The Ultimate Light Show The Ultimate Light Show

Every year in our community, people try to outdo each other by having the best Christmas light display.  One of the highlights of the season is driving around the countryside visiting all of these fine displays.  A lot of ingenuity and good old-fashioned work goes into them, and everyone truly enjoys them.  

This phenomenon is true across the country.  Carson Williams, a resident in Canton Ohio, has topped them all.  Mr. Williams, an electrical engineer, built a display with over 25,000 Christmas tree lights that are synched to music.  The display, featuring the Trans Siberian Orchestra playing "Wizards In Winter," can be seen in the video below.  In this article, we will tell you how you can create a display such as Mr. Williams built.  Because the budget for a project like Williams built costs over $10,000.00, we will present a more affordable approach.

How It's Done

We will use examples from Light-O-Rama, an online store that specializes in light displays.  A music file is "ripped", using such software as Windows Media Player, and the ripped file is placed in an audio folder.  This music file is then used to run sequencers, which control the lights and how they will be displayed.  

What You'll need:

  1. Windows Media software - comes packaged with Windows
  2. Light-O-Rama Sequence Editor
  3. Necessary Christmas tree lights in colors chosen
  4. RS-485 adapter, which connects your computer to the controllers
  5. CAT-5 cable or wireless linkers
  6. Controllers
  7. Sound system

Let's Begin

  1. First, determine what music you'll use.  Trans Siberian Orchestra has great music for Christmas displays and is readily available for download from the Internet.  Windows Media Player has 22 different sources for music.  Purchase the music file, and then rip the file to the Light-O-Rama audio folder, using instructions from WMP.  This file will be saved in MP3 format.

  2. Next, plug the lights into the controller.  Basic setup packages include a 16-sequence and 32-sequence controller.  Before you get too carried away, make a list of each light the output will control to make it easier to set up in the Sequence Editor.

  3. Next, we connect our computer to the controller, using one of two methods:
    • The RS-385 adapter
    • A wireless linker

  4. Hard-wiring the controllers requires 16 or 32 cables, concerns about proper connections, etc.  Technology offered through wireless might be a better option. The choice is a matter of preference.

  5. The controller allows the sequences from the computer to trigger the lights in any effect you wish to create -- turn on, off, set to a specified brightness, fade up or down, twinkle, and shimmer. You can buy the controllers pre-assembled or in kit form.

  6. Transmit sound either through a speaker system or through an FM transmitter that broadcasts to an empty FM frequency.  Folks can tune in the FM station on their car radios to listen to your presentation, which broadcasts approximately 300 feet.  You can also purchase speakers for your presentation.  Light-O-Rama has a really cool speaker system in the form of a rock that sits in your yard.

  7. Now set up the show.  Light-O-Rama has a Show Editor that allows you to tell your computer the order. It handles the starting sequence, animation, and music played.  It also shuts down the sequence.

  8. The package has a program that schedules events.  You might wish to run one program during the week, and a special event on the weekend.

  9. All of these events are run through your computer, making it easy to manage.  The LOR system can handle just about anything you can dream up. Be prepared to make a substantial investment if considering purchasing this setup.  A careful search of the Internet may reveal more sources of controllers and programs.  Always do your own due diligence whenever you consider something expensive.  Let your imagination be your guide!

    Need more Christmas ideas? Visit our full collection of articles

    Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.

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