While I only made the transition to light animation 5 years ago, I’ve always loved outdoor light decorations. My father happily gave me the go-ahead to decorate our home with Christmas lights when I was twelve and I haven’t looked back since. Consequently, our house has always had a lot of lights at Christmas, and, on any other special occasion.
The current madness started a few years ago when my daughter drew some pictures of spawning salmon, which we promptly decided would look great at Christmas. We built some outlines, added lights and set them out so they looked liked they were swimming up a 60-foot river of lights. A year later, I got them to “dance” to music – sort of. Since then I’ve added a mega-tree, arches, ground lights and many other props. If you are in the area, come out to see the show. New additions this year are roof lights and driveway arches. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
Our display features over 50 hand-built elements, 18,000 lights, and over 50,000 channels. Over 17,000 of those light are individually controlled pixels, with red, green and blue LEDs that can each be controlled to produce over 16 million different colours. The lights are connected to a network of controllers that interface with the lights. I built most of the controllers myself based on designs (and “kits”) designed by Robert Jordan at DiyLightAnimation and David Pitts & MyKroFT at Falcon Christmas.
The show runs on a Raspberry Pi B+ running Falcon Player software originally written by David Pitts but now continuously updated by CaptainMurdock, which drives the controllers. The light animation sequences are created using Xlights/Nutcracker software, originally designed by Matt Brown (Xlights) Sean Meighan (Nutcracker) but now continuously updated by a team of volunteer developers. All the software and hardware I use is non-commercial.
Each song takes me about 8-10 hours per minute to synchronize to the music, so the average song that you see has taken about 25 hours to sequence, often much more. Because sequencing is so time-consuming, I have not had enough time recently to sequence all my own songs. Fortunately, there is a growing community of light animation enthusiasts and we have been able to start sharing each other’s sequences. Starting with someone else’s initial sequencing often reduces the sequencing time to 2-3 hours per minute, which makes it possible for me to add several new songs every year, instead of only 1 or 2.