Monday, February 05, 2007

Final Thoughts

Ok, so I'm a month late. Let's recap.
What took two weeks to setup, only took 8hrs to take down. All the lights and cables fit nicely into these five containers. The response I received on my display, although lighter than I expected, was all positive. I had my website up on the sign and several people in my neighborhood actually sent me emails. Some to ask questions about how this was done or what was that song, but all were complements. Thank you. If any of my neighbors weren't happy with my house, they didn't say anything. I even had the opportunity to meet several new people. Oh, and one last accolade. I won "Most Elaborate" display in the municipal district!

The after Christmas sales weren't as productive as last year though. Target sold out of their mini lights early, but I was able to get my hands on couple thousand clear. My next challenge is to plan for next year. My goal is to have 20,000 lights in my 2007 display. I'm even toying with the idea of connecting in my next door neighbors house into the show. Only 316 days to Christmas...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Getting Closer to Perfection

Well, for those who bookmarked the blogger link instead of, you may not have noticed that I finally got a web site up. Figure it would be a good place to post information for the curious public. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Well, it's been up for almost two weeks now with out any major problems. Got to fix burned out lights now and then. Still need to do some tweaking. Going to make some small changes to the sequences and yes, add a few more lights. The neighborhood association does their judging this Saturday, so wish me luck!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

95% completed

Well, most of the lights are up. Just a couple of finishing touches left, but that can wait until Friday. Wished my leaves had fallen by now. Now all I have to do is put out the signs, program one last song (yes, I'm the ultimate procrastinator), and figure out how to setup the scheduling feature so the shows run automatically. But here it is! I hope to have a video posted for those who are too lazy to fly to Texas to see it for themselves. After I get though the premier, I plan on creating a real web site. Say tune.

Monday, November 13, 2006


It works! Spent the past two days wiring up the dimmers and getting the software synchronized. Ran some tests this evening and everything worked as it should. Now, I just need to finish hanging lights, getting the FM transmitter to work, order some yard signs, program yet one more song, and then set the computer up. Still a lot of work to do, but seeing it acutely work was a big lift. I'll post some photos by Sunday.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Yeah. 220...221, Whatever It Takes

Well, the past few weeks have been busy. Where to start. First of all, I'm going to need power. A lot of it. 3500 watts at last count. So, I had an electrician come out and wire in 60 APMs of glorious, life giving, power. They may not look like much, but these little outlets will provide enough juice to grow the display larger next year, including a 20ft mega tree.

So, I've gather all of my stuff together and started putting the lights up. Been working about 2 hours a night for the past four days and finally got all the roof-lines finished. That part took a little bit longer than I expected. Next I need to work on the window outlines and the yard lights. I'll do that on Saturday.

But what good are all these lights if you don't have a way to plug them in. So, I also bought 1000ft of electric cable in bulk. This way I can make my own extension cables to the exact length I need them to be, and was much cheaper then buying 30 pre-made extension cords at the local hardware store.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I Need a Coin to Flip

Well, I'm having a moment of doubt. All year long I had planned on doing this grand, 20 min show in the back yard facing the park. But now I wonder if I should move the display to the front yard? Doing it in the park seemed like such a great idea, but now that the days are getting shorter, I'm questioning rather or not people will actually want to get out of their car to walk up a dark path at night? On the other hand, setting up the display in the front yard, presents it's own issues. For one, I'll have to do some last minute redesigning. Which in someways, would make it a little easier in that I wouldn't have to program the full "show" I had originally envisioned. (20 mins is a long time for a car to be parked outside.) Secondly, how would my neighbors take having cars drive up the street all night? So, I've got a lot of thinking to do. Any comments or suggestions??

Saturday, September 23, 2006

One Flew Over the Christmas Tree

Boy what a day. I'm sitting in a room full of crazy people and yet I feel strangely at ease. We speak with a strange jargon. Words like LOR, coro, puffers, and wire-frame. A year ago these words would sound as foreign as Greek, yet on this day, I speak them fluently. I am at the Texas Christmas Light Workshop being held in San Antonio and I have learned a lot.

It's been an amazing experience and I honestly can't remember the last time I was this excited. It's the excitement you had as a kid on Christmas Eve. There are newbies to the hobby here. Some more naive than I. But some of the ledgens are here as well. The guys who have created some of the most elaborate displays that you've probably seen on the Internet and they talk with us freely. Sharing what's works, what doesn't, what to worry about, what not to bother with, how to fix things when things go terribly wrong, things to consider that I never even thought about before. Yea, you can find out some of this stuff from the blogs and newsgroups, but sitting around letting one questions spawn another question and soaking up the wisdom has been truly invaluable.

Jeff Womack, who organized this fall's workshop, did a great job. Inviting vendors to join us was great. They gave us a sneak peek at some of the new technology that's about to be released for this December and latter next year. Really amazing stuff. Several of us were ready to break open our wallets right there on the spot. Advancements in software, namely D-Light, got everyone's mouth drooling. Get ready. If I actually manage to pull off what I have planned for 2006, my 2007 display is going to be off the hook!

Jeff Trykoski of talk about a project he's been working on with the city of Frisco though out this past year. They are going to turn the entire city square into an animated holiday display. Representatives from the city went to his house the day after Christmas and said "we want your help to make our city hall look like your house." No joke. They plan on having over 100,000 lights, running on 800 dimmers, with a budget of $250,000. Given most of that will be one time expenses to pre-run power and other cable though the buildings, but still.

