Welcome to our Christmas Light Show
3420 Venson Drive, Bartlett 38135
Your Subtitle text
How did we do it?

How does it work?

The show runs on Light-O-Rama brand computerized light controllers, each of which has 16 channels. Each Channel plugs into a set or section of lights on the house and in the yard.  Inside is a an old  PC (no internet, no cd drive and only 512k memory)  that runs specialized software to talk to the light controllers.


The PC inside addresses all these channels individually, and tells them what they should be doing (on/off/take 2 seconds to fade from off to full bright, twinkle between 60% and 100% bright, etc...), and most importantly WHEN.


In order to get the lights to go along to the music, each song of the show is broken down into cues. During this time I decide what lights should be off, which should be on, and what they should be doing (twinkle,fade,etc). This is called sequencing.  On average each minute of music is broken down into between 70-100 'cues'. A cue is a spot in the song where the lights need to change somehow. The software helps me with this by putting everything on a grid -- the channels running down the left side, and the cues running along the top. 

 

We have a small FM transmitter (only .013 watts, regular radio stations use 500,000 watts) that broadcasts the music about 300 ft. from the house.


How much does it cost?

I usually answer that question with 'It's a labor of Love'.  To me the money is well spent if it brings a few smiles from those who are watching.


Most of what you see is done with a budget in mind.  Alot of the things we incorporate into the show were purchased at garage sales or given to us by family and friends.

The lights I use are the same 100 count mini-lights you buy at your local department store.This year I will try to pick up lights and display items after Christmas to take advantage of sale prices.  This year we have over 31,000 lights.

 

How long does it take to sequence a song?

 

When it's all said and done, each minute of the show takes around 6-8 hours of sequencing work:

To sequence a song, first I come up with an overall idea for what the song will look like. While it's usually not apparent to the people watching the show, each song tells a story in lights - much like a Hula tells a story in dance. Sometimes it comes to me in a flash, other times it takes a day or two of thinking to come up with the story.


Once I have the idea, I start creating the cues. For most songs, I listen to the audio several times clicking the mouse each time I want to create a cue. Creating the cues usually takes an hour or two this way. For really fast songs, I create a cue every tenth of a second (600 per minute of audio) so I can be as precise as possible when it comes to timing.


When the cues are complete, I finally have a blank canvas to begin the sequencing. From that point it takes on average 5-6 hours for each minute of music to sequence. Slower songs go a bit faster, fast songs take MUCH longer.


Finally, once all the lights are up, I run tests and fine tune each song. While I do have the benefit of an on-screen representation of the show while I am sequencing, it still looks different in real life. Typically I spend another hour per song cleaning stuff up.

 

How long did it take to set up the lights?

It took us about 80-100 hours to set up. We usually start to put up the Christmas lights in October even before we take down the Halloween display. It took me one whole weekend (with 3 full time helpers)just to put up the big lighted tree and string it with 9600 lights. And another weekend to actually hang and position all the other lights. It took several other days during the week to make the small trees and to test light strings. This year I would like to thank my son Nick, and my sister and brother in law, Jennifer and Kelly for their help in putting up the lights. And I would like to thank my wonderful wife  Annette for her input in designing and helping every year since 2009

 

What about the utility bill?

Because the lights go on and off and twinkle with lower power settings, this display actually uses less electricity than a “static” display that stays on all the time. In addition we tried to use as many of the newer type LED lights this year that use 80% less energy. I believe my bill will be only $15 to $25 more than normal in December.
Addendum: Our actual light bill was about $18 more than the same time last year before we added the animation. Very nice !

 

 

 

Website Builder