General Proto’s army is coming through basic training nicely. They are still lacking uniforms but otherwise are ready to go and seem fit for the tasks awaiting them. The internal lighting only took a few hours of soldering one evening but the welding and grinding hours have definitely added up into the dozens over the course of a few weeks. Now let the sewing begin so the troops aren’t naked this Christmas!
After some lengthy prototyping throughout the spring and summer, we would like to introduce you to Proto, the first of our next generation of snowmen. We are now working hard on adding 11 more to his regiment.
Well, summer is officially here and it is 90+ degrees outside. What better time than to really get going on Christmas lights! We got the exterior of our house painted last month and so we may rethink how we attach the vertical light rails and the garage door display to avoid damaging our new paint job. We also have been working very sporadically on prototyping for a new generation of snowmen over the last few months, as well as assembling the music for this year’s light show. Sadly, the beach ball snowman army is just not answering the call of duty for a third tour. We will keep you posted as to the training of their reinforcements as we learn more.
The lights are up on the house and the next step is running all of the cables. It only took about 2 hours of active effort to put up all the lights, though testing them added a bit more time. We have one section that failed in testing that we need to investigate but otherwise everything looks good. Hopefully the cabling goes just as easily!
Quick update: Things are progressing well for this year’s show. We are so far ahead of where we were last year and have been able to work on things at a leisurely pace. Here is the list of things we’re working on to add to our show this year:
Refactoring the window wash lights to use LED strips mounted near the window rather than a single par can across the room. This will allow us to actually use these rooms in our house without risking washing out the effects with the room lights. We also have the ability to do more multi-color effects since we will have individually controllable pixels making up the wash.
LED snowmen to line the street and/or driveway. We are still working through the exact logistics of how to make these both awesome and inexpensive but nominally are using white beach balls illuminated by LED strips. We will be able to control individually each segment of each snowman.
Adding four 7 segment displays to the garage door. Full pixel screens are expensive, so we are starting off with just some simpler 7 segment displays that will allow us to do time countdowns, display the year, etc. The only reasonable place to mount these is on our garage door, which has interesting implications since we need the door to remain functional. We are working on assembling the displays and will soon be testing out the wiring harness setup that will allow everything to move along with the door
We haven’t started programming the new show yet (it’s going to be a completely new show from last year) but hopefully we can get going on it soon…though we do have to figure out music first. More to come as we make progress!
It took longer than we hoped due to some snowy weather, but all of the lights are finally off of the house and stored in the basement. They really don’t take up too much room to store since we can more or less stack the light rails that don’t have C9 bulbs in a pile. The light rails that do have C9 bulbs are more of a pain to store since the bulbs are so ridiculously fragile.
Today, Phil also went outside and caulked all of the holes we drilled in the siding to mount the vertical rails. We’ll have to see how it looks once the caulk dries but some touch up paint is likely to follow.
We’re still working on the epic documentation of our system, thought it’s taking longer than expected to finish due to getting diagrams put together. Hopefully, we will be done in the next week or two and will publish that on this site for others too use as they build their own systems.
Other than that, we are working on our plans for next year and figuring out how we want to add to the system to make our show bigger and better. We will keep updating here as we make decisions and start work on next year.
So, definitely did not blog at all over the course of the last year about our Christmas lights 😦 I will use the lame excuse that we were way too busy actually building our ridiculously awesome light show rather than writing about it! As we are a week away from wrapping up the show for the year, the time has come to document what we did and share with the world all the things we learned in our transition from traditional LED strings to individually controllable LED Pixels.
Things to come:
Full write up of our 2016 setup including as much detail as we can capture to help others who want to embark on the adventure of Pixels
How-to video of how we built our system
Link to the video of this year’s show
Lessons learned from this year
Plans for what we want to do differently next year
Well, it is a new year and we took advantage of today’s warm weather to take down the Christmas lights. While there is a small bit of sadness in this, there is also much excitement as we start thinking about next year’s display. In fact, we took advantage of being up on the roof to take detailed measurements of our house in anticipation of moving to pixel-based lighting next year (budget allowing). We’ll post again soon with our hopes, plans, and thoughts for next year’s display.
2015 isn’t even over yet and we are already thinking about next year’s Christmas lights! We plan on using this blog and website as a means of keeping track of how our display evolves over the years as well as to share what we learn with other lighting enthusiasts so they can join in the fun. Stay tuned!