Before I finish this entry, I'd like to plug one thing. If your reading this, and you think you might be interested in creating a display of your own. Do it. Join us. Check out Become one of us. It'll change you life.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Etch-a-Sketch on a Grander Scale

Well, I dusted off the old W.O.P.R., plugged it in, and started programming the show. The Light-O-Rama software necessary to controls the lights has turned out to be quite simple to use. The first thing I did was to create the channel assignments and lay out an animation matrix to provide visual feedback when programming a sequence. The Lite-Brite looking thing you see is how my backyard looks to the computer. (a work of art!) It is useful for seeing how the display will look without actually setting up a bunch of lights in my living room. Just turn your head sideways so your left eye sees the Lite-Brite thingy and your right eye see the photo of my yard and you'll get an idea. After I got the channel assignments set, all I had to do is load a MP3 file and start programming. This part has turned out to be quicker than I thought. Given, I'm keeping the display to only 32 dimmers for the first year and using repetitive motions also reduce the amount of work I need to do. In fact, I've already finished the first song and a third of the way though the second. It's the hobby that provides hours of entertainment.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Home Improvement by Martha Stewart

Well Light-O-Rama, the company who makes the equipment that makes this dream possible, had a sale last week for those who were willing to pre-order their items. Since this is the most expensive part of the project, I took advantage of the sale and placed an order for two 16-channel dimmer units and a license for the software that is the wizard behind the curtain. Saved quite a bit of money over what it would have cost latter on in the year. The hardware won't ship until September, but I've got the full version of the software installed now. Once I nail down how I want my yard to look, I can start programming the lights to the music and create the magic.

For the dimmers, I decided to order the "hobbyists" version to save a few greenbacks. This basically means that I'll have to get my own electrical box, install the dimmer boards inside and wire the power cords to it. As strange as it sounds, I think this will actually save me time during the display construction phase in November. The finished product will look something like the thing you see to the right. Except there will be two of them. This is the heart of what makes a LOR Christmas show possible. Each pig-tail connects a separate light strand, enabling you to control when the lights turn on, off, blink, and how bright they are. It's a good thing.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pump Up the Volume

COOL TOOL: It's 10 o'clock. Pirate radio, station KXMS is on the air with your favorite underground DJ, Happy Harry...

Ok, I know it's been a while since I've posted an update. But I've been concentrating on finishing those mini-trees. Got seven done so far. Once I finish ten, I'll set them up and post a preview photo. Also, got about 70% of the song list planned out. Still looking for suggestions. Just send them to

Anyway, I was feeling bad for my blogging neglect, so I sped up one of my procurements and ordered a short range FM transmitter, just to have something new to write about. This little guy will enable people to enjoy the music in their ears (at a safe, appropriate volume of course) simply by bring a walkman. I've decided to add a couple of small speakers to the display, but the volume will be kept down low as to not disturb the neighbors.

Well, I received the package today and just had to play, I mean, test it out. Some static can kick in depending on where you stand, but I was able to get a decent signal nearly 50 yards from the station! More than enough for my purposes. Even in front of the house you get a signal. Not bad for a 3"x3" black box. If your curious, check out

Until next time. Talk Hard. Steal the air.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

New Web Site and a Call to Arms

Ok, I bought an official web address. Figured I would need a site to post information for visitors during the holidays. So, please bookmark Right now it re-directs you back here. This leads to my first request. I need recommendations on website hosting services. I'll also need a little help setting up a web page, but no urgentcy here.

Secondly, here's your chance to provide input. I'm looking for suggestions for music. My goal is to create light sequences for 3-5 songs. So please send any suggestions to "". Looking for Christmas songs that are either religious, funny, rock-n-rollish, or even a techno beat. Send samples if you can.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I see pod people. Some don't even know their pods

DECORATION: Mini-Trees. These are going to be a key part of my display. The plan is to make eight to ten of these. Each one will have 200 clear and 200 color (half red half green) lights. I'm basically copying a design I found at the link below, except I'm only wrapping the lights around two sides instead of all three. It takes longer to do it this way, but since no one should be walking behind the display, it allows me to get the same light output using fewer lights and less electricity.

How to:

Monday, January 09, 2006

I'm going need an electrician

COOL TOOL: I stumbled across this really neat gadget the other day. It's called "Kill A Watt" made by P3. Just plug a device in and it will tell you useful information like how many watts, amps, va, and Kwatt/hrs the device is using in real time. It also give you the volts, frequency, and power factor of the input power. Useful for knowing the quality of power your receiving from the power company. I was pleasantly surprised with mine.
Considering the size of this project, I figured this would be an indispensable tool to have. Well I just received it in the mail and did some preliminary testing and......oh my. IF I plug in every light strand I have so far and turn everything on at once, it's going to draw over 30 AMPs or around 3800 watts! This is going to require some careful planning and an electrician to wire in some high power outlets. Also need to make sure I don't over load any of the circuits, so if I need all the lights on at any given moment, I'll might need to raise them up to only 80-90% of max intensity. Then again, planning is half the fun for me.

Monday, December 26, 2005

More lights. Need more lights!

Well, I had to work up a rough draft design of how I want the display to look. So off to Target I went and bought up about 4000 lights. But after I got home, I realized that I needed more lights, so I went back the day after Christmas and bought up another 3000 or so. Hey, they were only $1 a box. Best estimation is that the final display will have between 7,000-10,000 lights! Almost all of them will be the mini-light type, so the electrical load shouldn't be that bad....I hope.