Behind the Scenes

edited – 12/4/2009

There is a lot that goes on to make the display happen. At the heart of the display is an old Dell laptop. It runs a program called Aurora. The computer sends control signals to hardware light controllers made by a company called D-Light. I can not say enough about these two companies. The owners will go out of their way to make you happy. If you are interested in doing a synchronized display, look no further than Aurora and D-Light.

In 2007, I started with a single 16 channel controller, the ACx16. This year I have 10 ACx16’s!  I also added a “mega tree” and “piano” effects. With 2 spare channels, I am using 158 of 160 channels! As of December 4th, there is still one element to be added.

When you come by to see the display, be sure to tune your car radio to 87.9 FM. Our lights are programmed to the music on this station. A low power radio transmitter takes the audio from the computer and broadcasts it to your car.

My local Home Depot had a large stock of lights after Christmas last year. I am able to buy most of my lights for 50-75% off, many of which are LED. LEDs are the latest in Christmas light technology. They simply use MUCH less electricity than standard, incandescent lights. My display of about 20,000 lights uses about 40% LEDs. This brings up another question I get asked a lot.

“How much is your electricity bill?”  Honestly, maybe $50 higher than normal. This is because I use lots of LED lights and the display is computer controlled. Because the lights blink the entire show, they are really only ON about 20% of the time! It’s a good thing my electricity bill isn’t high…. I don’t know if I could afford an outrageous bill after buying everything else to make the show work!

The ability to make a single element of the display come on by itself means that it must have its own controller channel and extension cord. I have about 2500′ of extension cord all over the yard, porches, and flower beds! This is a major expense to plan for if you are considering making your own display.

By far the most time consuming part of the display is the programming. It takes about 2 – 3 hours of programming to every 1 minute of song! This year I started off with 3 songs totaling about 8 minutes which comes to about 16 – 24 hours of programming!! Setting up the display is actually the easy part. I was able to hang/set up most of the lights in about 3 days. We plan to add at least 3-5 more songs, so check back often.

I am often asked “Why do you do it?” My favorite responses are “Because I can!”, “Why not?”, or “It’s for the Kids”! They are all true. It also combines three things that I love: Christmas lights, computers, and music. My kids think I am the coolest dad in the world! I like that. 🙂

Finally, don’t ask me how much money I have spent! I really don’t want to know. People spend money on vehicles, golf, and hunting. Me…. I buy Christmas lights!

I plan on taking some pictures of the “behind the scenes” for everyone to see.

Enjoy the show!