Alan (me) has a love of Christmas lights and has ran a display at his Eaglehawk home on the Northern fringe of Bendigo since 2004. Since about 2008 he’s been running a computer controlled display. Using Light-O-Rama (LOR) software and initially 8 LOR AC controllers the display has grown to be 1 of the biggest in the Bendigo region. These days a mix of controllers including LOR, Chinese and Australian made DMX controllers and also his own designed and built DMX DC controllers is controlling thousands of channels of lights all synched up to music. Well, synched up could be an overstatement as his skills run to electronics not music.
Where it is. https://goo.gl/maps/ZPQca
My Videotaping skills are little different to my sequencing skills and a few of the results are at
1 of my favourite props is the Tint Tube based star on my carport I added in 2011.
A poor video to show what the Tint Tubes look like is below
1 of the 2 pieces of music used as an intermission between the main sequences. They basically just flash all of the light on for anyone wanting to take a photo or video.
1st year of Christmas lights. A whole bunch of static incandescent fairy and icicle lights with a few rope lights. XMAS04 on the roof was controlled by a simple PIC based board that ran a sequence of chases.
1st year of a mega tree. All it really was was a 5m high sign post trying to get people to spot my display which is out of the way. The mega tree was 5 static rope lights sucking 750W. The roof XMAS 04 got changed to XMAS 2005. Ran out of time for this year which is a recurring theme every year.
The display moved from 1 side of the driveway to both. An extra 25m x 30m to play with. Mega tree (signpost) moved closer to the corner.
No huge changes to the display. Added a few cutouts. The mega tree gained a star and a bordering rope light.
The display made it into the Bendigo Advertiser for the 1st time. Traffic increased 🙂
I had seen a video of a display synched to Wizards in Winter. I fell in love with it so bought 128 channels of LOR controllers. The mega tree changed format and was ran off 5 channels. About 60 channels were synched to music.
No huge changes for 2009. Added a few more songs. Connected a few more channels to the boards. Added a few leds. Added more cutouts.
Started changing elements to LED starting with the XMAS 2010 on the roof. Note to self. Don’t buy ebay light strings.
Lots more channels. Mega tree got changed to LED.Added DMX control after attending the AusChristmasLighting (ACL) mini light expo in Melbourne.
Added even more channels. About 400 at this stage. Had started building my own DMX boards by now (AAHmega60). Had a half page article in the Bendigo Advertiser. They left out the address of my display (aaaarrrrgggghhhh). Added radio transmission of the music as well the speaker. Had hundreds of channels more available ready to hook up but ran out of time (as usual)
I added some pixels to the display this year which brought the channel total close to 1000 (down from the expected 4000. 3000 were still in the shed waiting to be installed). I added 170 pixel modules in lengths of translucent tube given to me by Tint-A-Car Bendigo (Thanks guys) to form pixel icicles across the width of the house. These things look awesome and didn’t take that long to knock up. I changed the halogen spots on the cutouts to RGB led strips allowing them to be better synched to the music as the halogen lights were just too slow and they can’t have the colours changed. The cutouts can now match the colours of the rest of the RGB elements. Work got in the road bigtime this year so the additional pixel elements didn’t get built. There’s about 3000 channels worth of pixels waiting to get installed for next year now. I dropped all but 1 of my Light-O-Rama boards for this year as I reduced the number of mains voltage items. 2014 will see an entirely low voltage display. My sequencing was also chopped way short due to work so as usual it’s a bit of a dogs breakfast but the lights are flashing, the music is blaring and the kids are handing out candy canes.
My 2014 display didn’t see much added as I ran out of time yet again. I added some corflute presents which lived under the mega tree. These lit up very nicely with all 5 of them being able to be any colour. There was also a nice big tune to sign that was located down in the corner of the yard and which resulted in a lot more people tuning in via their car radios. The sign was made up with some leftover bits and pieces, a multi-colour, multifunction set of fairy lights and the writing cut out of a bit of sisalation. This made the sign readable from about 50m down the road. Among the elements I didn’t get built was a pixel arch over the driveway, some pixel baubles and a candy cane spinner. I added a few more songs and worked on getting the timing better. This was a bit hit and miss. I did end up using a few 240V lights again. I used a few rope lights along the front fence basically to allow people a bit of light to see by if they were walking out there and I had about 15 ropelight cutouts up near the front of the house and some cutouts on the windows.
