There are a lot of pieces in any light show... WinterLightShow.com has a few more moving pieces than most:
The lights are a big piece of the show... ALL lights are LED with low power consumption. Most lights are RGB-based, allowing each bulb to be individually controlled.
There are approximately 40,000 lights in the 2014 display. Among the lights are approximately 1,000 single-color LED strings. The rest of the lights are found inside and outside of various props or elements.
Controllers are used to translate computer commands into signals that the bulbs use to turn on the different LED colors. The controllers tell the bulb not only to turn "on", but also how bright!
The 2014 display uses:
- (5) DLA Lynx Express 110V controllers for the mini trees
- (35) Falcon Micros Smart String controllers used to communicate arches, snow flakes, and stars
- (3) Falcon 8-port Pixel controllers to control the panels
- (5) Falcon 16-port pixel controllers to control the MegaPixel tree and the ground lights
- (6) DLA hubs to combine power and the data commands sent by the show computer
The Show Computer runs the sequences that drives the controllers to turn on lights. The computer also plays the music, and in some displays plays movies on projectors and screens.
The 2014 display uses a nifty little computer, the size of a deck of cards called a Raspberry Pi. Combined with Falcon FPP software, this $40 computer can drive up to 40,000 lights! The WinterLightShow uses (2) Raspberry Pi computers due to the size and layout of the show... a special feature of the FPP software allows them to work together to share the work of the show.
Sequencing software is needed to translate the picture in your mind about the show into commands that the controllers will execute as the turn on thousands of lights into dizzying patterns of color.
Sequencing software combines the timing of the music, the inventory of lights in your show and a catalog of mathematical effects that can be assigned tothe lights.
Two years ago, the hobby was reaching a critical point where the software could not keep up with all of the lights and channels that came with RGB lighting. Fortunately a member of our DIY community (with a lot of smarts 🙂 ) created a new type of software that solved most, if not all of these issues. The software was given to the open source community and is free to use by anyone! NutCracker/xLights -- which combined two great pieces of software has a LARGE following. The creator continues to do weekly online tutorials for the users.
We use an EDM transmitter to transmit the audio originating from the Raspberry Pi. There is a 1/4 wave ground plane antenna to transmit the signal over FM 100.5.
Snowflakes, Stars, and Arches -- oh, my!
Part of the DIY production includes creating lighted objects out of unlikely materials.
The show uses Coro Plastic (sign materia) in stars and snowflakes -- 4ft snow flakes! It uses PVC pipe to create arches, and stars that radiate light in all directions.
The arches are "connected" so that effects can stretch the length of the arches -- 240ft!
Each object contains MANY bulbs, each individually controlled.
- (9) Coro Flakes
- (2) Stars
- (1) Star burst
- (24) 10ft Arches
Using plastic greenhouse glass materials and strips of lights, we created panels of lights that are used for effects, and also displaying pictures of animals, the grinch, bells, and gifts.
- (3) 4ft x 4ft panels
This year we built new RGB meteor tubes to replace the store-bought versions that could only do white. The new tubes are also fully-controllable by computer. Each tube has 120 lights.
- (19) Meteor tubes
Build from resistors, capacitor, and other electronic parts we made high-intensity RGB floods that shine on the house. These floods are able to change colors based on the instructions of the controllers inside re-purposed worklight cases.
- (16) RGB Floods
Using LED strings from years gone by... the mini trees were built using tomato cages, and strings of lights -- connected to 110v Lynx Express controllers. Each tree has 4 colors of lights -- each color is separately controlled... and 700 lights.
For years we've attempted to build this tree and had problems along the way. This year we claim SUCCESS! The tree has 48 strings, each string has 85 RGB bulbs. With 4,000 pixels and 12,000 channels, this tree is able to produce very sophisticated effects thanks to the NutCracker software.
Past attempts to create this tree have failed because of bad waterproofing of the lights... (2011)... Bad design of the next generation of lights (2013)... This year, with many learned lessons the tree has worked without issue for 2 weeks -- so far!!
The large tree is now the focus of the display... but the rest of the yard just begs to be part of the display... This year we added (32) strings of 50 bulbs... all radiating from the tree to extend the tree outwards another 30 feet! Effects flow down the tree and out to the viewer. This addition with 1600 lights is a big success!
Coming soon: a high-definition panel for cool effects...
Using P10 panels -- similar to those used in jumbo-trons and stadiums, we will construct a high-definition panel for an entirely new variety of cool effects. The panels are each 12"x6" in size -- yet packs in 512 RGB bulbs. The panels can be joined to create much larger configurations.
When ready, the new panel will add another 50,000 channels and 20,000 lights!