December 1, 2019 — We have now been in Halfmoon Bay on the Sunshine Coast, BC for almost a year and half. We had a display up last year but the layout fairly modest (at least by my standards). I made several big changes this year that I think really improve the overall ambiance. I still have lots of unused elements from my Beachview display that I hope to incorporate in future years.
If you look at the videos from the Beachview location, and compare it to the Eureka location, you see that displays are completely different. We moved from a boulevard setting to a front yard setting. The former could be viewed while sitting in car, while the latter is best enjoyed standing on our driveway to appreciated it. The other big difference is that the Beachview show used to run continuously while at Eureka, the viewers must push a button to queue up one of several 10-12 minute thematic playlists.
How this madness started
I made the transition to light animation 6 years ago, but 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. In 2011, we built some outlines, added lights and set them out so they looked like 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.
Our Beachview display featured 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 original controllers myself based on designs (and “kits”) designed by Robert Jordan at DiyLightAnimation and David Pitts & MyKroFT at Falcon Christmas. As this hobby has grown in popularity, I’ve been able to upgrade to more advanced pre-built controllers from Falcon Christmas.
This year’s show runs on a Raspberry Pi 4 running Falcon Player software originally written by David Pitts but now continuously updated by a team of volunteer developers, which drives the controllers. The light animation sequences are created using Xlights/Nutcracker software, originally designed by Matt Brown (Xlights) and Sean Meighan (Nutcracker) but now continuously updated by a team of volunteer developers from all over the world. 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. I now have almost two hours of sequenced music.