Wow, $70 vs $400. Wow, there goes the budget.

Getting started, you don't need splitters and distros. Get a nice cost effective controller and get wise on DMX-512 fast and you'll be the envy of the neighborhood!

Have fun!
I thank you both for your replies, and hope to get more in the next week. (My ordering/decision deadline is Oct. 1st)

Jingles, as much as I would LOVE to go with your hardware suggestions, they are simply out of my budget. Looking around the internet at pricing on those products, they put me closer to $1000 when I add a good fog machine instead of the target of $500. Thank you for the input, it is always nice to hear directly from the manufacturers official representative!

Chris, I think you are hitting closer to my reality. "Biggest bang for the buck" is right on the nose. I really only need something of a semi-professional quality, but the goal is to nicely light & fog up my driveway for a couple of nights a year maximum. Perhaps as the years roll on, I might add another light (movement/spot) or two to the show, but I can't ever see needing much more. And I presumed the DMX devices were daisy chained, thank you for confirming that.

Thank you both for the Guitar Center suggestion. I will do that for sure and hope to find someone that I can tap for info, and possibly good deals at least on the DMX controller hardware.

Please keep the suggestions coming, I'm soaking this in like a sponge! (I am a tech-geek, just don't know anything about this stuff...yet!)
One more quick question...

Are DMX controlled fog machines capable of having 2 fog machines controlled (chained) by one button?

I'm still split on getting either (1) large fog machine for more volume faster, or (2) smaller ones for move even fog distribution.

However if a (fog enabled) DMX controller can work 2 machines simultaniously, it would make my decision easier.

Let's take what Jingles said a step further.

DMX is a strange but robust protocol, which can be easily exploited in a huge varieties of ways. But that's a whole other discussion.

What's nice is that there is no rule saying fixtures can't have the same addresses as another fixture. So, for example, I have 8 64B LED pros, I addressed them all the same for now for simplicity. So, lining up two fog machines to the same address is no big deal.

But, depending on how you have the fog machines programmed, you may have to use a fader, because on the DMX Operator 192, the "fog" button is actually used to put some voltage down the fog machine trigger controller, which I think is a modified IEC cable. That's not a DMX function using that button. In which case, the idea falters.

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