Have a question about the display or how it works? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How many lights do you have?
The number has changed each year. At the peak, we had over 18,000. But beginning with 2014, we've incorporated a newer technology - RGB pixels. These allow us to do much more with far fewer lights.
But to answer the question - currently we have almost 10,000. Each arch along the driveway consists of 5 sets of 50 bulbs, for 250 lights per arch. There are six arches, so 1,500 lights in the arches. The trees in front of the house each consist of 900 red, 900 white, and 900 green bulbs, for 2,700 per tree. There are three trees, so 8,100 lights in the trees. Lastly, we are running 250 of the RGB pixels. But since those are capable of so much (see below), the 250 number is misleading.
What are RGB pixels?
RGB stands for red, green, blue. Each light actually has three lights - a red one, a green one, and a blue one. By varying the intensity of each color, the final light your eyes see can be any color we want it to be. Think of it as the old projection television sets that had a red light, green light, and blue light that produced the picture you see on the screen.
Pixels mean each individual light bulb has its own microprocessor. This allows us to control every individual light bulb separately from the rest.
Combine the two aspects, and it means we can decide which bulbs to turn on, and when they are on, what color we want it to be. This allows for the bulbs to change colors as you see them, as well as chase back and forth along the light string, and other cool effects.
How long does it take you to put the lights up?
Hanging the lights is actually the easiest part of the entire process. We can get them all hung in one weekend. However, programming all of the synchronization on the computer takes a long time - typically 6-8 hours for a 3 minute song.
How do you get them synchronized to music?
Through the wondrous power of computers! Controllers can be purchased from several different companies (we've used www.lightorama.com). A controller is just a circuit board that receives its commands from a computer program operated on our PC. Each controller has 16 separate power outputs, called channels. We use 5 controllers, for a total of 80 separate channels. Each power output is controlled by the computer to turn on or off, fade up or down, twinkle, shimmer, etc. By telling the computer program what command to give to each power output and at precisely what times within a song, all 80 combinations come together to result in the show you see.
Beginning in 2014, we also added the RGB pixels explained above. There are three sets of those. They are a different animal altogether. Since each bulb can be controlled individually, and there are 100 bulbs per set, that is 100 different channels. But it doesn't stop there. Each also has a red bulb, a green bulb, and a blue bulb. Those also each are a different channel. So 100 bulbs times 3 colors/channels each means 300 channels per set of RGB pixels.
So all combined, we are running 980 channels, or separate power outputs.
The music itself is broadcast over the air just like a radio station. We use a very short-range FM transmitter. Its range is short enough that an FCC license is not required. The transmitter connects to our computer through a wire similar to what is used by a set of headphones. This way, you can enjoy the music from the comfort of your vehicle and we aren't disturbing the neighbors by setting up speakers and projecting music into the open air.
What is your electric bill like?
Actually, the show has very little impact on our electric bill. First, at any given time, there are only a small number of the lights that are actually on. Think of it as 80 different light switches - at a given time in any of the songs, there may only be 4 or 5 that are turned on. Secondly, most of our lights are LEDs. The LED bulbs use a very low amount of electricity.
Overall, running the show for a full month, our electric bill only increases by $10 - $15.
Why do you do this?
We really can't say what the reason is for all of the work we put into the show. We've always enjoyed driving around and looking at houses all lit up for the season. For years, we've hung tons of lights on our house. A syncronized display just became the next natural step to expand and make our display stand out.
Christmas is a very special time of year. Counting our many blessings and spending time with family and friends, we hope in some way our display helps bring peace and joy to you and your family for the Christmas season.
How did you find the equipment to do this?
Several years ago, we received a forwarded email with this "cool video" attached of a house that syncronized their lights to music. It was the first we'd seen anything like it and thought it was very interesting. The story told in the email was that this homeowner was an electrical engineer and designed some sort of computer equipment to do all of this. We thought it would be interesting if this possibility spread, but didn't truly expect to see that happen.
Then, one morning on tv, we saw a story of a house in nearby Whiteland that had done this. We went to see his show in person and immediately decided we wanted to do this as well. We want to thank Steve for the information and assistance he gave us. Please visit his website at www.notenoughlights.com and check out his display sometime. The house is only about 15 minutes south of ours.
What do your neighbors think?
So far, we haven't had any complaints. We are fortunate to have great neighbors and we are very conscious of the traffic our display can create. We just ask when you visit the display to turn your lights to the parking lights only, park along the curb, and do not block any driveways. Actually, we know several neighbors enjoy sitting on their porches to watch or have even viewed the show from their living room windows.