The Christmas light show is broken into several elements which all work together seamlessly to produce the final product. The show can be broken down into the lights you see, the controllers that tell the lights when to turn on, the power deliver and wiring, the computer that runs the show, and finally the sequencing and choreography for each musical selection. Click on any of the links or select from the drop down menu to learn more about any part.
The lights used in the display are programmable and are called "Pixels". Each pixel has a circuit board inside the light bulb that allows it to be controlled individually. That means I can any light bulb to any color or pattern I want. I am using two different types of pixels: pixel strips for the house outline, and pixel nodes for the arches, stars, and MegaTree.
Having fancy lights doesn't mean much if I can't control them. The controllers are like mini computers that plug into a string of pixels and tell the lights when to turn on and off and what color to display. There are many types of controllers available depending on your technical skills and how much control you want to have over your show. I am using boards called the Wemos D1 which are running the ESPixelStick software by ForkInEye. There are about 30 of them around the yard and they connect over Wi-Fi back to the show computer.
There are many different visual elements that make up the show. These include leaping arches, various trees, pixel stars, house outlines, snowflakes, candy canes, a singing light bulb, and more. All of these different styles are designed to create different effects and patterns throughout the show. The elements I have in my show are some of the most popular, but there are numerous other types as well.
Powering the Show:
The lights used in my show are very energy efficient which means the entire display uses less energy than a hairdryer when fully on. This is roughly $10 in electricity for the entire month the show is on. There are several power supplies positioned in key locations around the yard. Each one powers a specific segment of the display. This ensures no single unit gets overloaded. It also allows me to use fewer wires since the power supplies are always located adjacent to the lights.
The Show Computer:
The show is run off of a Raspberry Pi with specialized software. The Pi has a schedule that tells it what time to start the show, what order to play each song in, and when to end the show. The audio you hear on the radio comes from the Pi and is transmitted with an FM transmitter. The Pi is also plugged into the lighting network which allows the show software to communicate with all of the controllers throughout the yard.
Choreography and Sequencing:
The final piece of the light display is the actual show file itself. This choreographs each light to the beat of the music. All of the elements in the show are programmed with different characteristics such as color, intensity, and the duration of the light. I use software called xLights to do the sequencing.