I added a few nice items this year but still failed to get everything built and up that I’d hope to get done. I changed my sequencing software to Xlights 4 and it is the ducks guts 🙂 After 2 years I finally made the transition to running my show off a Raspberry Pi running FPP. Other than a few hiccups this was brilliant as it freed up my laptop and I could sequence while the show was running and do live changes while it was on the go. I added a P10 matrix to display pretty effects on and to show some pictures and messages on. I changed 10 of my mini trees to LED but don’t like the change. I couldn’t get warm white LEDs easily and the cool white just don’t do it for me. I did add a run of warm white LEDs around the border of my roof and I did like that. As it was a 50m solar powered set it was easy to do. The other major display element was the 8m wide 4.5m high arch across my driveway which had 2 5m 2811 strips on it and looked fairly awesome and lit up the street out the front somewhat like a RGB floodlight. It also had 50 1w strobes on it which didn’t actually get powered up until Christmas Eve. I also changed to 2 speakers out the front, but located near the house, to get better sound coverage and actual stereo sound as a few of the songs had noticeable differences between left and right channel. The playlist jumped to 13 songs with some fairly ordinary sequencing done due to lack of time and talent. The rest of the family all had a go at sequencing and all contributed in varying degrees especially to the pictures/text/effects on the P10 matrix seen in the right-hand most window. 2015 was “going” to be the year that I ran exclusively off controllers that I made myself but I didn’t quite get there. Of the 16,000 (ish) channels of lighting control about 900 were controlled by non Hanson Electronics boards. These were the fascia icicles, the pixel strips on the arch, the 14 240V wireframes and the carport mega star. I had planned on changing over the mega star to 1 of my DMX36 boards but time ran out and there wasn’t really any need. Boards of my design that were in use were 5 AAHMega60’s, 1 DMX36, 1 Octoscrolla and the strobes were my design as well.
To continue the theme I didn’t get everything up. The biggest change for 2016 was the singing faces on the P10 matrix. I had singing lightbulbs, Santa, Snowman, elves and a reindeer.
I added a couple of new pixel props for 2017 as well as not getting all the lights up. I added a candy cane pixel fan which the 8 candy canes created 4 heart shapes. I also added an 8 arms pixel spinner using 8 1m rigid pixel modules. I changed 10 of my mini trees over from incandescent to pixel and moved them to beneath the 9 spinners. I also converted over to running off my own pixel boards after selling off my previously used J1 Sys P2’s. The start of December was a bit of a shambles with a catastrophic rainfall predicted for December 1-2. An expected 80-200mm of rain petered out to 27mm but due to the expected rain I didn’t run a bunch of cabling or put out a number of elements that may get washed away.
We got a bit of a shocking storm that came through mid December and had wind of about 100kmh and 10mm rain in 10 minutes. This storm causeed my first water damage to electronics as the wind had blown the cover off 1 of my Pi based pixel controllers and it got wet. I powered up the display when our power was returned after not checking for water/wind damage. After 14 years and about 1/2 metre of rain and no leaks/damage I got complacent.
I spent too much time working on a fair number of other peoples display throughout Australia rather than working on mine and sequencing. The many thousands of visitors didn’t seem to mind but I was a bit disappointed with a few dark spots in the yard and only 1 of the new songs getting added. Oh well. There’s always 2018.
2017 I almost reached 100% control over my lights via all my own boards. I had 16 channels of old AC rope light elements controlled via my 1st LOR kit board that I made many years ago and the star on my carport is still running off a Chinese 27 channel DMX board. Other than that the rest of the approximately 19,000 channels of computer control were controlled via my own boards. 2018 I’ll aim for that extra 0.2%.
If you are in the Bendigo, Central Victoria region and are wanting to get your lights under computer control I’m always around and willing to have a yarn and give advice on how to do it. I have Light-O-Rama, LightShowPro, Vixen 2.0, Vixen 3.0 and Xlights sequencing softwares all installed. During November and the start of December I’m somewhat busy putting up lights and getting them going but I’m usually available or an hour or so.
http://auschristmaslighting.com/forums/ is a great place for getting info on controlling your lights. The wiki attached to the site also has a vast repository of info related to blinky lights. One of the best resources there is the AusChristmasLighting 101 Manual which can’t be downloaded unless you’re a member though 🙁 . Membership is free though 🙂