Display Information

History of Display

I started my Christmas display in 2006 after a successful test run for Halloween. I always enjoyed having a unique Christmas light display. Before 2006, I had a small projector that would display an image on my garage door. It was a rotating filmstrip displaying images of the season. I also had a small box that had 6 outlets so you could have various light sequences through my display. None of that was close to what I took on in 2006.

My First Exposure

Right before Christmas in 2005, I saw a video on the internet that showed a house with lights synchronized to music. I later found out the display was located in Mason, OH. Since I work in Mason, I took a trip at lunch to find his house to understand more about it. At the time, the owner was outside working on his display perparing for a video crew to come in the next day to video his lights for a national tv commercial for Budwieser.

I knew I had to look into how to do this and I did some searching on the Internet to find that people have been doing this for a long time all over the country. Many people started creating their own control boxes but a new trend came about that made it easier for someone to join in on the fun with some off-the-shelf controllers (See Hardware section below).

2006

During the entire year of 2006, I prepared to see that I could synchronize my lights to music. I started in 2006 with three conrtollers of 16 channels each. You can take a look at my videos to see what I created for my 2006 display. I used many of the same lights I had used in previous years but did add some new items (ringing bell, mini-trees and candy canes). My 2006 videos include closeups on these items.

2007

In 2007, I expanded my display by adding 2 additional controllers. This was also my first year of trying out some LED lights (which I love). It also marks the first time I had multiple colors in different areas that I could control seperatly (I previously had multi-color strings of lights). This created some cool effects when switching from color to color. My big addition was the 20 foot Mega-Tree I created. A Mega-Tree is a "Tree of Light" (see links below in hardware for link to Planet Christmas for details on how to create a Mega-Tree).

One disappointment I had with my 2007 display was the use of rope-lights. At the end of the 2006 Christmas season, I went to the local stores to buy MANY more lights for my 2007 display. They mostly had rope-light so I decided to use them as a basis for my display. The display looked GREAT with the rope-light and I was very happy with it. The problem is that some of the rope-light would get a bad section and would not light. Some of them did this after only 1 week in operation. I made it through the 2007 season but I won't be using rope-light anymore!

2008

In 2008, I bought 3 more controllers to get my total controller count up to 8. To replace the rope-light, I made a concentrated effort to use LED lights. I hit the stores for the 2007 50% sales and bought as many as I could. About 90% of my lights are now LED. I used the new controllers to allow my Mega-Tree to be more flexible and added Blue and White to the tree (was just Red and Green). The only other changes to the 2008 display was the addition of LED Snowflakes and I used some of the rope light as a sprial around one of the trees. There are over 12000 lights in my 2008 display but with all lights on, it only uses 14 amps.

2009

In 2009, I bought 2 more controllers to create arches for my display. My intent was to create white arches that would leap back and forth along with other effects. That all changed when I found Light-O-Rama was selling something called a CCR (Cosmic Color Ribbon). If you look closely, these lights have computer chips inline with RGB LED lights! Each light is actually a set of three LED lights (Red, Blue and Green). Changing the intensity of each light will change the color that appears on the light string. This sounded right up my alley! Instead of buying all color's of lights for my display, I could use one light string and change them to whatever color I wanted. The lights are rather expensive so instead of buying a bunch, I bought two of them to use for my arches in my display. Check out the 2009 videos to see them in action.

Since I had two unused controllers, I decided to add both Yellow and Orange lights to my display. It is hard to see all the different colors in the videos. You really need to come see them in person to get the real effect.

The other change I made this year was to swap out the lights in my swinging bell to use LED and I didn't use any of my rope light. Since almost all my lights are LED now so I have over 13,000 lights (13,112) but I'm only using 12 amps! I was able to increase my lights by 1000 and reduce the amps by 2!

2010

Added the SuperStar using 3 CCR's folded in half with a set of 3 stars at the top of it. I used new software to syncronize the CCR's from Super Star Lights. It makes programming them MUCH easier. I was a little rushed getting the sequences done so I hope to have time to tweak the CCR effects for 2011.

I also added a Virtual Santa in the middle upstairs window. It is a continuos play of a video file that makes Santa appear to be checking his list (twice!), leaving the presents, eating his cookies and waving to the crowd. It does not show up very well in the video but does look really good in person.

I added one more 16 channel controller (I have 11 of them now) which allowed me to add all six colors to the left and right column. If I start replacing my lights with CCR's, I won't need the 16 channel controllers. I just have to save some money up for additional CCR's!

2011

Added 3 CCR's for the garage (2) and porch roof (1). I would like to add lights to the house roof eventually (would need 5 more). Since I had the channels and lights, I added lights to the trunk of the front tree and made the individual colors available on the left and right porch.

2012

I dove deeper into using RGB lights this year purchasing 3 CCP controllers each with 100 RGB lights on them. I used them to outline the roof, garage, and porch. Because of all the channels, I'm running on two networks now but it still has a hard time keeping up. Hoping LOR comes out with the high speed data connection next year.

2013

In 2013, I didn't buy any new equipment but I did add two large arches, and two small arches. I had unused CCR controllers since I bought the CCP controllers last year and I wanted to use what I had and instead of making the superstar taller, I made extra arches. I also helped my nephew setup a display at his house with one of my 16 channel controllers (20 Bonnie Lane, Southgate, KY if you want to check it out).

2015

I added a candle on the left, bows on the porch columns and a wreath on the door that lights up. I helped a friend of mine get his light display going with the same LOR hardware. He didn't have much time this year but I'm sure it will look nice next year after he has a year to play with it. Is house is on Vail Ct. in Southgate near the end of the cul-de-sac if you want to check that out.

2017

I changed out my Mega tree using 16 strands of 100 count RGB lights. They are doubled over to create 32 strings of 50 each. It is all controlled with one controller called a Pixie16. I put this on a third network so I could bump up the speed of that network to support the new number of RGB lights that are now being controlled. You can do many different effects to program the tree and the results are amazing!

With all the RGB lights I have now, I'm using the same software but they have a new "Pixel Editor" which makes it easier to program. I'll be updating the sequences so you may see different things as this years show is running.

Future

I think the biggest issue right now is that my large Ash tree on the left is blocking too much of my Mega Tree! It wasn't bad when it was smaller but it is getting in the way. I was thinking of moving the Mega Tree in front of the Ash tree but them I don't have a way to anchor it.

 

Hardware To Syncronize Lights To Music

It may seem difficult to have lights synchronized to music but there is hardware you can buy that reduces the difficulty. There are a few different vendors but I use Light-O-Rama hardware and software to run my display. Check out their website at www.light-o-rama.com. They have all the information about their hardware on their site and they are a GREAT company to support you with your effort. Also check out their forums where you can find other people who also use their software and can always be counted on to help you out.

Another great site to visit is www.planetchristmas.com. They have a WEALTH of information of not only synchronizing your light display but also for creating your own personalized items for your display. There is detailed information on creating mini and Mega trees along with wireframe and corrugated plastic items. Be sure to check out their forums as well for not only help with your Light-O-Rama hardware but many other items you will/may use for your light display

The last piece of hardware to discuss is the FM transmitter. You can order a kit to build your own FM transmitter from Ramsey electronics. You may be able to find fully assembled units on ebay or even Ramsey themselves. The transmitter makes your display complete when you have your lights synchronized to music.

I had trouble with my Ramsey transmitter in 2010 so I bought a new one from EDS. It is suppose to be a much better transmitter than the Ramsey. I was able to repair the Ramsey so I now have a backup transmitter.


Check out the video links to see vidoes of my Christmas lights syncronized to music.